Introduction to Scotland

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Scottish independence (Scots: Scots unthirldom;[1] Scottish Gaelic: Neo-eisimeileachd na h-Alba) is the political movement[2][3] for Scotland to become a sovereign state, independent from the United Kingdom. In 2014, a national referendum was held in Scotland. Voters were asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”[4] 44.7 percent of voters answered “Yes” and 55.3 percent answered “No” with a turnout of 85 percent.[5][6] Following the results of the UK referendum on EU membership, independence supporters proposed holding a second referendum on independence.

In its manifesto for the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the Scottish National Party (SNP) pledged to hold an independence referendum by 2010.[31][32] After winning the election,[33] the SNP-controlled Scottish Government published a white paper entitled “Choosing Scotland’s Future“, which outlined options for the future of Scotland, including independence.[34][35] Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats opposed a referendum offering independence as an option. Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown also publicly attacked the independence option.[36] The three main parties opposed to independence instead formed a Commission on Scottish Devolution, chaired by Kenneth Calman.[37][38] This reviewed devolution and considered all constitutional options apart from independence.[39] In August 2009, the Scottish Government announced that the Referendum (Scotland) Bill, 2010, which would detail the question and conduct of a possible referendum on the issue of independence, would be part of its legislative programme for 2009–10. The Bill was not expected to be passed, because of the SNP’s status as a minority government and the opposition of all other major parties in Parliament.[40][41] In September 2010, the Scottish Government announced that no referendum would occur before the 2011 elections.[42]


The SNP won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in its 2011 election.[43][44] First Minister Alex Salmond stated his desire to hold a referendum “in the second half of the parliament”, which would place it in 2014 or 2015.[45] In January 2012, the UK Government offered to provide the Scottish Parliament with the specific powers to hold a referendum, providing it was “fair, legal and decisive”.[46][47] Negotiations continued between the two governments until October 2012, when the Edinburgh Agreement was reached.[48] The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 27 June 2013 and received Royal Assent on 7 August 2013.[49] On 15 November 2013, the Scottish Government published Scotland’s Future, a 670-page white paper laying out the case for independence and the means through which Scotland might become an independent country.[50]

After a protracted period of negotiation, a public debate between Salmond and Better Together leader Alistair Darling was arranged.[51] On the morning prior to the televised debate, a joint statement, pledging greater devolved powers to Scotland in the event of a “no” vote, was signed by Prime Minister David Cameron (leader of the Conservative Party), Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (leader of the Liberal Democrats), and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.[52]

Referendum result

The BBC website announced the final result of the referendum at 06:24 on 19 September 2014, whereby the “No” vote prevailed with 55% (2,001,926) of the votes from an overall voter turnout of 84.5%. Chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly stated: “It is clear that the majority of people voting have voted No to the referendum question.” The “Yes” vote received 45% (1,617,989) support—the winning total needed was 1,852,828. Results were compiled from 32 council areas, with Glasgow backing independence—voting 53.5% “Yes” to 46.5% “No” (turnout in the area was 75%)—and Edinburgh voting against independence by 61% to 39% (turnout in the area was 84%). Darling stated in his post-result speech, “The silent have spoken”, while Salmond stated, “I accept the verdict of the people, and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict”.

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Learn more:

  • Independence Movement

  • Facts & Figures

  • Flag

  • People and Culture

  • Watersheds and Ecoregions


  • Name: Scots: Scotland, Scottish Gaelic: Alba [ˈal̪ˠapə]

  • Language:

    • English

    • Scottish Gaelic

    • Scots

    • British Sign Language

  • Population: 5,424,800 (2017 estimate)

  • Location: Europe, British Isles