Scotland's journey

Today Scotland stands at a cross-roads. Here’s the history of how we got here.

Scotland’s future

8th February, 2020

Westminster votes for Brexit

Westminster votes to begin the Brexit process - with the support of just one of Scotland’s MPs.

SNP MPs put forward a range of amendments, including a requirement for the UK government to consider the interests of devolved administrations in Brexit negotiations, and to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Westminster vote the amendments down. The Brexit Bill passes unamended.

7th February, 2020

The Scottish Parliament votes against Brexit

A cross-party majority in the Scottish Parliament votes against beginning the Brexit process.

2nd February, 2020

Brexit still means Brexit

The UK Government publishes its White Paper on leaving the EU.

The paper gives no guarantee on whether powers repatriated from the EU will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament; no clarity on the status of EU nationals; and no clarity on whether the UK Government will seek a UK-wide approach before beginning the formal Brexit process.

24th January, 2020

The Supreme Court ruling

The UK Supreme Court in London dismisses a legal appeal by the UK government that would prevent parliamentary approval of the triggering of Brexit. The UK government is required to seek the approval of the UK parliament as a result of the verdict.

During the legal proceedings the UK government argues the Sewel Convention - which requires the consent of the Scottish Parliament before the UK parliament passes laws in devolved areas - is not legally enforceable. The Supreme Court states that the UK government is not legally obliged to consult the devolved nations.

It becomes clear that the promises made to Scotland by the UK government about the Sewel Convention and the importance of embedding it in law, as set out in the Smith Commission, are not worth the paper they are written on.

17th January, 2020

Brexit means Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May sets out the UK Government’s Brexit priorities in a speech, including the desire to leave the single market. 

20th December, 2016

Scotland’s Brexit plan

The Scottish Government publishes ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’ - its proposals for protecting Scotland’s interests following Brexit.

The paper states that the UK as a whole should remain within the European Single Market and Customs Union. If the UK decides to leave, the paper proposes Scotland remaining a member of the European Single Market and keeping some key benefits of EU membership.

20th October, 2016

A draft Bill for Scotland’s referendum

The Scottish Government publishes a draft bill on an independence referendum. On publishing the Bill, Constitution Secretary Derek Mackay states:

“Any decision on holding a referendum is for the Scottish Parliament. Our intention is that the Bill is ready for introduction should the Scottish Government decide that a referendum on independence is the best or only way to protect Scotland's interests.”

15th July, 2016

A partnership of equals?

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon meet for the first time in Edinburgh. The new Prime Minister states that she is willing to consider any options that the Scottish Government brings forward to secure Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

24th June, 2016

The EU Referendum Aftermath

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commits to exploring all options to secure Scotland’s continuing place in the EU and the single market, and confirms that a second referendum on independence is on the table:

“If parliament judges that a second referendum is the best or only way to protect our place in Europe, it must have the option to hold one within that timescale.”

EU Referendum

23rd June, 2016

The EU Referendum

A referendum is held on the UK’s membership of the EU. Scotland votes 62 per cent to 38 per cent in favour of remaining in the EU. The UK as a whole narrowly votes to leave the EU.

5th May, 2016

An historic third term

The SNP wins an historic third term in office, winning 63 seats in the Scottish Parliament.

The result is delivered on the following manifesto commitment on Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will:

“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

2014 Referendum

23rd March, 2016

The Scotland Act 2016

The Scotland Act 2016 receives Royal Assent. The Act means decisions about more than 70 per cent of Scottish taxes and 85 per cent of current UK welfare spending in Scotland stay at Westminster.

28th May, 2015

The Scotland Bill

The UK Government introduces a Scotland Bill at Westminster to implement the Smith Commission report. All amendments put forward by the SNP to enhance the powers devolved by the Bill are rejected. 

7th May, 2015

The real opposition at Westminster

The SNP wins 56 of 59 seats in Scotland in the General Election. The Conservatives are returned to power with a majority, despite winning only one seat in Scotland.

20th April, 2015

Full Fiscal Autonomy

The SNP sets out plans for ‘Full Fiscal Autonomy’ in its manifesto for the UK General Election.

27th November, 2014

The Smith Commission

While the Smith Commission report recommends devolution of most Income Tax powers and some welfare powers, its proposals fall far short of the ‘near federalism’ promised by No campaigners in the referendum.

19th September, 2014

The morning after

Following the referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron announces more power for England’s MPs. He also announces a Commission to deliver on promises of the new powers for the Scottish Parliament made by the leaders of Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems during the campaign. Convened by Lord Smith of Kelvin, every party at Holyrood is represented on the Commission.

18th September, 2014

The 2014 independence referendum

Scotland votes no by 55 per cent to 45 per cent. The referendum delivers a record turnout of 84.5 per cent - the biggest turnout recorded for any election or referendum in the UK since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1918.

15th September, 2014

The Vow

David Cameron, Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservatives; Ed Miliband, Leader of Labour; and Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, sign up to ‘the Vow’, promising “extensive” new powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote. This follows promises of ‘home rule’ and ‘federalism’ made by the No campaign.

15th October, 2012

The Edinburgh Agreement

The Edinburgh Agreement is signed by the First Minister and Prime Minister. The agreement recognises Scotland’s right to hold a referendum and sets out an agreed process for a referendum to be held.

1st May, 2012

Scotland Act 2012

1 May 2012: The Scotland Act 2012 received Royal Assent. The Bill devolves some smaller taxes and ensures 85 per cent of Scottish tax revenues continue to flow to the UK Treasury.


5th May, 2011

A turning point in Scottish politics

The 2011 Scottish Parliament election was a turning point in the history of Scottish politics and the Scottish Parliament, with the SNP winning an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament with 69 seats. This result is delivered on an SNP manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on independence.

30th November, 2010

The Scotland Bill

The UK government introduces a Scotland Bill to take forward the recommendations of the Calman Commission on Scottish devolution.

The Bill falls far short of Scottish Government proposals for full fiscal autonomy, whereby all tax raised in Scotland stay in Scotland, and even falls short of the proposals put forward by the Calman Commission itself.

15th June, 2009

The Calman Commission

The Calman Commission, created by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories, calls for the Scottish Parliament's accountability to be improved by devolving more responsibility over the raising of tax revenues.

3rd May, 2007

A breakthrough for the SNP

The 2007 election - the third in the history of the reconvened Scottish Parliament - sees a breakthrough for the SNP, emerging as the largest party in terms of popular vote and number of MSPs. With 47 MSPs compared to Labour’s 46, the SNP forms a minority administration and Alex Salmond is elected First Minister of Scotland.

During this parliamentary term opposition parties block an independence referendum.

Scottish Parliament

6th May, 1999

‘Hereby reconvened’

The first Scottish Parliament elections are held. The Scottish Parliament is reconvened at the General Assembly Hall in Edinburgh by it’s oldest member, Winnie Ewing, who says:

“The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707 is hereby reconvened.”

A coalition government is formed between Labour and the Lib Dems.

19th November, 1998

Scotland Act 1998

The Scotland Act receives Royal Assent, creating a Scottish Parliament with powers to make laws on a range of issues like health, education, justice, transport, housing and rural affairs. Key powers - social security, defence, employment, immigration, trade and more - remain reserved to Westminster.

11th September, 1997

The 1997 Devolution Referendum

Scotland votes overwhelmingly in favour of establishing a Scottish Parliament - by a margin of 74 per cent to 26 per cent, with 63 per cent voting for the Parliament to have the ability to vary the basic rate of Income Tax by 3 pence in the pound.

1st March, 1979

The 1979 devolution referendum and the ‘40 per cent rule’

Scotland votes on the establishment of a Scottish Assembly. The referendum legislation requires a minimum support of 40 per cent of the electorate for a Scottish Assembly to be created. While a majority of voters vote in favour, the 40 per cent requirement is not reached. An Assembly is not delivered.

Act of Union

1st May, 1707

Act of Union

The Act of Union abolishes the Scottish and English parliaments and creates the UK Parliament in London.