Scotland politics

Timeline: Scotland's road to independence referendum

A referendum on Scottish independence is due to take place in the autumn of 2014. Explore the timeline to find out where the modern makings of this historic vote were forged.

  • Key events along the path to the Scottish referendum


  • February 2013


    The Section 30 Order giving Holyrood powers to hold a referendum by the end of 2014 was agreed by the Privy Council, a body made up of senior UK political figures.

  • March 2013


    The Scottish government introduces a Referendum Bill to the Scottish Parliament setting out the date of the ballot - 18 September, 2014.

  • November 2013


    The SNP government publishes its 670-page 'blueprint for independence' White Paper. The unionist parties will also publish their ideas for keeping the UK together.

  • December 2013


    Royal Assent is given to the Referendum Bill, making it an act of the Scottish Parliament.

  • May 2014


    A formal 16-week campaign period begins, during which time limits will apply to the amount of money registered campaigners can spend.

  • September 2014


    On Thursday, 18 September, people in Scotland begin voting in the independence referendum. They will be asked the yes/no question: 'Should Scotland be an independent country?'

  • 13 February 2014

    Currency union ruled out

    UK Chancellor George Osborne ruled out a formal currency union in the event of independence, saying: "If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound." It followed the publication of civil service advice which said currency unions were "fraught with difficulty". Mr Osborne's position was backed by Labour and Liberal Democrats, but the Scottish government accused Westminster parties of bullying.
  • 26 November 2013

    Referendum blueprint revealed

    Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has launched his government's independence blueprint, calling it a "mission statement" for the future. The 667-page White Paper - titled Scotland's Future: Your guide to an independent Scotland - promised a "revolution" in social policy, with childcare at its heart. Mr Salmond described the document as the "most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published". But the pro-Union supporters said it was "full of meaningless assertions".
  • 14 November 2013

    MSPs pass referendum bill

    Legislation to hold the Scottish independence referendum has been passed unanimously by the Holyrood parliament. The Scottish government's bill sets out the referendum rules, such as the question and campaign spending limits. The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill was passed less than two weeks before the SNP administration publishes its detailed case for independence.
  • 26 August 2013

    MSPs endorse referendum plan

    Proposals for holding the Scottish independence referendum have been endorsed by the Holyrood parliament. The Scottish government's bill to hold the vote, in autumn 2014, has now cleared its first parliamentary hurdle. The legislation sets out the referendum rules, like the question to be asked and campaign spending limits.
  • 21 March 2013

    Referendum date revealed

    The Scottish independence referendum date will take place on 18 September, 2014. First Minister Alex Salmond revealed the date as draft legislation on holding the vote was brought before MSPs at Holyrood. The Scottish government said it was a historic day, but opposition parties accused the SNP of keeping voters in the dark for too long.
  • 12 March 2013

    Teen vote proposals

    Proposed legislation to let 16 and 17-year-olds vote in the referendum is formally brought to parliament. SNP ministers say the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill will ensure everyone aged 16 and over on the day of the autumn 2014 vote could take part. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says young people have the biggest stake in the future of the country, while critics argue further clarity is needed.
  • 11 February 2013

    Separate state

    The UK government publishes the first in a series of papers, which cites legal opinion stating an independent Scotland would be seen as a separate state under international law. UK ministers also say Scottish devolution had become a trusted form of government that would be lost under independence. SNP ministers say it would be "staggeringly arrogant" of the UK government to suggest Scotland would be left with nothing.
  • 30 January 2013

    Referendum question agreed

    The Scottish government agrees to change the wording of its proposed independence referendum question, after concern from the Electoral Commission that it may lead people to vote "Yes". SNP ministers accept the watchdog's recommendation to ask the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The government also agrees to make changes to campaign spending limits.
  • 16 January 2013

    Lords approve referendum order

    The House of Lords unanimously approves the legal transfer of powers to Holyrood to allow it to hold the independence referendum, which is required because constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster. The powers will be transferred under Section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act, under a move previously agreed to by the Scottish and UK parliaments. It paves the way for the introduction of a Referendum Bill to Holyrood.
  • 9 November 2012

    Scottish government confirms preferred question

    The Scottish government confirms the wording of the question it plans to put to the people of Scotland in the independence referendum. It wants to ask people to vote "yes" or "no" to the question: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" The question is now being scrutinised by the Electoral Commission watchdog.
  • 22 October 2012

    Scottish government consultation published

    The government in Scotland publishes analysis of more than 26,000 responses to its public consultation on the planned referendum on Scottish independence. Of those respondents who commented on the suggested question, 64% broadly agreed with the wording; 28% did not. The remainder had unclear or mixed views.
  • 15 October 2012

    Referendum deal signed by Cameron and Salmond

    Ministers from the UK and Scottish governments reach a deal over the independence referendum. The final issues are settled between the two governments and the historic Edinburgh Agreement is signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond. The agreement paves the way for a vote in autumn 2014.
  • 9 October 2012

    Referendum deal moves closer

    Following a series of meetings between the Scottish government's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the UK government's Scottish secretary, Michael Moore, a statement suggests substantial progress is made, with a full agreement on the workings of the referendum to come "in the next few days".
  • 25 June 2012

    Better Together campaign launches

    The Better Together campaign to keep the Union is launched with former chancellor Alistair Darling. The Labour politician compares independence to buying "a one-way ticket to send our children to a deeply uncertain destination". He argues Scotland could have the "best of both worlds", with a strong Scottish Parliament inside a secure UK.
  • 25 May 2012

    Yes Scotland campaign launches

    The Yes Scotland campaign for independence is launched with the aim of encouraging one million Scots to sign a declaration of support by the time of the referendum in the autumn of 2014. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond says independence will happen if that milestone is achieved. High-profile politicians and celebrities back the campaign.
  • 17 May 2012

    UK government publishes consultation responses

    The UK government publishes responses to its independence referendum consultation. It had nearly 3,000 replies from business leaders, academics, politicians, organisations and individuals. Ministers at Westminster say the responses showed strong levels of support for a single, clear question on independence.
  • 13 February 2012

    Talks continue on referendum deal

    First Minister Alex Salmond says he and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore make "modest progress" at referendum talks. The pair tries to iron out differences between the two sides. Mr Moore says there is still disagreement over the issue of timing. Mr Salmond says no agreement on "substantive issues" is reached.
  • 25 January 2012

    SNP sets out its question in a white paper

    The Scottish government calls for public feedback on the question it wants to put to voters in a Scottish independence referendum. It asks: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" The "Your Scotland, Your Referendum" consultation also asks if the public favours a second question on more Holyrood powers.
  • 10 January 2012

    Salmond announces a referendum for autumn 2014

    First Minister Alex Salmond announces his intention to hold a referendum in the autumn of 2014. As he is doing this, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore makes a statement saying the Scottish government does not have legal powers to hold the ballot. He offers to resolve the issue by transferring powers to Holyrood.
  • November 2011

    Lib Dems' Home Rule Commission set up

    Former leader of the Lib Dems, Sir Menzies Campbell, is appointed chair of his party's Home Rule Commission. He says: "Home Rule has the same significance today as it had historically and best represents the views of the majority of people in Scotland." One of its aims is to examine the case for "the next step after Calman".
  • October 2011

    SNP launches drive for independence

    At its annual conference, the SNP officially launches its drive for independence - announcing details of an "unprecedented" effort to win the referendum. SNP Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, tells the party faithful that the campaign will appeal to people from all political backgrounds to secure a "yes" vote.
  • May 2011

    SNP win majority government at Holyrood

    The SNP storms to victory at the Holyrood election. Leader Alex Salmond says the majority win is "a victory for a society and a nation". The party bags 69 seats, Labour win 37, the Tories 15, the Lib Dems five and others three. Mr Salmond is vague about the timing of a referendum, saying it will be held in "the second half" of the parliament.
  • February 2010

    SNP government publishes draft Referendum Bill

    The minority Scottish government publishes a draft bill into its proposed independence referendum. It says voters will have the option of voting for either new powers for the Scottish Parliament or full independence from the UK. Opposition parties say they will vote down the plans.
  • June 2009

    Calman Commission findings published

    The findings of the Calman Commission - reviewing devolution 10 years on -are made public. Sir Kenneth concludes that Holyrood should take charge of half the income tax raised in Scotland. He also suggests that the Scottish Parliament should take control of national speed limits; drink-driving laws and airgun legislation.
  • August 2007

    National Conversation for Scotland launched

    "No change was no longer an option" - these are the words of Alex Salmond when he launches his government's National Conversation, a white paper setting out the "full range" of options for Scotland's constitutional future. The "conversation" runs until November 2009 and involves ministers being quizzed by the public.
  • May 2007

    SNP form minority government

    The seeds of the referendum are sown at the 2007 Holyrood election when the SNP ends eight-years of Labour/Lib Dem coalition government. The party wins 47 seats, one more than its Labour rivals. Despite initial talks with other parties, the SNP forms a minority government with Alex Salmond taking on the post of first minister.