In its latest report the York Student Think Tank found that 64 per cent of participants believed that regions should have more power. With the recent Scottish referendum in mind the Think Tank sought to find out what links students saw between devolution, identity and political engagement.
256 UK students studying at the University were surveyed for the report which looked at a wide range of political opinions from voting in local and national elections to whether the UK should stay in Europe.
Whilst the majority agreed with regions having more power the exact means by which this should be achieved was not unanimous with only 34 per cent believed that this power should be achieved by giving regions directly elected assemblies. However, 61.2 per cent of respondents believed that devolution was going to increase in the next five years.
Richard Crawshaw, chair of the York Student Think Tank, told Nouse that the society was surprised by the results; “We were expecting to see some support for devolution and decentralisation, as part of the after effect of the Scottish referendum, but we were surprised by just how many students thought that power should move away from central government. I think some of our findings show how much has changed since the devolution referendums held in 2004”.
The Think Tank also broke down the results to the specific regions where people identified themselves as coming from. Those who identified as coming from Yorkshire and Humber were more likely than those in the South East to identify with a national identity whilst the reverse was true concerning regional identity. These results were particularly unexpected by the Think Tanks “we were expecting to see stronger regional identities in places such as Yorkshire, and weaker ties in the South East, however the opposite trend appeared.”
The report also looked at how politically interested students were and whether they thought their votes were important. Whilst most students felt strongly that their vote counted (39.22 per cent). More students in total were not very sure, unsure or did not believe that their votes were important (51.37 per cent).
One interesting difference came in the likelihood of participants to vote in local and national elections. Whilst 82.4 per cent thought that they would vote in a general election this dropped to 44.7 per cent for local elections. This raises interesting questions about what students think regarding current local government and its efficacy in comparison to the national system. This is especially important considering that 49.4 per cent of respondents felt strongly that they were politically engaged.
With such opinions amongst the student body alone the devolution debate looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.