I SUSPECT many readers of The National will be able to pinpoint the moment when they became pro-independence. Upon hearing a barnstorming speech, perhaps, or reading a powerful polemic. Many perhaps imagine the “don’t know” voters of Scotland can be swayed to the same position, if only they could have the same kind of transformative experience.

But in truth, most Scots are not waiting for such a moment. Many, even post-2014, profess not to be interested in politics at all. And if they are to become politicised it won’t be through learning about constitutional affairs or pondering democrat deficits. It will be because they identify something specific that’s wrong in society and decide they want to change it. And if they find they cannot change it because of Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK, that will be the point where they reassess their views about the Union.

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The launch this week of Citizen Girl – a campaign aimed at empowering young women to “make their voices heard at every level of government and in all areas of public life” – is to be warmly welcomed, not least because it takes a broad view of what political engagement actually means. Ask your average primary-school pupil about politics and their eyes will likely glaze over – but ask them if they are a responsible citizen (the language used in Curriculum for Excellence) and they should be able to reel off examples of how they’ve made a positive difference. If this doesn’t translate into political engagement when they turn 18, then surely it’s the system that needs to change, not the kids.

When I tell people that as a fifth-year pupil I wrote to a national newspaper criticising my school, they often respond that this seems like exactly the kind of thing a teenage me would have done. And with the benefit of hindsight, it does. But if you’d told me then that my actions were political, I’d have been confused. I’d dropped Modern Studies at the earliest opportunity and politics didn’t interest me – but drama did.

The outrage that inspired my letter was the scheduling of exam leave for our forthcoming Highers – specifically, the fact that it was scheduled to end two days before the drama exam. On querying this apparent oversight, we were told that yes, we would be expected to attend our timetabled classes on the eve of the exam: to stay at home to revise would constitute skiving. When my letter decrying this state of affairs was published, a proud drama teacher made photocopies and posted them up around the school. A depute headteacher then stormed around the corridors tearing them down. I’d created a ripple. A wee real-life drama.

Of course we all stayed off school that day, scrutinising The Steamie and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and we faced no consequences for doing so. It was a very minor victory, but a victory nonetheless.

It wasn’t all self-interested activism either – looking back, the supposedly apolitical Blue Peter was practically a party political broadcast for the Greens, and must also have helped shaped the attitudes of a generation towards the UK foreign aid programmes the Tories are now eager to dismantle.

We collected aluminium cans for recycling and held bring-and-buy sales to fund wells in Cambodia. Today’s young people collect shoes for refugees and run social media campaigns about period poverty. All of this might not feel like “political”, but it is.

For the students of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the political is extremely personal. Since the February 14 massacre in which 17 of their classmates died, a passionate, articulate group of them have been making their voices heard – and making a real difference. This week the state senate passed a bill that would raise from 18 to 21 the minimum age for buying a firearm and require a three-day waiting period for most purchases – and the #NeverAgain campaign is only just getting going.

Did these young people – many of them drama kids, incidentally – identify as “political” last month? Perhaps. Some had leadership roles in school groups, and when Emma Gonzalez’s fiery speech “calling BS” over inaction against gun violence prompted suggestions that she run for president, she joked that she already was … of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Maybe some of them will indeed stand for election one day, but the characteristics that collectively define them might prove incompatible with mainstream politics. They categorically reject the status quo (big-money bribes from the National Rifle Association, and a Second Amendment that can never be amended), and refuse to compromise on measures that would save lives. They welcomed the senate vote, but called it “baby steps”.

Generally speaking, becoming an MP, MSP or councillor requires compromise, whereas being an agent for positive change need not. At the 2016 launch of the Parliament Project, which aims to empower and encourage women to run for office in the UK, one woman told the panel she struggled to find a party with policies that aligned exactly with her own views. She was advised that choosing a party was much like choosing a partner, in that a perfect match was impossible and a degree of flexibility was required. It was practical advice, but depressing too, suggesting that “doing politics” (or indeed relationships) the grown-up way requires reshaping oneself to fit a pre-existing mould.

The Parkland students are showing there’s another way: rip up the rules, break the mould and stand up for what you believe in.