Scottish independence: 60,000 from EU get vote on Scots split
ALMOST 60,000 EU nationals living in Scotland will be allowed to vote on Scottish independence, the UK Government has revealed.
Scotland Office minister David Mundell has told MPs that 58,004 residents from European Union nations are eligible to take part in the ballot due to take place in 2014.
The disclosure has renewed the controversy over which groups can take part in the referendum when Scots living in the rest of the UK or in other countries will be denied a vote under current rules. It led to new demands yesterday for the franchise to at least be extended to the estimated 750,000 Scots living south of the Border and for UK voting rules to be adopted.
The SNP government proposes that the vote should be open to British and Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland and armed forces or civil service personnel serving in the UK or overseas.
But its referendum consultation document published last month also states that citizens of EU countries resident in Scotland should also be allowed to participate, a category that is denied a vote in UK general elections.
The Scottish Government has adopted that approach on the basis that it was the format used when Scotland went to the polls in 1997 for the devolution referendum.
It calculates that under these rules 3.99 million people will be eligible and it is currently trying to extend the franchise to around 125,000 16-to-17-year-olds.
However, some politicians believe a more appropriate model would be the franchise used for Westminster elections.
Under that model, British citizens living overseas can vote in UK parliamentary elections for up to 15 years in the constituency they were registered in before leaving the UK. Approving a similar approach for the independence referendum would enable those Scots, who have moved to other parts of the UK in the last 15 years, a chance to vote.
EU nationals living in Scotland who want to vote must first register with the Electoral Commission. The number currently eligible was revealed by a parliamentary question submitted to Mundell by Labour MP Thomas Docherty. Yesterday, Docherty questioned why a “French student studying for a year at Edinburgh University” would be allowed to vote when someone born in Scotland but now living elsewhere in the UK could not.
“It seems to me to be wrong that we could end up with this situation,” Docherty said. “I think the issue of the franchise needs to be looked at carefully and reconsidered.”
David McLetchie, the Conservatives’ constitution spokesman, said: “This is an anomaly. If one used the franchise that was used for the UK parliamentary elections then the EU nationals would not be able to vote, but certain ex-pats would. So there is an argument that the referendum should be conducted under the UK parliamentary franchise and that would deal with both these anomalies.”
“James Wallace, a Dumfries-born law graduate who is about to start a career in London, is campaigning for Scots based elsewhere in the UK to be given a vote.
He said: “I would not want to deny European Union nationals the vote. But we should be allowing Scots like me to vote under the 15-year rule.”
“It is difficult to argue that someone who just moves to Scotland is a greater part of ‘the Scottish people’ when they would never describe themselves as Scottish, yet individuals whose entire life has revolved around the country and are away developing knowledge to bring back to the nation they call home are denied a vote on something so fundamental as independence.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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