A referendum is a method of referring a question or set of questions to the entire electorate directly.
Since 1973 there have been eleven referendums held in the UK, the majority of them have been related to the issue of devolution. The first UK-wide referendum was held in 1975 on the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Community (European Union).
EU referendum 2016
The Prime Minister has announced that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will take place on 23 June 2016.
For information about the background to the referendum and the potential impact of the result see the House of Commons Library EU referendum pages.
Scotland referendum 2014
A referendum was held in Scotland on 18 September 2014 on whether Scotland should be an independent country. The electorate voted (55 per cent to 45 per cent) in favour of Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom.
House of Commons Library analysis
The House of Commons Library produced articles in the run up to the referendum which explored the potential impact on the UK of Scottish independence. These articles aimed to inform the debate from an impartial viewpoint. They were archived on 18 September.
Previous referendums held in the UK
- 8 March 1973: Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or join the Republic of Ireland (yes to remaining part of the UK)
- 5 June 1975: UK – Membership of the European Community referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Community (yes)
- 1 March 1979: Scotland – Scottish devolution referendum on whether there should be a Scottish Assembly (40 per cent of the electorate had to vote yes in the referendum, although a small majority voted yes this was short of the 40 per cent threshold required to enact devolution)
- 1 March 1979: Wales – Welsh devolution referendum on whether there should be a Welsh Assembly (no)
- 11 September 1997: Scotland – Scottish devolution referenda on whether there should be a Scottish Parliament and whether the Scottish Parliament should have tax varying powers (both referendums received a yes vote)
- 18 September 1997: Wales – Welsh devolution referendum on whether there should be a National Assembly for Wales (yes)
- 7 May 1998: London – Greater London Authority referendum on whether there should be a Mayor of London and Greater London Authority (yes)
- 22 May 1998: Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement referendum on the Good Friday Agreement (yes)
- 3 March 2011: Wales - Welsh devolution referendum on whether the National Assembly for Wales should gain the power to legislate on a wider range of matters (yes)
- 5 May 2011: UK – referendum on whether to change the voting system for electing MPs to the House of Commons from first past the post to the alternative vote (no, first past the post will continue to be used to elect MPs to the House of Commons).
There have also been local and regional referendums held in the UK which are not included on this list.