Gary Paterson is the President of the University of Strathclyde Students Association, a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, and an Executive Officer at the National Union of Students Scotland.
It's now less than a hundred days to go until the September 18th referendum on the future of Scotland where young people and students across the country, including 16 and 17 year olds for the first time, will go to ballot boxes and vote for their future.
Ensuring students and young people are at the centre of the discussion on the future of Scotland is vital; whether in the union or an independent country, the future of Scotland must be built with the hopes and ambitions for the future of our students and youth.
Regardless of the individual stances, there is a real exciting political debate happening which has captured the public agenda, seeing politics being discussed in great depth across the classrooms, campuses, and workplaces of Scotland in a way which has not been for some time.
Youth and student organisations, such as the Scottish Youth Parliament, are getting into schools, colleges, and universities to facilitate voter registration, debates, mock referendums, and core engagement with young people; encouragingly the efforts seems to be working, with some polling suggesting 66% of young people will be looking set to vote.
Whilst it is amazing to see students and young people imagining and engaging with politics, there is a danger in this referendum… a danger that the political establishment on both sides fail to engage and drive forward the ambitions of these fresh voters, and instead resort to the constrained and electoral politics which has turned so many off engaging with their democracies.
We have a real chance to let people see change with their voice and vote, therefore it is incumbent on both sides of the debate to put forward their visions for Scotland’s future - to respond to the hopes and ambitions of Scotland’s youth and students, and to ensure their campaigns are not only positive but ambitious about their preferred option.
Both campaigns in this referendum represent the governing political powers of this nation, and both have the power to get together and create real change in the United Kingdom or an independent Scotland.
This cannot, and should not, be a debate between the status quo and change but must be a discussion that imagines and realises the potential for change regardless of the vote; if we get a positive, ambitious, and responsive campaign from the No and Yes side that drives forward the hopes of voters on both sides we can all be winners.