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Referendums in any part of Britain – major only


The definition of a major referendum is one that comes under the remit of the UK Electoral Commission. As the Commission has existed only since 2000, referendums held before then are a matter of judgement though usually self-evident.

2014 Scotland rejects Independence

No 55.3% Yes 44.7% Turnout 84.6% from a register of 97% of eligible voters. Held 18 September 2014. The Yes campaign entered the official regulated period at the end of May about 14 points behind in the polls. They reduced that lead in the run-up to the vote perhaps being ahead at one point but […]

2011 Britain says No to electing MPs by AV

Yes 32.1%  No 67.9%  Turnout 42.2%, Held 5th May 2011 the same day as general elections in Scotland and Wales and local elections in some areas of England. AV, a weak form of proportional voting, was proposed as a reform of Westminster’s First-Past the-Post system which, now that there are many more political parties sharing […]

2011 Wales votes Yes to law making powers for Assembly

Yes 63.4%   No 36.5%   Turnout  35.3%. Held 3rd March 2011 Tags: TS major-referendums

1998 N. Ireland votes Yes to Good Friday Agreement – in huge turnout

71% Yes on 81% turnout. Held 23rd May 1998. Apart from the huge turnout where 140,000 people who didn’t normally vote came to the polls, the referendum was organized and decided in 9.5 weeks almost too short for anywhere but NI. The YES campaign was founded 19th March 1998, the Good Friday Agreement signed on […]

1998 London votes for Regional Assembly

Yes 72% on 34% turnout. Held 7th May 1998. Tags: TS major-referendums

1997 Wales votes for Welsh Assembly by narrowest margin

Yes 50.3 on 50% turnout. Held 18th September1997. The date was one week after the Scottish referendum in the hope that the Scottish result would boost the Yes side. An example of domino voting in referendums. As the result was so close, it would be a brave observer who would deny the possibility of the […]

1997 Scotland Votes for Devolved Parliament

Yes 74.3%  on  60.4% turnout

1997 Scotland Votes for Tax power

Yes 63.5% on 60.4% turnout on an old register. (Perhaps equivalent to a turnout of 73% on a new one.) Held 11th September 1997. Tags: TS major-referendums

1979 Scotland votes Yes to Assembly – Result Invalid

Yes 52% on 64% turnout on a vote held 1st March 1979.  Yes vote failed to be approved by more that by 40% of registered voters so result was declared invalid. Tags: TS major-referendums

1979 Wales strongly rejects Welsh Assembly

No 80% on 59% turnout. Held 1st March 1979 Tags: TS major-referendums

1979 Shetland and Orkney vote No to Scottish Assembly

On a turnout of 50.3%, 73% voted NO to devolution for Scotland. Held 1st March 1979. Jo Grimond, the local MP had won an amendment to the referendum bill that required Shetland votes be counted separately and, if Scotland voted YES, Shetland would be excluded from devolution if it voted NO. In effect it was […]

1975 Britain votes to stay in EU (EEC)

Yes 67.2%  Turnout 64.5%. Held 5th June 1975. It was thought that Scotland would vote to leave being the least pro-EU part of Britain but an effective cross-party campaign by Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour politicians brought something of a surprise result to stay in the EU. Tags: TS major-referendums

1973 Northern Ireland border poll destroyed by boycott

99% say YES to stay in NI on turnout 59%. Held 8th March 1973. An effective abstention campaign by nationalist and catholic voters destroyed the validity of this referendum. It remains the best example in the UK of how a referendum can exacerbate division. David Trimble revived the idea with for another Border poll in […]

1922 Northern Ireland votes to revert to UK – after 48 hours in Ireland

Ireland became an independent country on 6 December 1921. A referendum was held on 12 December 1922 in six of the nine counties and 2 county boroughs (after 48 hours in Ireland and had to be held within a month) exercising the opt-out to rejoin UK.  Strictly a referendum in Ireland but material to the […]

1920 Scotland votes No to Prohibition

On 5th December 1920, Scotland held a national referendum on ‘prohibition’ which was strongly rejected by voters. Historians point out to the fact that the referendum was held at all demonstrates how powerful and widespread the temperance movement was worldwide in 1910. Prohibition in US was in effect from January 1920 to December 1933. The […]