Scottish independence referendum, 2014
The Scottish independence referendum of 2014 was a ballot on the question of whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom and become a separate country, with the result being 55% voting against the proposal. Any resident of Scotland who was over 16 years of age, a citizen of the Commonwealth or European Union (EU) and enrolled on a local electoral register was eligible to participate on 18th September 2014 (about a fifth of the electorate were issued with postal ballots, which were sent in before the 18th). The referendum was an election pledge of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has governed Scotland since 2011 and supports independence, as do the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party. The other main Scottish parties - Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats - oppose independence but accept or promote devolved government, a process which began with the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
The referendum consisted of a single question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Major issues that emerged during the campaign include the status of the UK's sterling currency, which the SNP planned to continue in use after independence, and whether Scotland would be ejected from the European Union on departure. The two issues are linked because, under EU rules, new applications must also agree to join the euro currency. The UK parties ruled out a sterling 'currency union' in which the UK would share the pound with an independent Scotland; in response, the SNP said that the new country would not shoulder its share of UK national debt.
The union started the campaign with a good lead in the opinion polls, but this steadily declined over the course of the campaign, and in the last fortnight one poll gave independence the lead. Polls found most Scots would vote on perceived economic interest, not national identity. This tallies with the 2011 census, which included a question on national identity where people were free to tick more than one box, but 62% identified themselves as Scottish only, not British.
The independence proposal was defeated by 2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989. After the result came out early in the morning of the 19th, the UK government announced it would, over the next few months in consultation with other parties, draft legislation for a new constitutional settlement giving more devolution to Scotland and equal amounts to the other countries in the United Kingdom. Later that day Alex Salmond announced he would stand down as leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland. Over the following days the nationalist parties experienced a massive surge in membership, in particular making the SNP the third-largest party in the UK as a whole.
- Scottish Government: 'Government accepts all Electoral Commission recommendations'. 30th January 2013.
- BBC News: 'Scottish independence: Referendum White Paper unveiled'. 26th November 2013.
- BBC News: 'Scottish independence: Alex Salmond rejects EU membership fears'. 28th November 2013.
- BBC News: 'Scottish independence: John Swinney says 'No currency, no debt''. 26th August 2014.