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History of referendums in the UK

Overview of the referendums held in the United Kingdom, both at UK-level and in different parts of the UK.
Overhead view of auditorium on election night with votes been sorted and counted by volunteers at tables
© The University of Edinburgh CC BY SA 2016
The first-ever UK-wide referendum was the Common Market Referendum in 1975. Most referendums since have been in particular parts of the UK. This timeline sets out the history of referendums.
  • 1973 – Northern Ireland: Sovereignty Referendum

Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom? or Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom?
Remain in UK: 99% · Join ROI: 1% · Turnout: 59%
  • 1975 – UK: Common Market Referendum

Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?
Yes: 67% · No: 33% · Turnout: 65%
  • 1979 – Scotland: Devolution Referendum

Do you want the Provisions of the Scotland Act 1978 to be put into effect?
Yes: 52% · No: 48% · Turnout: 64%
The turnout requirement was not met, so the provisions were not implemented
  • 1979 – Wales: Devolution Referendum

Do you want the Provisions of the Wales Act 1978 to be put into effect?
Yes: 20% · No: 80% · Turnout: 59%
  • 1997 – Scotland: Devolution Referendum

I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament or I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament
Agree: 74% · Do not agree: 26% · Turnout: 60%
I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers or I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers
Agree: 63% · Do not agree: 37% · Turnout: 60%
  • 1997 – Wales: Devolution Referendum

Do you agree that there should be a Welsh Assembly as proposed by the Government?
Yes: 50.30% · No: 49.70% · Turnout: 50%
  • 1998 – London: Devolution Referendum

Are you in favour of the Government’s proposals for a Greater London Authority, made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly?
Yes: 72% · No: 28% · Turnout: 35%
  • 1998 – Northern Ireland: Belfast Agreement Referendum

Do you support the agreement reached at the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland and set out in Command Paper 3883?
Yes: 71% · No: 29% · Turnout: 81%
  • 2011 – Wales: Devolution Referendum

Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?
Yes: 63% · No: 37% · Turnout: 36%
  • 2011 – UK: Alternative Vote Referendum

At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?
Yes: 32% · No: 68% · Turnout: 42%
  • 2014 – Scotland: Independence Referendum

Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes: 45% · No: 55% · Turnout: 85%
Figures rounded to the nearest whole number, except where determinative. Not including other local referendums held in the UK
The first-ever UK-wide referendum was the Common Market Referendum in 1975. Most referendums since have been in particular parts of the UK. This timeline sets out the history of referendums.

  • 1973 – Northern Ireland: Sovereignty Referendum

Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom? or Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom?
Remain in UK: 99% · Join ROI: 1% · Turnout: 59%
  • 1975 – UK: Common Market Referendum

Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?
Yes: 67% · No: 33% · Turnout: 65%
  • 1979 – Scotland: Devolution Referendum

Do you want the Provisions of the Scotland Act 1978 to be put into effect?
Yes: 52% · No: 48% · Turnout: 64%
The turnout requirement was not met, so the provisions were not implemented
  • 1979 – Wales: Devolution Referendum

Do you want the Provisions of the Wales Act 1978 to be put into effect?
Yes: 20% · No: 80% · Turnout: 59%
  • 1997 – Scotland: Devolution Referendum

I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament or I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament
Agree: 74% · Do not agree: 26% · Turnout: 60%
I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers or I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers
Agree: 63% · Do not agree: 37% · Turnout: 60%
  • 1997 – Wales: Devolution Referendum

Do you agree that there should be a Welsh Assembly as proposed by the Government?
Yes: 50.30% · No: 49.70% · Turnout: 50%
  • 1998 – London: Devolution Referendum

Are you in favour of the Government’s proposals for a Greater London Authority, made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly?
Yes: 72% · No: 28% · Turnout: 35%
  • 1998 – Northern Ireland: Belfast Agreement Referendum

Do you support the agreement reached at the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland and set out in Command Paper 3883?
Yes: 71% · No: 29% · Turnout: 81%
  • 2011 – Wales: Devolution Referendum

Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?
Yes: 63% · No: 37% · Turnout: 36%
  • 2011 – UK: Alternative Vote Referendum

At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?
Yes: 32% · No: 68% · Turnout: 42%
  • 2014 – Scotland: Independence Referendum

Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes: 45% · No: 55% · Turnout: 85%
© The University of Edinburgh CC BY SA 2016
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