Alex Salmond has always taken a suspiciously high interest in the rights of the over-15s. "It is only right," declared Scotland's First Minister two years ago, "that young folk who can legally marry and join the Armed Forces should have their say." Like everything he says and does, this was aimed at winning a referendum on Scottish independence. His rather vain premise was that tomorrow belongs to him, so young voters would obviously turn into his own teenage fanclub. But no one bothered to consult the young Scots.
A study just published by the University of Edinburgh is fairly devastating for the Scottish National Party. It polled a thousand teenagers who would be just old enough to vote in next year's referendum, and found that 60 per cent want to keep the Union, with just 21 per cent backing independence. This fits a trend. School debates (which election strategists now have to keep an eye on) show independence being defeated time and time again. For the first time in two decades, the zeitgeist seems to be moving away from the nationalists.