Located in northwest Europe, the United Kingdom occupies most of the British Isles, sharing a border with Ireland. It is made up of four separate countries, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, each with its own cultural identity. In September 2014, a referendum took place in Scotland to determine whether Scotland should be an independent country. In fact this is exactly how the vote in the referendum was worded – yes or no to “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The following people were eligible to take part in the referendum –
- British citizens who are resident in Scotland
- Commonwealth citizens who are resident in Scotland
- EU citizens who are resident in Scotland
- Members of the House of Lords who are resident in Scotland
- Military personnel of the British Armed Forces who are registered to vote in Scotland but are serving in the UK/overseas
For this referendum, a Bill was passed which allowed all 16 and 17 year olds in the above categories to take part. There was a turnout of around 85% of the total of those eligible to vote in this historical event and the result was as follows – YES – 44.7% NO – 55.3% Therefore Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom. Politically the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State and celebrated 60 years on the throne in June 2012. The Prime Minister is the head of the government, and is appointed by the Monarch after a General Election for a term of 5 years.
On 23rd June 2016 a Referendum was held where the public voted as to whether the UK should remain in the EU. As in the Scottish referendum, the question required a yes or no answer to “Should the UK remain in the EU.” At the moment over a million UK citizens have exercised their rights to live, work and study in the EU. The results of the Referendum were extremely close – 51.9% voted to Leave and 48.1% voted to Remain, therefore the UK voted to leave the EU which will be a lengthy process and began on 29th March 2017 when Article 50, the formal mechanism for leaving was triggered. The day after the Referendum, the Prime Minister David Cameron resigned and Theresa May successfully contested the Conservative Party leadership and became Prime Minister in July 2016. In April 2017 a General Election was announced to take place on 8th June 2017. The results of this General Election was that the Conservative Party failed to gain a majority and on 26th June they entered in to a deal with the Democratic Union Party (DUP).
At a glance facts
- Languages – English, Welsh, Gaelic (others languages may be spoken by minority groups and immigrants in the United Kingdom)
- Population: 66,573,504 (2018)
- International Dialling Code 44