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Scottish Parliament: No models of nationality or ethnicity linked to the right to vote

Mark Smith says that “there will be other critical questions to be discussed too. Such as who gets to vote”.

He disingenuously suggests that there is a question mark over who should vote for the next independence referendum, thus following in the footsteps of Michael Gove or George Galloway. He will know, however, that the Scottish Parliament has just passed the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Act, as recently as April 1, 2020.

The act benefits around 55,000 people and reaffirms the existing voting rights of European Union and Commonwealth citizens. It says: “Extending voting rights to all citizens with a legal right to residency demonstrates Scotland’s commitment to equally value everyone who chooses to make our country their home.”

Ethnicity must not be a factor in getting a vote in indyref2. Image credit The Herald Scotland/Letters

So, the question of who will vote has already been determined by a democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The right to vote won’t be based on right-wing nationalist models of nationality or ethnicity, based on where you were born rather than where you live, which is really the sub-text of M Smith's comment. What matters is where you have made you home, spent your hard-earned cash, paid your taxes and contributed to your community. The question of Scots born in Scotland but living abroad is not a question posed by the Scottish Government, the SNP or the Yes movement. It is posed by people wanting to stir up divisions and resentment.

At any rate, since Scotland is not, yet, an independent nation it cannot, yet, have a nationality-based system, people do not, yet, have a Scottish passport, and Scotland does not, yet, have consulates and embassies abroad where people of Scottish nationality would be able to go and vote, as I, a French national living in Scotland, can and do participate in the election of the French president, for example.

It would be nice if your columnists would use facts and not fantasy.

Mark Smith discusses the three big issues which have to be settled regarding a possible second independence referendum, namely the question, the necessary majority and those entitled to vote, but does not offer answers to them.

If the question to be asked is to be accepted by both sides as fair, obviously it cannot be set by either the pro-independence Scottish Government or by the pro-Union UK Government. It has to be set by an independent body and the obvious choice is the Electoral Commission. It has said a Yes or No vote is inherently biased in favour of Yes and consequently I suggest one possible solution would be to pit the status quo option against the change option as in “Should Scotland remain part of the UK or Leave the UK?".

As regards the necessary majority, in a vote potentially of such huge constitutional significance any true democrat must accept that a simple majority is insufficient as an expression of the settled will of those entitled to vote, as whatever the result it would leave a sizeable minority aggrieved. As to what level of majority should be broadly acceptable to both sides, I suggest we need look no further than the SNP constitution, which in Article 27 requires a two-thirds majority for any change to it. If it is required for that, why not equally for an independence referendum?

Supporters of Scottish independence like the word “yes” and want to retain it if there is a second referendum. Image credit: Colin Mearns/The Herald

Finally, who should be entitled to vote? Again because of the possibility of huge constitutional change and the old saying that one of Scotland’s greatest exports has always been its people, I believe we should follow the 2011 Venice Commission Report from the European Commission For Democracy Through Law by including those Scots living outwith Scotland, perhaps limited to those who have in this century been registered to vote here.

It is a fact that the constitution is a matter for the UK Parliament at Westminster. As such it comprises a system of rules that decide the political governance of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UK is a unitary state that is governed within the framework of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The UK Government remains totally responsible for all non-devolved matters.

The UK Supreme Court recognises that there are constitutional principles which include parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, and the upholding of international law.

In 2014, with the agreement of the UK Government, the Scottish Executive as it was initially styled, and more recently the Scottish Government as it is now known, was granted legal permission under the Scotland Acts, to hold an independence referendum. This poll resulted in rejection of the motion on a 56:44 ratio.

The question needs to be asked: "If the SNP had achieved a majority in the 2014 referendum, would it have consented to a second vote? Surely this must be the most rhetorical of questions?

It is therefore totally unacceptable for the current minority SNP administration at Holyrood to attempt to try to undermine the political scene within the UK. Surely in these times of uncertainty and economic strife the last thing that Scotland needs is any form of distraction initiated by SNP zealots. The UK needs solidarity of purpose, not further division.

Source: The Herald Scotland, Letters


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