Right to vote could be extended to more than 50,000 foreign nationals
21 June 2019, 10:23
New legislation that could extend the right to vote to everyone legally resident in Scotland is being brought forward.
The change could add 55,000 people to the electoral register.
It is being proposed in the wake of the Scottish Government giving voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds.
The Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill will also restate the rights of European Union citizens who are resident in Scotland to take part in elections.
It will include measures that would allow prisoners serving short-term sentences to cast their ballot.
There is currently a blanket ban that prevents convicted prisoners from voting but the European Court of Human Rights ruled against this.
Speaking as the Bill was published, Parliamentary Business Manager Graeme Dey said it was "only fair" foreign nationals living in Scotland could vote and stand in Scottish Parliament and Scottish council elections.
It would not apply in UK General Elections, where the franchise is controlled by Westminster.
Mr Dey said: "Scotland has already led the way by lowering the voting age to 16 and we are building on this progress by extending the right to vote to everyone legally resident here.
"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, and is a demonstration of the kind of Scotland we are seeking to build.
"It is only fair that foreign nationals with the permanent right to live here, whether from EU countries or elsewhere, have the right to vote and stand as candidates in devolved elections.
"This is backed by the public consultation we undertook in 2018 which found 92% of organisations and 78% of individuals supported this reform."
On the issue of prisoner voting, he explained ministers had decided not to extend voting rights to all prisoners.
"We are confident that restricting prisoner voting to those serving sentences of less than 12 months means we can comply with the court's ruling," Mr Dey said.
"This measure will also support rehabilitation and reintegration back in to society in order to reduce reoffending."