The electorate for the referendum could have been bigger, and there could have been more options on the ballot paper, so why weren't there?by Peter Riddell / September 10, 2014 / Leave a comment
Why can’t emigrant Scots vote?
Only some Scots will be able to vote in the referendum on the future of their country of birth on 18th September. Roughly 800,000 people who were born in Scotland will not able to vote because they live elsewhere. This is equivalent to nearly a fifth of the 4.2m who will be able to vote and who include a sizeable minority of people who were born outside Scotland, not only in England, but also in the rest of the European Union. The contrast is infuriating many Scottish expatriates who have left their home country to seek jobs elsewhere.
The explanation is simply that electoral registration is based on the principle of current residence and not of birth. There has so far been no separate category of Scottish citizens, and there are no records of where Scottish-born people live. The practical and financial implications of trying to include all Scottish born wherever they lived would have been enormous and would have opened up a much wider debate on electoral registration and citizenship. If Scotland does become independent these issues may have to be addressed especially if Scotland wants a different immigration policy from the rump UK.
The qualification for voting in the referendum is the same as those able to vote in Scottish Parliamentary and local elections, with the exception that the qualifying age is 16, not 18. It consists of British citizens resident in Scotland, regardless of where they were born– plus Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland who have leave to remain in the UK, or do not require such leave, citizens of the Irish Republic and other EU countries resident in Scotland, and various service or crown personnel working elsewhere who are registered to vote in Scotland. The inclusion of the local government franchise broadens those eligible to EU citizens.