Todays seminar; “Vox Populi: The Voice of the ‘Wee Society’: the Referenda Experience in Scottish Local Government since 1868” is a great opportunity to highlight relevant material that we hold in the library’s Maps, Official Publications and Statistics Unit.
A referendum is one way of finding out how a group of people feel about a particular topic. It is a form of direct democracy, and offers an alternative to representative democracy, where members are elected by the people to represent their views locally, nationally, and in Europe. The results of a referendum can be utilised for many purposes, such as writing or changing constitutions, altering legislation, or simply as a gauge of public opinion.
Examples of local referenda in Scotland include: the temperance polls of the 1900s where residents could vote on whether alcohol could be sold in public houses in their local authority. The right to petition for temperance polls remained in force until as late as 1976. The image above shows a question asked to the House of Commons regarding the number of temperance polls held between the introduction of the Temperance (Scotland) Act in 1913 and December 1965.
Other examples of local referenda are the Strathclyde Water Referendum in 1994, the 2005 Edinburgh congestion charge, and most recently, the Aberdeen Gardens in 2012.
We have a wealth of information in our collections to compliment the Vox Populi seminar series. For guidance on accessing primary and official resources such as parliamentary debates, consultations and legislation please see the staff in the Maps, Official Publications and Statistics Unit on Level 7 of the library, who will be pleased to help.