The significance of Thursday’s referendum has prompted speculation we’re set for an enormous turnout. The extension of the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds, plus talk of a “once in a generation” opportunity for change, has raised expectations to dizzy heights. Alex Salmond has done nothing to dampen this, saying in August: “I think the best bet of this referendum is a bet on an 80% poll. If you can get odds on an 80% poll, you bet it.”
That certainly would be a remarkably high figure – but it wouldn’t be a record breaker. The total to beat in a UK referendum is 81.1%. That was the turnout in the referendum held in Northern Ireland in 1998 over whether to approve the Good Friday Agreement.
There have been 13 national or regional-based referendums in the modern political history of the UK. I’ve ranked them in order of turnout, starting with the biggest: