Democracy for Scotland: the Museum of Edinburgh examines the referendum experience

By Jenni Davidson Published: 07 March 2012

A photograph of a beermat with 'Vote Yes Yes for a Scottish parliament' written on it
Referendum beer mat, 1997
© Scottish Political Archive
Democracy for Scotland: the Referendum Experience, Museum of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, until April 24 2012

Ever since the SNP announced that it intends to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 the media has been abuzz with pros and cons, economics and statistics about what an independent Scotland would mean.

Tying in with this referendum zeitgeist, the Museum of Edinburgh has brought together archive materials from the two previous referendums on devolution in 1979 and 1997 for an exhibition on the subject.

Democracy for Scotland: the Referendum Experience documents the movement for a Scottish parliament in the late 20th century through images and campaign materials, including badges, leaflets, pamphlets, posters and flyers from the different political parties and campaign groups.

It also presents recordings of politicians and campaigners discussing their experience of the two referendums, the period in between and the establishment of a Scottish parliament.

Much of the material for the exhibition comes from the Scottish Political Archive at the University of Stirling.

The archive is made up of seven different collections relating to the political history of Scotland in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the personal memorabilia of the politicians Dennis Canavan and George Robertson.

The discussion about independence is going to be a long one, with more than two years to go until the proposed date of the referendum, so it may be timely to look back and take stock before looking forwards.

“This exhibition exploring the nature of the 1979 and 1997 devolution referendums could not be timelier,” said Scottish Political Archive Director Peter Lynch.

“The issues raised at the two previous referendum campaigns have enormous contemporary significance for the proposed referendum in 2014.”
  • Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission free.
For more information about the Scottish Political Archive go to

More pictures from the exhibition:
A picture of a Yes Yes poster
A Scottish Labour Party poster, 1997
© Scottish Political Archive
A photograph of two men holding a vigil outside a portacabin
Democracy for Scotland vigil at the bottom of Calton Hill, Edinburgh
© Scottish Political Archive
A picture of an anti-devolution leaflet
Scotland is British group flyer, 1979
© Scottish Political Archive
A black and white photograph of a pro-devolution march
Scotland Demands Democracy march, 1992
© Scottish Political Archive
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: