31st July 1978

The Scotland Act 1978 gains Royal Assent

The first debate in Scotland’s devolved parliament took place in 2004 – but if the people of Scotland had voted differently, it could have happened 15 years earlier.

In November 1977, responding to growing calls for Scottish independence, the Labour government of James Callaghan introduced the Scotland Bill, which passed into law as the Scotland Act when it gained Royal assent on 31 July the following year.

Scottish Parliament referendum

Under the auspices of the act, a referendum would be held to determine whether Scotland should have its own independent parliament, to which various decision-making powers would be devolved.

An additional condition was made, in that the Act would only apply if at least 40% of Scotland’s total electorate voted in favour of devolution – not merely 40% of those who expressed an opinion at the voting box. Getting people out to vote was, therefore, of paramount importance for those who supported devolution. Ultimately, it was on this point that their campaign failed.

Scotland says ‘yes’

The referendum was held in 1979, and just over 51% of those who expressed an opinion said yes. However, as turnout was 63% this translated to just 33% of the total electorate voting in favour. Although this was still more than those that voted against, the conditions for devolution had not been met.

As the legislation had already been passed to allow for the establishment of the parliament, Westminster now had to pass the Scotland Act 1978 (Repeal) Order 1979 to wind things back.

Nonetheless, support for a devolved Scottish parliament remained strong, and another referendum was held in 1997. On this occasion, with 60% of the electorate turning out to vote, just over 74% voted in favour of the devolved parliament, and 63% voted for it to be granted its own tax-raising powers.



Other events that occured in July

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