Scotland could allow EU nationals to retain voting rights post-Brexit

Written by Martin Banks on 5 September 2018 in News

The Scottish government says it plans to legislate to ensure EU nationals in Scotland retain their rights to vote post-Brexit.

Photo credit: Press Association

It was also announced on Wednesday that the government will pay their registration fees if any such fees are going to be levied. 

Scotland’s devolved government said it will cover the cost of immigration status fees for European Union citizens working in the Scottish public sector after Brexit.

The move was hailed by Scottish MEP Alyn Smith who told this website, “From the bottom of our hearts, anyone living in Scotland is Scottish.”


The measure, announced as part of the programme for government, builds on the existing policy of the SNP that all residents in Scotland should have the same democratic equality as their neighbours.  

In the referendum on Scotland’s independence, all EU nationals resident in Scotland had a right to vote. The electoral franchise bill will also implement reforms to ensure all legal residents, from all countries, will be able to vote.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to attract European nationals to shore up Scotland’s ageing population, but their status is in doubt after Britain leaves the European Union and freedom of movement of EU citizens ends. 

Although Britain as a whole opted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum, Scotland voted to stay, and Sturgeon says Scotland’s best future is to stay in the EU as a country in its own right. She has said she will make a decision on whether to call for a new independence vote once it is clearer what Brexit entails.

Sturgeon has been keen to underline Scotland’s different policy approach to the rest of the UK. 

Announcing her program for government for 2018/19, she said residency, not citizenship, will also be the basis of the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local elections, adding, “We highly value the contribution of EU citizens who have chosen to make Scotland their home and we want them to stay.”

Scotland’s Parliament sets a portion of its own tax rates and decides its own policies in areas including health, education and transport.

On Tuesday, Smith added, “We need more people not fewer, and I am proud that our government is taking real moves to reassure people who have paid us the supreme compliment of making Scotland their home that they are welcome and valued part of the community.  

“The memory of the EU referendum where EU nationals were shamefully excluded from voting by the UK government still causes much upset. With the prospect of Brexit, which was emphatically rejected by Scotland, looming in everyone’s minds it is a welcome piece of good news that the Scottish government at least is doing all it can within its powers to make people feel welcome and secure. The government also announced that it will pay the registration fees of all EU nationals employed by it, if the UK government goes ahead with this unwise and divisive proposal.

“The Scottish Parliament has only recently regained the power to legislate for votes in Scotland, and we fully intend to use it. Presently many nationals of other countries like the US cannot participate in Scotland's democratic process despite being part of our community. We will change this.

“We have already implemented votes at 16 and will broaden the franchise as far as possible for Scottish and local government and any other elections to regional bodies.

“Where the legislation will require a two thirds majority agreement in Parliament, I am confident that with the considerable support from the people of Scotland in a recent consultation to these proposals will bring this home soon.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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