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Guide to the referendum process

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Who can vote? What's the question? Why is this happening now?

Question mark

The Scottish independence referendum will take place on Thursday, 18 September, 2014. On this page, you’ll find useful information about the referendum.

Who can vote?

Most people over the age of 16 who live in Scotland will be entitled to vote. As with other UK elections, to get a vote you will need to register in advance. Unlike other UK elections, 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote in the referendum. For more information for young voters see the Electoral Commission’s FAQs for young voters

What will the question be?

The referendum question will be: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and voters will choose yes or no. Whichever option has the most votes will win the referendum, regardless of how many people turn out to vote.

What’s the process?

Constitutional arrangements are the responsibility of the UK Parliament. However, the power to legislate for the referendum was transferred to the Scottish Parliament, following the Referendum Agreement, which was signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond on October 15 2012. As a result of this, the Scottish Parliament passed the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 and Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 to set out the arrangements for the referendum which will take place on 18 September 2014.

Why is this happening now?

This is happening now because the Scottish National Party, who campaign for Scotland to be independent, won a majority at the last Scottish Parliament election.

What happens if there is a yes vote?

If a majority of those who vote want Scotland to be independent then Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations. Following the negotiations Scotland would leave the United Kingdom and become a new and separate state.

What happens if there is a no vote?

If a majority of those who vote want to stay part of the UK, Scotland would remain a part of the United Kingdom, with its own devolved Parliament. The UK and Scottish governments would continue to make the changes to the powers of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish government that were agreed by the 2 parliaments in the Scotland Act 2012.

Scottish independence referendum and the civil service

The independence referendum on September 18 is an important event for the UK and Scotland.

UK civil servants work on a range of issues which have an impact on the referendum. It is also clear there is a demand for the provision of information which will enable voters to come to an informed decision.

The UK government is not neutral on the issue of the referendum. It has a clear policy that it wishes to see Scotland remain part of the UK. On the other side of the argument, the Scottish government is clear in its policy of seeking independence.

The civil service’s role is to support the elected government of the day and implement its policies. While the referendum is politically contentious, it is correct that civil servants carry out their duties on this issue as they would any other government policy – this applies equally to policy and media work, including social media.

Find out more about the Scottish independence referendum

Further information

Published 12 May 2014