The Scottish Independence Referendum

For many Scottish people devolution is seen as inadequate. Scottish nationalists or people who would like to see Scotland become an independent country separate from the United Kingdom, want the Scottish Parliament to have full decision-making power for Scotland.

After winning a majority in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, the Scottish National Party (SNP) sought permission from the UK Government to hold a referendum (single issue vote) on whether or not the people of Scotland would like to become independent from the UK. The final decision was made to hold a referendum on Scottish independence on 18 September 2014.

Result of the referendum on independence for Scotland

The people of Scotland were given the opportunity to have their say on whether or not Scotland should become an independent country.

A group sat round a table  relaying thoughts and statements about Scottish independence

After all the votes were counted from each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities the final result was:

Pie chart of the Scottish referendum result 45% Yes and 55% No
  • No - 2,001,926 votes (55 per cent of total vote)
  • Yes - 1,617,989 votes (45 per cent of total vote)

Impact of the Scottish independence referendum

In the lead-up to the referendum vote, the leaders of the three main UK political parties promised that should Scotland vote to remain part of the UK, the Scottish Parliament would be given additional extra powers. This promise became known as ‘the Vow’.

As the result of the Scottish independence referendum was a vote against leaving the UK, the UK Parliament set up the Smith Commission to look at further devolution for Scotland. The commission’s report led to the Scotland Act 2016 which gives the Scottish Parliament new powers over income tax, VAT receipts, welfare and benefits.

Other constitutional questions

The decision making powers held by the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies may also need to be reviewed as it may be seen as inconsistent to grant further powers to Scotland and not to Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Scottish independence referendum had two other important long-term consequences for Scotland and the UK.

Firstly, the levels of public political engagement were unprecedented by modern standards. Of the 4.29 million registered voters, the largest electorate in Scottish voting history, there was a record turnout of 85%. This has translated into an increased turnout at General Elections in Scotland and Scottish Parliament elections. At the 2016 Scottish Parliament election the turnout was over 5% higher than 2011.

Secondly, in allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the independence referendum it would be inconsistent not to allow this same group age to vote in elections. In June 2015, the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Election (Reduction of Voting Age) Act was passed allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in Scottish Parliament and local council elections.