59% of teens against independence

The SNP said it would "engage positively" with young people ahead of the 2014 referendum after a newspaper survey revealed a quarter of teenagers who would be eligible to vote under proposals to lower the voting age are in favour of independence.

A survey of almost 2,500 schoolchildren across Scotland found 59% opposed to a break up of the UK, 26% supported independence and 15% were unsure.

The Scottish Mail on Sunday asked fourth year pupils at 24 schools how they would vote if given the right.

The Scottish Government proposes extending the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.

A total of 2,457 pupils at both state and private schools took part in the questionnaire carried out from September 3 to 17.

It asked "Do you believe Scotland should be an independent country?"

The survey also garnered support for the lowering of the voting age to 16 for the referendum. According to the newspaper 66% backed the move, 24% were against and 10% did not know.

An SNP spokeswoman said: "While this in-house Mail on Sunday survey was not conducted by a polling company, and is not a representative sample, it's great to see young people engaging in political debate, and thinking seriously about what kind of Scotland they want to live in - that's precisely why the SNP believes that 16 and 17-year-olds deserve to be allowed to vote in elections.

"The SNP will engage positively with our young people ahead of the referendum, as we have a very positive message to communicate.

"It is only because many decisions are already taken in Scotland that we have been able to reintroduce free Higher Education, record numbers of Modern Apprenticeships, and a guaranteed job or training opportunity for all 16 to 19 year olds - and with the full powers of independence we will be able to achieve even more."