11 September 1997: Scotland votes for devolution

Many Scots opposed the decision to unite with England and Wales in 1707. But the retention of separate legal systems and religious arrangements greatly reduced opposition, and after the failure of the Jacobite Rising of 1745-1746, it was not until the late-19th century that demands for Irish Home Rule led to demands for a similar process in Scotland. In 1913, a bill for Scottish devolution progressed through the House of Commons, but the start of World War I forced it to be dropped.

After the war, all the major parties opposed devolution. In 1969, the discovery of North Sea oil put it back on the agenda. The Labour government held a referendum in March 1979. Voters voted (narrowly) for devolution, but the poll failed to win the backing of 40% of Scotland’s population. The Scottish National Party (SNP) lost all but two seats at the June general election.

During the 1980s, support for devolution gradually grew. Fearing they would be denied a majority by the SNP, Labour adopted Scottish and Welsh devolution as a policy in 1995. After their landslide victory in 1997, they held simultaneous referendums that September, on the principle of devolution, and whether a devolved assembly should have tax-raising powers. Scots votes backed both ideas with large majorities (though less than 40% of the overall electorate voted for tax-raising powers).

While many hoped that devolution would reduce the demand for full independence, the SNP formed a minority government in Edinburgh after the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. Last year’s independence referendum was won by the “No” camp, but the SNP won nearly all Scottish seats at this year’s general election, and now some polls suggest that a second referendum would result in independence.

Also on this day

11 September 1792: The French Blue diamond is stolen

On this day in 1792, a riotous mob ransacked the French crown jewels and made off with the famous French Blue diamond. Read more here.