1995 Bermudian independence referendum

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Bermudian independence referendum
16 August 1995

Are you in favour of independence for Bermuda?
Votes %
Yes 5,714 25.88%
No 16,369 74.12%
Valid votes 22,083 99.31%
Invalid or blank votes 153 0.69%
Total votes 22,236 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 37,841 58.76%

The Bermudan independence referendum of 1995 was a referendum held in Bermuda on 16 August 1995 over whether Bermuda should become an independent sovereign state or remain a British Dependent Territory. On a voter turnout of 58.8%, 73.6% voted against independence, and 25.7% voted in favour. Following the decisive referendum result, Sir John Swan, in favour of independence, resigned as Premier of Bermuda.[1]

Referendum background and details[edit]

After being an extension of the Virginia colony, Bermuda was made a crown colony of its own rights in 1609 and became a self-governing colony in 1620, with the founding of the Parliament of Bermuda. Following the Second World War, much of the British Empire was granted independence. In 1968, Bermuda gained a constitution, but the British Government determined that Bermuda was not ready for independence, and so Bermuda was included on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. In 1981, Bermuda became a British Dependent Territory as a result of the British Nationality Act 1981.

On 25 March 1995, the House of Assembly of Bermuda narrowly passed the Independence Referendum Bill 20–18,[2] the Senate passed the Bill unopposed two weeks later.[3] For independence to be approved, the yes vote had to be supported by at least 40% of those eligible to vote and over 50% of those who voted.[4]

The referendum question (as set out by the Independence Referendum Act 1995) was this:[4]

Are you in favour of independence for Bermuda?

Although in favour of independence, the opposition Progressive Labour Party, led by Frederick Wade, voted against the Referendum Bill, called for a boycott of the referendum itself and stated that independence should be determined in a general election. The governing United Bermuda Party was split on the issue, with Premier Sir John Swan supporting independence while many of his backbenchers were opposed.[5]

During the campaign, the Committee for the Independence of Bermuda stated that if there was a 'yes' vote, independence would not come immediately. Instead, there would be a constitutional conference in London, which would lead to Bermuda becoming an independent Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State and the Privy Council remaining the supreme court.[6]

The vote was originally scheduled for 15 August 1995 but was delayed to the next day by Hurricane Felix passing over the islands. Polls were open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.[7] The decision to delay the referendum was the subject of a public inquiry, which found the Government had acted in accordance with the law.[8]


Choice Votes %
For 5,714 25.88
Against 16,369 74.12
Invalid/blank votes 153
Total 22,236 100
Registered voters/turnout 37,841 58.76
Source: Direct Democracy


  1. ^ Phil Davison (18 August 1995). "Bermudians vote to stay British". The Independent. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  2. ^ Paul Egan (25 March 1995). "House votes to ask the people if they want to go it alone". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  3. ^ Marcus Day (6 April 1995). "Senate gives go-ahead to Referendum bill". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b Independence Referendum Act 1995 (PDF), Government of Bermuda, 1995, retrieved 7 January 2012
  5. ^ Paul Egan and Jeremy Deacon (8 August 1995). "UBP about to self-destruct, says Gordon". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Bermudians Voting Against Breaking Ties With Britain". Ludington Daily News. 17 August 1995. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  7. ^ Paul Egan and Henry Adderley (16 August 1995). "Independence referendum set for today". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  8. ^ Paul Egan and Jeremy Deacon (16 December 1995). "Inquiry says the system worked". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2012.