THE proposed Votes for Life Bill contained in the Queen’s Speech would see British expatriates who have lived abroad for more than 15 years allowed to vote in a general election, while denying that right to the majority of European Union nationals living in the UK.
The idea that people who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years will be able to vote, while those EU nationals who have been contributing to the UK for the same length of time, paying their taxes and contributing to society, will be disenfranchised, makes no sense whatsoever.
In the independence referendum, EU nationals living in Scotland were rightly allowed to vote, to determine the future of the country in which they live. The franchise was based on residency, not ethnicity.
What this legislation does is demonstrate the deeply disturbing ethnic nationalism of a UK Tory government, under pressure from Ukip and its rightwing backbenchers, and it is a democratic disgrace.
KEZIA Dugdale says (your report 30 May): “Voting rights are a matter of democratic principle, and I strongly feel it is unfair to exclude EU nationals from a fundamental referendum.”
She is incorrect. Voting rights are a matter of the national citizenship principle. If “democracy” is the principle, then we should abolish national citizenship and give every single person in the world a right to vote in the UK from the age that they become conscious.
Many people will be surprised to know that EU citizens, who are not also British citizens, can vote at all in any elections in the UK. In fact, they can vote at every single election, except the general election and referendums.
This is due to a controversial interpretation of one word in Article 19(1) of the Consolidated Treaty on European Union; which enables EU citizens to vote and stand at any “municipal” election.
The word “municipal” has been interpreted to include Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and all local elections throughout the UK, including London Assembly elections. However, from a strict “black letter” legal interpretation, the word “municipal” cannot be stretched to mean an entire country!
In any case, UK-wide elections and referendums are not “municipal” elections by any stretch of the term. Therefore, EU citizens who are not also British citizens should continue to have no right to vote in them.
Dugdale’s position, furthermore, implies the abolition of the very idea of national citizenship. If British citizenship is to mean anything, then there must be privileges of membership attached, which are not attached to those who have not made such a commitment. If she doesn’t believe this, then she should argue for the abolition of national citizenship and see how far that gets her!
Bath Street, Glasgow