The Independence Referendum: Timeline of Events



The Scottish National Party wins the largest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament elections and forms a minority government.


The Scottish Government launches its 'National Conversation' on Scotland's constitutional future: Choosing Scotland's Future: A National Conversation: Independence and Responsibility in the Modern World.



The United Kingdom government sets up the Commission on Scottish Devolution under the chairmanship of Sir Kenneth Calman (the 'Calman Commission') to explore options for constitutional reform within the Union.


The Calman Commission publishes its first report: The Future of Scottish Devolution Within the Union: A First Report



Calman's final report is published: Serving Scotland Better: Scotland and the United Kingdom in the 21st Century.


The Scottish Government publishes its White Paper: Your Scotland, Your Voice: A National Conversation, setting out options for independence or what it calls 'full devolution'.



The Scottish Government publishes its first consultation on a Bill to pave the way for a referendum on independence: Scotland's Future: Draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill Consultation Paper.



The Scottish National Party is re-elected with a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament.


The Scottish Liberal Democrats announce their intention to establish a 'home rule commission' which will ‘set out our vision for a strong Scotland within the UK and for strong, powerful communities in every part of Scotland’.



The United Kingdom Government publishes Scotland's Constitutional Future, in which it acknowledges the Scottish Government's right to hold a referendum on independence, but argues that the Scottish Parliament does not currently have the legal power to authorise such a referendum.

The Scottish Government responds with Your Scotland, Your Referendum, in which it sets out its preferred question, and consults for the second time on a draft referendum Bill.


The Scottish Labour party announces the establishment of a Commission to examine the question of further powers for the Scottish Parliament.


The Scotland Act 2012, which implements the recommendations of the Calman Commission, receives Royal Assent.

Yes Scotland, the lead campaign group for a Yes vote to independence in the referendum is launched. 


Better Together, the lead group campaigning for a No vote to independence in the referendum is launched.


The UK and Scottish Governments sign the 'Edinburgh Agreement', setting out the terms of a draft Order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 to confer express power on the Scottish Parliament to authorise a referendum on independence.  The agreement states that only one question (Yes or No to independence) will be permitted and that the referendum must be held before the end of 2014.  Otherwise, it will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine the referendum rules, including the franchise.  However, it is agreed that the referendum rules should be based on the principles laid down in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and that the franchise will be limited to voters resident in Scotland.  The two governments also undertake to work together constructively whatever the outcome of the referendum in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats publish the first report of their Home Rule Commission, which recommends further powers for the Scottish Parliament and, in the long term, the adoption of a federal constitution for the United Kingdom.


The Scottish Parliament approves the draft section 30 Order.



The House of Commons and House of Lords approve the draft section 30 Order.

The Electoral Commission publishes its advice on the referendum question and on spending limits for the referendum campaign.  Its recommendations are accepted by the Scottish Government.


The Privy Council formally approves the order conferring power on the Scottish Parliament to authorise the referendum - the Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) Order 2013.

Responding to the Electoral Commission's call for clarification of the process that would follow a yes vote in the referendum, the Scottish Government publishes Scotland's Future: From the Referendum to Independence and a Written ConstitutionThe document sets out a path towards the transfer of sovereignty in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016,  and discusses the process for adopting a post-independence written constitution.

The UK Government responds with Scotland Analysis: Devolution and the Implications of Scottish IndependenceThe paper includes a legal opinion from Professors James Crawford and Alan Boyle, which argues that an independent Scotland would be a new state in international law.  The remainder of the United Kingdom would be the sole successor state, it claims, inheriting the United Kingdom's existing international rights and obligations, while Scotland would have to negotiate these afresh, including applying for membership of organisations like NATO and the EU.


The Scottish Government publishes its second analysis paper on Economic and Competition Regulation in an Independent Scotland, outlining plans for a combined water, energy, transport, communications and competition regulator.

The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill is introduced into the Scottish Parliament.  The Bill paves the way for 16 and 17 year olds to be able to vote in the independence referendum.

The First Minister announces that the referendum will be held on Thursday 18 September 2014, and the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill is introduced into the Scottish Parliament. 

The Scottish Conservative party announce the establishment of a commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Strathclyde, to consider proposals for strengthening devolution.


The Scottish Government publishes Scotland's Balance Sheet, which argues that, between 2007-08 and 2011-12, Scotland was in a relatively stronger fiscal position than the UK as a whole, with higher tax receipts per capita and a smaller fiscal deficit, but in 2011-12, public spending in Scotland as a proportion of GDP was lower per capita than for the UK as a whole.

The UK government publishes the second in its Scotland Analysis series, on Currency and Monetary Policy.  The paper sets out four currency options for an independent Scotland: a formal sterling union; use of sterling without formal agreement; membership of the euro; or a new Scottish currency.  All four options, it claims, would be less suitable for both Scotland and the rest of the UK than the existing arrangements, arguing that the UK is 'one of the most successful monetary, fiscal and political unions in history.'  In particular, the paper warns that there would be no clear economic rationale for the UK to enter into a formal sterling union with an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Government simultaneously issues its response to the first report of its expert Fiscal Commission Working Group, published in February.  It accepts the Working Group's recommendation that an independent Scotland should seek to enter a formal monetary union with the UK which, the Group argued, would be beneficial to both Scotland and the UK.  The response further argues that a currency union would not seriously inhibit the policy freedom and flexibility of an independent Scottish Government.

The Scottish Labour Party publishes the interim report of its Devolution Commission.  The report recommends devolving control of income tax to the Scottish Parliament but concludes that substantial devolution of welfare powers would be inconsistent with the maintenance of the Union as a means of pooling and sharing resources.


The UK Government publishes the third in its Scotland Analysis series, on Financial Services and Banking.  The report argues that Scotland's strong financial services sector benefits from being part of an integrated UK market, which enables financial risks to be spread and provides effective arrangements for consumer protection.  In an independent Scotland, the financial services sector would be exceptionally large compared to the size of the economy, making it more vulnerable to financial shocks, and raising questions about Scotland's ability to stabilise its banking system in the event of a future crisis.  Moreover, Scotland would be required by EU rules to establish its own arrangements for financial regulation.

The Scottish Government publishes Scotland's Economy: the Case for Independence.  It argues that Scotland can afford to be independent, and has considerable economic strengths across a range of sectors.  However, Scotland is being held back economically by the centralisation of economic decision-making in Westminster.  Independence, even with continued currency union, would bring substantial additional economic powers which would enable Scotland to fulfil its economic potential.


The Scottish Government publishes its Initial Response to the report of its Expert Working Group on Welfare.  The Scottish Government states that the report '[d]oes not lead us to revise [our] view that welfare would be affordable in an independent Scotland.'  While it concludes that Scotland would be well placed to deliver pensions and benefits to Scottish people after independence, the Scottish Govenrment also agrees with the Expert Group that a transitional period of shared benefits administration would make sense to ensure continuity of service to benefits claimants across the UK.  However, such transitional arrangements must not prevent the Scottish Government from having the policy flexibility to make immediate changes to welfare policy.


The UK government publishes the fourth in its series of Scotland Analysis papers, on the Business and Microeconomic Framework.  The paper argues that splitting the unified UK market would introduce barriers to the free flow of goods, capital and labour to the detriment of firms, workers and consumers in both Scotland and the rest of the UK, and would risk making it more challenging to attract overseas investors.  The need to establish new regulatory institutions for an independent Scotland would also impose direct costs and create uncertainty for business.  And Scotland would lose the benefits of integrated communication and transport infrastructure.

The Scottish Government publishes a paper setting out the principles it believes should underpin the fiscal, regulatory and licensing regimes for the oil and gas sectors in an independent Scotland, in order to maximise production and the benefits for the people of Scotland.


The Scottish Government issues a paper setting out options for consumer protection and representation in an independent Scotland.  It argues that independence would allow the development of a more integrated, simplified consumer landscape, enabling Scotland-specific issues to be taken into account in a way that the current UK arrangements fail to do.

The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013, passed by the Scottish Parliament in June, receives the Royal Assent.  The Act specifies the franchise for the independence referendum.  It is based on the franchise for Scottish Parliament elections, but is extended to include 16 and 17 year olds.  Expatriate Scots will not be eligible to vote, and convicted prisoners are expressly excluded.


The UK government publishes the fifth paper in its Scotland Analysis series, on macroeconomic and fiscal performance.  The paper concludes that Scotland is outperforming most other parts of the UK (with the exception of London and the South East), and that its economic performance is comparable to that of many other small, independent European countries.  However, the paper attributes this to Scotland's deep integration into the UK market.  Independence would create an economic border and would end the pooling of resources and risk-sharing between Scotland and the rest of the UK.  Remaining part of the borderless United Kingdom could boost real incomes in Scotland by up to 4% after 30 years, compared to the outlook if it became independent.

The Scottish Government publishes a paper on Pensions in an Independent Scotland.  It commits to maintaining existing state pensions, guaranteeing that all accrued rights will be honoured and protected, whilst also promising to improve state pension provision in certain respects.  This may include cancelling the planned increase in state pension age to 67 from 2026, given the average lower life expectancy in Scotland.  The Government also commits to putting in place an effective regulatory system to protect private pensions, and to delivering a public service pensions system that is affordable, sustainable and fair. 


The Ministry of Defence publishes the sixth paper in the UK Government's Scotland Analysis series.  The paper concludes that, as part of the UK, the people of Scotland benefit from: greater opportunities for the defence industry; greater security and protection through integrated defence; and greater security and influence in the world through international alliances and relationships.  If an independent Scotland wished to be a member of NATO, this would need to be agreed by the existing 28 members, and Scotland's policy on nuclear weapons would be one of the factors to be considered.

The Home Office also publishes a seventh Scotland Analysis paper on security.  The paper argues that Scotland currently benefits from the UK's extensive security, intelligence, law enforcement and protective security machinery.  As an independent state, Scotland would continue to face real security risks, and would take time to build up its own security arrangements.  While the rUK might continue to co-operate with an independent Scotland on matters of mutual interest, Scotland would be exchanging an absolute entitlement to security sharing for increased bureaucracy, greater formality, and partial co-operation only when it was in both partners' interest. 


The UK Government publishes its eighth Scotland Analysis paper, on science and research. The paper points out that Scotland is part of a large, heavily integrated and successful UK research sector, in which Scottish institutions receive more than their per capita share of research council and charitable funding.  Such continuing integration could not be guaranteed in the event of independence.

The Scottish Government builds its case for independence with the publication of three lengthy papers.  The first is Building Security and Creating Opportunity: Economic Policy Choices in an Independent Scotland, which outlines the range of policy choices that would be open to a Scottish Government which held all the economic policy levers currently retained by the UK Government. The paper argues that the UK economic model has not always served Scotland well and has been prone to instability. It has embedded inequalities and concentrated economic activity in London and the South East.  By contrast, independence provides an opportunity to unlock Scotland‟s full potential and, over time, to create a fairer and more resilient economy.

On 26 November, the Scottish Government publishes its long-awaited independence White Paper.  The White Paper confirms and elaborates upon previously announced plans for the transition to independence and for post-independence negotiations with the UK government, confirming, e.g., the intention to negotiate a currency union with the rest of the UK, to retain the monarchy, to adopt a written constitution, and to remove Trident from Scottish soil, by the end of the first post-independence Parliament. In the event of a Yes vote, independence day is set for 24 March 2016.  In addition, the White Paper sets out a number of policy commitments regarding how the SNP, were it to form the first post-independence government, would use its newly acquired powers.  These would include, inter alia, a reduction in corporation tax and air passenger duty, a radical extension of early years childcare, abolition of the bedroom tax, and pensions guarantees.  Finally, the White Paper seeks to answer a range of questions about the effects of independence.

The White Paper is followed by another document, Scotland in the European Union , setting out in detail the Scottish Government's case that Scotland's membership of the EU would continue in the event of independence.


The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, passed by the Scottish Parliament in November, receives the Royal Assent.  The Act authorises the holding of the referendum, setting the date and the question to be asked, and regulates the referendum campaign and the counting of votes.

A petition for judicial review of the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 brought by a number of convicted prisoners challenging their exclusion from the referendum franchise is rejected by the Court of Session.



The Treasury announces that, in the event of Scotland becoming independent, the UK government would continue to honour all government debt issued up to the date of independence.  While an independent Scotland would, subject to post-referendum negotiations, become responsible for a fair and proportionate share of the UK's current liabilities, no debt instruments issued by the UK would be transferred to Scotland.  Instead, Scotland would need to raise its own funds to reimburse rUK for this share. 

The UK Government publishes its ninth Scotland Analysis paper on EU and International Issues.  The paper reiterates the view expressed in the first Scotland Analysis paper that an independent Scotland would be regarded as a new state and the rest of the UK as the continuator state. Scotland would therefore have to apply for membership of international organisations, which in some cases would be straightforward, but in other cases, notably the EU, more difficult.  EU membership negotiations would be complex and would not be guaranteed to be completed within the Scottish Government's 18 month time frame for the transition to independence. Scotland would be unlikely to be able to negotiate the same favourable terms as the UK currently enjoys.  In particular, it would lose any right to a share of the UK's budget rebate, meaning that it would lose out financially from becoming a member state in its own right.  More generally, the paper argues that Scotland currently benefits from the UK's international networks and influence on the world stage.  It also disputes the view expressed in the Scottish Government's White Paper that Scotland has international priorities and values different from those of the rest of the UK, asserting that the UK has played a leading role in strengthening the Rule of Law, supporting democracy and protecting human rights around the world.

A further UK Government paper is published on Borders and Citizenship.  It argues, first, that the government of an independent Scotland would be required to take control of  its own borders and to establish systems for managing those borders which might be less effective than the current integrated processes.  It also argues that, were an independent Scotland to seek to join either the Common Travel Area, within the British Isles, or the Schengen Area, it would necessarily have to accept some restrictions on its freedom to set its own migration policy.  In particular, a migration policy which aimed to attract more immigrants into Scotland would be inconsistent with current UK and Irish policies and therefore might not be acceptable within the Common Travel Area.  In any case, Scotland might be required to enter Schengen as a condition of EU membership, which would entail the establishment of border controls between Scotland and rUK.  Finally, while the paper accepts that it would probably be possible to hold dual Scottish and British citizenship after independence, British citizens living outside the rUK would not be able to pass their citizenship on for more than one generation.  Nor could it be guaranteed that British citizens living in an independent Scotland would retain their British citizenship. 


The Chancellor, George Osborne, in a speech in Edinburgh on 13 February, rules out any possibility of a Conservative government agreeing to a currency union between Scotland and the rUK - the preferred policy of the Scottish Government, as set out in its independence White Paper -  in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum.  This is reiterated by Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Ed Balls, the Labour Shadow Chancellor.  Their reasons for rejecting a currency union are set out in the 11th of the UK Government's Scotland Analysis papers, published the same day, and the Government also takes the highly unusual step of publishing a letter from Sir Nicholas MacPherson, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, advising against a currency union.


The Scottish Liberal Democrats publish the second report of their Home Rule Commission, setting out a timetable for reforms to the devolution settlement in the event a no vote in the referendum.

The Scottish Labour Party also publishes the final report of its Devolution Commission.  The report recommends some further devolution of powers to vary income tax, but does not go as far as its interim report in recommending full devolution of income tax.  Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance should be devolved, as well as a small number of other policy areas.  It also recommends legal entrenchment of the powers of the Scottish Parliament.


The UK government publishes the 11th paper in its Scotland Analysis series, on energy.  The paper argues that the current integrated GB energy system could not continue as it is now if Scotland becomes independent.  This would result in higher energy bills in Scotland, because Scottish consumers would have to bear the costs of network investment, support for remote consumers, and support for low carbon generation which are currently spread across all GB consumers.  Contrary to the claims of the Scottish Government, the paper also argues that there would be no guarantee that Scotland could continue to export energy to the rest of the UK, as the latter would have a number of potential import options to help satisfy demand and meet its renewable energy targets.  Scotland's ability to meet its own renewables targets would depend on its ability to sell renewable energy or renewable energy credits on the international market, the prospects for which are uncertain.  The paper finally claims that being part of the UK also helps to support the oil and gas industry, as well as to shield the Scottish economy from the effects of oil and gas price volatility.  

It also publishes a 12th Scotland Analysis paper on Work and Pensions. The paper argues that people in Scotland currently benefit from the UK's flexible labour market, a resilient, pan-UK social security system, and additional spending per head on social security.  By remaining part of the UK's bigger and more diverse economy, higher levels of social security expenditure and future cost pressures from an aging population are more easily affordable.  In the event of independence, there would be potentially large cost implications from the need for separate protection and regulation of pensions.  There would also be significant cost implications in establishing new infrastructure to pay pensions and benefits.  Were Scotland to continue to share UK systems for a transitional period, as proposed in the White Paper, it would be unable to changes existing policies or processes or opt out of future GB-wide reforms.  Finally, proposals in the White Paper for changes to pensions and social security would have large cost implications and it was unclear how they would be funded. 

The Scottish Government publishes a paper on Higher Education Research in an Independent Scotland. The government commits to at least maintaining existing levels of government investment in research post-independence.  It also reiterates the commitment to maintain a common research area with the rest of the UK as well as existing international research collaborations, but outlines how independence would bring opportunities to develop a funding policy and landscape tailored to Scotland's strengths and needs.


The Treasury claims that the costs of setting up a new Scottish state could be up to £2.7 billion.  The authors of the research on which the claim was based reject the figure as grossly exaggerated.

The 'regulated period' under the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 begins on 30 May.  This is the 16 week period prior to the referendum during which financial restrictions apply to the amounts which can be spent by the lead campaigns, permitted participants and others on referendum campaigning.


The Scottish Conservative party's Strathclyde Commission publishes its report on The Future Governance of Scotland.  It recommends full devolution of income tax in Scotland, and that consideration should be given to devolving Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance, along with a power for the Scottish Parliament to supplement reserved welfare benefits.  The report also makes a recommendations for reforming devolved institutions and local government in Scotland, and proposes the establishment of a Committee of all the Parliaments and Assemblies in the UK to consider the future development of devolution in a more holistic manner than hitherto.

The Scottish Government launches a consultation on a draft interim constitution for Scotland which would underpin (alongside an updated Scotland Act) Scotland's governing arrangements from independence day until the adoption of a permanent written constitution.  The draft Bill - to be passed by the Scottish Parliament in the event of a yes vote, under powers transferred to it by Westminster - would provide for Scotland to become legally independent, and would set out key institutions and principles for the governance of the new state.  

The leaders of the Scottish Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties make a joint commitment that more powers will be devolved the Scottish Parliament if there is a no vote in the referendum, although there is no commitment on the content of those powers.


The challenge to the legality of the referendum franchise legislation brought by convicted prisoners in respect of their exclusion from the franchise is rejected on appeal by the Inner House of the Court of Session. 

A fast track appeal to the Supreme Court is also rejected, with reasons to be published at a later date.


The leaders of the UK Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties reiterate the pledge made in June by the Scottish party leaders that more powers will be devolved to Scotland following a no vote (again with no agreement on the substance of the powers to be devolved).

The Scottish Government publishes a document on Scotland's Future and the Environment.  It sets out five key gains for the environment from independence: 1. placing the environment at the heart of a written constitution; 2. having a nuclear-free Scotland; 3. access to support and funding needed to protect Scotland's natural environment; 4. representation in the EU and the opportunity to drive the EU agenda; and 5. having a stronger voice on the international stage.

'Purdah' begins on 22 August.  Under the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, the Scottish Ministers and devolved public bodies are restricted from publishing material (other than in response to specific requests for information) which deals with any issues raised by the referendum question or puts any arguments for or against any outcome, or is designed to encourage voting at the referendum in the 28 days before the referendum.  The UK government and reserved public bodies are not bound by the 2013 Act.  However, in the Edinburgh Agreement, the UK Government agreed to act according to the same rules.

Postal voting begins on 27 August.


The deadline for registering to vote in the referendum is midnight on 2 September. 4,285,323 people are registered to vote by the deadline - a record 97% of eligible voters aged 18 or above.

On 7 September, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, pledges to set out a plan of action on the implementation of new powers for the Scottish Parliament.  This follows the publication of an opinion poll showing the Yes campaign to have a narrow lead.

On 8 September, former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP, sets out an accelerated timetable for implementing the promise to confer additional powers on the Scottish Parliament in the event of a no vote.  This is endorsed by the three main UK party leaders on 9 September.

On 11 September, RBS and other banks announce that they they will move their registered offices from Scotland to England in the event of a Yes vote.

On 16 September, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties publish a 'vow' to deliver extensive new powers to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a no vote.

The referendum takes place on 18 September on the question 'Should Scotland be an independent country'. 84.59% of those registered to vote take part.
The result is announced on 19 September: 2,001,926 have voted 'No'; 1,809,958 have voted 'Yes'.  Independence is defeated by 55.3% to 44.7%.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, welcomes the result.  He undertakes to honour the commitment to transfer more powers to the Scottish Parliament, and appoints Lord Smith of Kelvin to oversee the process to agree proposals and draft legislation in accordance with the timetable agreed before the referendum.  But he also states that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must also have a bigger say over their own affairs, and that this must include a decisive answer to the West Lothian Question, in the form of 'English votes for English laws'.  These reforms must take place on the same timetable as reforms for Scotland.  William Hague is asked to draw up plans to that effect on a cross-party basis.

However, cross-party consensus immediately breaks down as Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour party, proposes a constitutional convention to discuss the future of devolution in England and reform of the Westminster Parliament.

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond announces his intention to resign as First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party at the party's next conference in November.

On 20 September, the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties table a House of Commons motion “That this House welcomes the result of the Scottish independence referendum and the decision of the people of Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom; recognises that people across Scotland voted‎ for a Union based on the pooling and sharing of resources and for the‎ continuation of devolution inside the United Kingdom; notes the statement by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition regarding the guarantee of and timetable for further devolution to Scotland; calls on the Government to lay before Parliament a Command Paper including the proposals of all three UK political parties by 30th October and to consult widely with the Scottish people, civic Scotland and the Scottish Parliament on these proposals; further calls on the Government to publish heads of agreement by the end of November and draft clauses for the new Scotland Bill by the end of January 2015."


On 13 October, the UK Government publishes a command paper summarising the proposals of the three Unionist parties on the Smith Commission (Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) on further devolution for Scotland.  The SNP and Green party also make submissions to the Commission.


The Smith Commission publishes an Interim Report on the submissions received from the public and Scottish civic institutions.  More than 400 submissions were received from organisations and groups and more than 17,000 letters, emails and signatures on petitions from members of the public.