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Scottish independence: Call for votes for expats

Scots living outside Scotland will not have a vote in the independence referendum. Picture: TSPL

Scots living outside Scotland will not have a vote in the independence referendum. Picture: TSPL

SCOTS living outside the country should be allowed to cast a vote in the independence referendum in September, according to an expert on EU law.

Barrister Aidan O’Neill QC has penned legal advice suggesting that the rules of the referendum - which state that only those resident in Scotland at the time of the referendum can cast a vote - breach European Union rules.

O’Neill claims that by not allowing expatriates to vote, the referendum rules act as a deterrent to free movement within the EU, and punish EU citizens leaving one member state to live in another.

The issue has already caused controversy with the 400,000 Scots living in the rest of the UK excluded from the vote because the Scottish Government decided to choose the Holyrood electoral register.

This means that while Scots who live outside Scotland cannot vote, EU and Commonwealth citizens living in Scotland will get the vote.

Mr O’Neill’s advice was commissioned by James Wallace, a Dumfries-born lawyer but now based in London, who is reportedly sending copies to both David Cameron and Alex Salmond today calling for a review of the referendum rules.

Mr O’Neill is recognised as an expert on European Union law. In 2012 he told Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee that there are “good legal arguments based on EU law” to suggest that residents of both Scotland and the rest of the UK would retain their EU citizenships in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.

The Scottish Government has rejected any legal threat and defended the rules of the referendum, saying they are in line with those in place in the 1997 vote on devolution.

A spokeswoman said: “The Edinburgh Agreement confirmed that the franchise for the referendum was for the Scottish Parliament to determine, and it is widely accepted that the ­Edinburgh Agreement has put the referendum beyond effective legal challenge.”

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