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'Energised and enthused nation' is referendum legacy

Published: 13 Sep 2015 00:01

Democratic participation remains high one year on.

Last year's historic independence referendum has ensured that democratic engagement and participation in Scotland is at its highest level in modern times – and its enduring legacy has been an overwhelmingly positive one for the nation, according to the First Minster.

The referendum, held on 18 September 2014, saw a turnout of 85 per cent with more than 3.6 million people across Scotland casting their votes on the nation's future.

The high turnout continued in the May 2015 General Election with over 71 per cent of those eligible voting, five percentage points about the UK average and an increase from 64 per cent in the previous General Election.

Since then, the Scottish Parliament has passed the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill, which will continue the momentum and see 16 and 17 year-olds able to vote at next year's Scottish Parliament elections – the first time this age group will have the vote in a national election.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Last September's independence referendum was a historic day for Scotland. And while it did not deliver the result that I and so many others worked so hard to achieve, its legacy has been an overwhelmingly positive one for our nation.

"The final stages of the referendum campaign 12 months ago meant that every part of Scotland was a hotbed of informed, lively political discussion. It meant that we had probably the most politically engaged and attuned electorate anywhere in the developed world at that moment.

"The referendum sparked an unprecedented level of political engagement in Scotland, with the highest turnout of any UK ballot for over a century. It brought into politics people, who in some cases had not been involved in decades or ever, and it enabled people to have their say.

"It was a triumph for democracy and participation, not least from 16 and 17 year-olds, more than 100,000 of whom grasped with both hands the opportunity to vote for the first time.

"The referendum's enduring legacy is an energised and enthused nation, and we saw further evidence of that with the turnout in Scotland at the recent UK general election.

"Looking ahead to next year's Scottish Parliament election, I am pleased that we received broad cross-party for our proposal to give young people a permanent voice on matters that affect them and allow them to vote in May 2016 – the first time 16 and 17 year-olds will have been able to vote in a national election.

"September 18th 2014 was one of the most significant days in our nation's story, and its positive legacy will be felt for many years to come as Scotland continues to move forward with renewed confidence and self-belief."