Refugees to be given the vote in Scotland
Prisoners with sentences under 12 months will also be able to vote, and candidacy rights will be extended to foreign nationals with indefinite leave to remain and to those with pre-settled status
The Scottish Parliament has voted to give refugees the right to vote in elections in Scotland.
Prisoners with sentences under 12 months will also be able to vote, and candidacy rights will be extended to foreign nationals with indefinite leave to remain and to those with pre-settled status.
But an amendment from the Scottish Greens that would have allowed asylum seekers the right to vote was rejected, with both the SNP and Tories opposed.
The Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill will extend voting rights in all Scottish elections to foreign nationals with leave to remain.
The vote was the first time in the history of the Scottish Parliament that a bill has passed after requiring a super-majority of two-thirds of MSPs. It passed by 92 votes to 27.
Foreign nationals are not allowed to vote in national elections in most European countries.
Several, such as Sweden, Finland and Denmark, allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, usually after a period of some years' residency.
The UK currently allows citizens of the EU, Ireland and some qualifying Commonwealth countries to vote in national elections.
The Scottish Refugee Council has called for asylum seekers to be allowed to vote and for refugees to be allowed to stand in elections.
Policy officer Lorna Gledhill said: “This is a really significant moment. The right to vote is a crucial part of the broader spectrum of human rights that everyone in Scotland should be able to enjoy. Fundamentally, everyone living here should have a say in how the country is run.
“By granting voting rights to all those who are lawfully resident in Scotland, and extending candidacy rights to those with indefinite leave to remain, this new law helps create a more welcoming and inclusive country where everyone is treated equally no matter where they are from.”
Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Michael Russell said: “This Bill, a historic piece of legislation, is an example of Scotland’s ability to take the lead in making progressive reforms, and one of which we should be proud.
“It also reflects the reality of modern Scotland: a nation committed to robustly meeting our duties to the treaties that safeguard our human rights, that welcomes those who seek to join our society, and gives a democratic voice to the most marginalised in our communities.
“EU and Commonwealth citizens already have the franchise, but it was critical that we recognised the enormous contribution of others by extending the right to vote.
“This extension is especially meaningful in the atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the UK Government’s plans for the immigration system – but instead of instilling insecurity and fear, this Government is using the powers that it has to send the message that Scotland is open, welcoming, and home to all those who so choose.
“This legislation also ensures that Scotland complies with the European Convention on Human Rights when it comes to the issue of prisoner voting, by making provision for the franchise to be extended to those serving a custodial sentence of 12 months or less.”