Scottish devolution referendum, 1997

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The Scottish devolution referendum of 1997 was a pre-legislative referendum held in Scotland on 11 September 1997 over whether there was support for the creation of a Scottish Parliament with devolved powers, and whether the Parliament should have tax-varying powers. The referendum was a Labour manifesto commitment and was held in their first term after the 1997 election. This was the second referendum held in Scotland over the question of devolution, the first being in 1979. Turnout for the referendum was 60.4%.

Background[edit]

A referendum was held in 1979 under a Labour government which stipulated that a Scottish Assembly would come into being if the referendum had been supported by 50% of votes cast plus at least 40% of the electorate. Although 51.6% voted in favour, this was only 32.9% of the electorate so the Assembly was not brought into being. Shortly afterwards, the predominantly anti-devolution-led Conservative Party won the United Kingdom general election, 1979.

The Campaign for a Scottish Assembly was formed afterwards to continue the campaign. They brought together a committee of "prominent Scots" who drafted the document A Claim of Right for Scotland. The Claim was published in 1988 and signed by most Scottish politicians, local councils, trade unions and churches.

It was agreed to form a Scottish Constitutional Convention made up of all existing MPs and councillors. This was done despite the opposition of the national government of the time of John Major. Because the Labour Party had a clear majority within the convention the Scottish National Party withdrew.[1]

The Labour Party included the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in its manifesto for the United Kingdom general election, 1997, which they won with a landslide majority of 177.

Campaign[edit]

Scottish Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish Greens campaigned for a 'Yes' vote for both proposals whilst the Conservatives opposed both proposals. Labour MP Tam Dalyell opposed the creation of the Parliament, but in favour of giving such a Parliament the power to raise and lower taxes on the basis that, although he opposed the Parliament as proposed by his party, if it did exist it should have tax-varying powers. [1]

The official Yes campaign, Scotland Forward (styled "Scotland FORward"), was headed by the businessman Nigel Smith and came out of the groups that had previously formed the Scottish Constitutional Convention, along with the Scottish National Party. It was supported by the Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.[2] After the frustrating result of the 1992 General Election, Democracy For Scotland, universally known as 'The Vigil', was a non-party political group made up of ordinary citizens who volunteered their time to spread awareness for the restoration of a Scottish Parliament. Their blue and white cabin was a familiar site in Edinburgh's Regent Road, next to the originally proposed site of the parliament, the 'Old Royal High School', at the bottom of Calton Hill. They were based there from 10 April 1992, until 12 September 1997, a total of 1980 days. The official No campaign, Think Twice, was headed by Brian Monteith, a former employee of the Scottish Conservative MP, Michael Forsyth. Board members included Donald Findlay, a QC, Rector of the University of St Andrews and vice-chairman of Rangers F.C., and senior Conservative peer Lord Fraser. However, it struggled to get much business support as they were wary of opposing a project that had such support from the new government which had a large majority.[2]

Results[edit]

The result was 'Yes-Yes': the majority voted in favour of both proposals.

Question 1[edit]

Map showing results by council.

Firstly the referendum asked voters:

  • I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament.
  • I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament.
Agree :
1,775,045 (74.3%)
Disagree :
614,400 (25.7%)

Vote by each area[edit]

Council area Yes vote No vote Yes % No %
Aberdeen City 65,035 25,580 71.8 28.2
Aberdeenshire 61,621 34,878 63.9 36.1
Angus 33,571 18,350 64.7 35.3
Argyll and Bute 30,452 14,796 67.3 32.7
Clackmannanshire 18,790 4,706 80 29
Dumfries and Galloway 44,619 28,863 60.7 39.3
Dundee City 49,252 15,553 76 24
East Ayrshire 49,131 11,426 81.1 18.9
East Dunbartonshire 40,917 17,725 69.8 30.2
East Lothian 33,525 11,665 74.2 25.8
East Renfrewshire 28,253 17,573 61.7 38.3
City of Edinburgh 155,900 60,832 71.9 28.1
Falkirk 55,642 13,953 80 20
Fife 125,668 39,517 76.1 23.9
Glasgow City 204,269 40,106 83.6 16.4
Highland 72,551 27,431 72.6 27.4
Inverclyde 31,680 8,945 78 22
Midlothian 31,681 7,979 79.9 20.1
Moray 24,822 12,122 67.2 32.8
North Ayrshire 51,304 15,931 76.3 23.7
North Lanarkshire 123,063 26,010 82.6 17.4
Perth and Kinross 40,344 24,998 61.7 38.3
Renfrewshire 68,711 18,213 79 21
Scottish Borders 33,855 20,060 62.8 37.2
South Ayrshire 40,161 19,909 66.9 33.1
South Lanarkshire 114,908 32,762 77.8 22.2
Stirling 29,190 13,440 68.5 31.5
West Dunbartonshire 39,051 7,058 84.7 15.3
West Lothian 56,923 14,614 79.6 20.4
Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles) 9,977 2,589 79.4 20.6
Orkney 4,749 3,541 57.3 42.7
Shetland 5,430 3,275 62.4 37.6
TOTAL 1,775,045 614,400 74.3 25.7

Unlike in the Welsh referendum, a large majority voted 'Yes' in every local council.[3]

Question 2[edit]

Map showing results by council.

Secondly the referendum asked:

  • I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers.
  • I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers.
Agree :
1,512,889 (63.5%)
Disagree :
870,263 (36.5%)

Vote by each area[edit]

Council area Yes vote No vote Yes % No %
Aberdeen City 54,320 35,709 60.3 39.7
Aberdeenshire 50,295 45,929 52.3 47.7
Angus 27,641 24,089 53.4 46.6
Argyll and Bute 25,746 19,429 57 43
Clackmannanshire 16,112 7,355 68.7 31.3
Dumfries and Galloway 35,737 37,499 48.8 51.2
Dundee City 42,304 22,280 65.5 34.5
East Ayrshire 42,559 17,824 70.5 29.5
East Dunbartonshire 34,576 23,914 59.1 40.9
East Lothian 28,152 16,765 62.7 37.3
East Renfrewshire 23,580 22,153 51.6 48.4
City of Edinburgh 133,843 82,188 62 38
Falkirk 48,064 21,403 69.2 30.8
Fife 108,021 58,987 64.7 35.3
Glasgow City 182,589 60,842 75 25
Highland 61,359 37,525 62.1 37.9
Inverclyde 27,194 13,277 67.2 32.8
Midlothian 26,776 12,762 67.7 32.3
Moray 19,326 17,344 52.7 47.3
North Ayrshire 43,990 22,991 65.7 34.3
North Lanarkshire 107,288 41,372 72.2 27.8
Perth and Kinross 33,398 31,709 51.3 48.7
Renfrewshire 55,075 31,537 63.6 36.4
Scottish Borders 27,284 26,487 50.7 49.3
South Ayrshire 33,679 26,217 56.2 43.8
South Lanarkshire 99,587 47,708 67.6 32.4
Stirling 25,044 17,487 58.9 41.1
West Dunbartonshire 34,408 11,628 74.7 25.3
West Lothian 47,990 23,354 67.3 32.7
Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles) 8,557 3,947 68.4 31.6
Orkney 3,917 4,344 47.4 52.6
Shetland 4,478 4,198 51.6 48.4
TOTAL 1,512,889 870,253 63.5 36.5

Votes in favour of tax-varying powers still commanded significant majority, when compared to establishing the Parliament per se. A majority voted 'Yes' in every local council, apart from in Dumfries & Galloway[4] and Orkney.[5]

Aftermath[edit]

In response to the majority voting for 'Yes' to both proposals, the British Parliament passed the Scotland Act 1998, creating the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive.

References[edit]

See also[edit]