2014 Independence Referendum Scotland

A big part of the reason why a referendum happened was that in May 2011 the Scottish National Party won a landslide victory in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Led by Alex Salmond, the party had campaigned on the issue of Scottish Independence and the strength of their victory helped provide a mandate to request a referendum

A referendum took place on Thursday 18 September 2014 on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. The referendum question was, "Should Scotland be an independent country?", which voters answered with "Yes" or "No". The "No" side won with 2,001,926 (55.3%) voting against independence and 1,617,989 (44.7%) voting in favour. The turnout of 84.6% was the highest recorded for an election or referendum in the United Kingdom since the January 1910 general election.

A criticism of the referendum was that the final question was a YES/NO question over independence. It is argued that instead there should be a selectable option requesting that more powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, meaning it would be have a larger role in leading Scotland, but the nation could remain in the UK. At the time many polls seemed to suggest that such an option is actually what the majority of the Scottish people actually wanted. In March 2012, YouGov found that 33% of Scottish people polled preferred to remain in the UK, 36% wanted ‘devo-max’ (a transfer of more powers to Scotland) and 24% wanted independence. They also found that polls showed that amongst those who felt they were certain to vote in the referendum, 30% would vote for independence while 58% would vote no if it was a simply a YES/NO question.

Students often argue that referendums are an important, rare example of direct democracy in the UK as they offer the electorate the chance to give a clear verdict on a particular issue. But is that always the case?

However, this could be another example to show that like the EU referendum the public might not know what is best for the country. Critics of the devo-max option have highlighted that while the public supports it, like Brexit they might not know what exactly it is. Independence and union with the UK are more understandable options, and are clearly the polar opposite of each other. Is devo-max popular because it is safe ground in the middle, a so-called ‘goldilocks’ option, or because it is actually the best option? When in doubt do people prefer the safe middle option?