Facilitating a legal, fair and decisive referendum in Scotland


The UK government believes Scotland is stronger in the UK, and the UK is stronger with Scotland in it. However, we recognise that the Scottish government was elected with a mandate to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.

We need to make sure that the referendum:

  • has a clear legal basis
  • commands the confidence of parliaments, governments and people
  • provides a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland


On 15 October 2012, the Prime Minister and First Minister signed an agreement that committed the UK and Scottish governments to pass powers to allow the Scottish Parliament to hold a single question referendum on independence before the end of 2014.

Following the agreement in October 2012, the UK and Scottish Parliaments have approved the necessary legal measures to give the Scottish Parliament the authority to legislate for a referendum.

The legislation was approved by the Privy Council allowing the Scottish government to introduce its Referendum Bill into the Scottish Parliament. The bill received Royal Assent on 17 December 2013.


The Scottish government was elected in May 2011 with a pledge to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. The Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister reached an agreement in October 2012, setting out how the 2 governments would work together to make sure that the referendum is legal, fair and decisive.

Who we’ve consulted

In January 2012 we published a consultation document about Scotland’s constitutional future. The consultation looked at how to make sure a referendum on Scottish independence could be fair, legal and decisive. This consultation informed our approach to our agreement with the Scottish government in October 2012.

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