In a democracy, power over the Franchise – who can and cannot vote – is one of the most important powers.
Here is how the Franchise in the UK breaks down for the various elections:
British Parliament Franchise
(at British General Elections; and UK-wide Referendums)
Only British Citizens (and citizens of the Republic of Ireland, and Commonwealth countries), 18 years and older, can vote.
Scottish Parliament Franchise
(at Scottish Parliamentary Elections, Scottish Local Elections; and Referendums specific to Scotland and under the authority of Holyrood)
As above, with the addition of resident citizens of EU countries, 16 years and older.
That is, citizens of EU countries are allowed to vote (for now) at every election in the UK (other than the British General Election, and UK-wide referendums overseen by Westminster).
SNP/GREENS WANT EU CITIZENS to CONTINUE to be ALLOWED to VOTE
At the referendum on 18 September 2014, Holyrood was allowed to set the Franchise. It chose the Scottish Parliament Franchise. Therefore, EU citizens and 16-year olds were allowed to vote.
What that meant was that 10s of thousands of people who were not even British Citizens were allowed to determine the future of Britain. That is like us going to France and being allowed to vote on whether France should be torn apart!
We expect that this facility for EU citizens to vote will end when Britain leaves the EU.
The SNP/Greens want these people to stay on the voting register because they believe EU citizens are a potentially sympathetic voting block at a second IndyRef. (1)
They think they can win a 2nd IndyRef by speaking about how "pro-European" Scotland will be when it is "independent".
Therefore, the SNP needs to find some way to keep them included in the Franchise.
SNP/GREENS are TRYING to CHANGE the FRANCHISE from CITIZENSHIP to RESIDENCY-BASED
Unbelievably, the power to decide the Franchise in Scotland – for the Scottish Parliament and Local Elections, and for referendums specific to Scotland (but not for the British General Election) – was passed to Holyrood in the Scotland Act 2016!
It beggars belief that the unionist parties transferred this power to Holyrood. What did they think the SNP would do with it?
Of course, they would manipulate it; of course they would "gerrymander" it – to their own specific advantage.
And they are trying to do that right now.
With the help of the Scottish Cabbage Party (the soggy Greens) the SNP has come up with the concept of changing the Franchise from being "citizenship-based" to being "residence-based". That is, allowing people to vote simply because they live here, or live and work here. We wrote about that here.
It won't matter if you are a British Citizen, or even an EU Citizen, or now long ago you arrived here. They want to change it so that if you can prove you live here, or live and work here, then you should be able to vote, regardless of whether you are a citizen.
The SNP is amping up its rhetoric in order to prepare the ground for this new Bill.
You can hear it in the new mantra they are using: "Scotland's future would be best decided by the people who live and work here."
If they get it passed, we'll be looking at a Scottish Parliament Franchise that enables anyone to vote merely because they live here!
WE CANNOT ALLOW HOLYROOD to CONTROL the FRANCHISE at a 2nd INDYREF
To give the separatists power over the Franchise is an astonishing mistake. We can only appeal to Westminster to repeal what is clearly a potentially Britain-Breaking error.
If Westminster does not want to do that, then at least it must ensure that any subsequent IndyRef is held under the "British Parliament Franchise", which is strictly based on the legal citizenship requirement; and which excludes EU citizens, 16 year olds, and those who are merely "resident" without citizenship.
Using the "British Parliamentary Franchise" is also an acknowledgement that this is a Britain-wide matter with serious Britain-wide consequences.
It is an acknowledgement that this is not just a matter for Scotland alone! Therefore, it is only right that it is held under the British Parliamentary Franchise and people who are not British Citizens should not be included.
(There is a precedent for this. The EU Referendum on 23 June 2016 was held under the British Parliament Franchise.)
If the SNP/Greens, however, get their "residence alone is all that is required to vote" plan into law (which is a real possibility), and if a second IndyRef were to be held under that Franchise, then we are in trouble!
(1) What kind of numbers are we talking about?
According to this Research Briefing there were 181,000 EU Nationals in Scotland in 2015 (p.5), of which 17% were under 16 (p.9). That means 132,130 of potential voting age – say 132,000. This includes citizens of the Irish Republic who would, however, be eligible to vote under a British Parliament franchise.
According to this Document there are 16,000 claiming Irish Republic nationality (to end of December 2015). If we say a similar 17% are under 16, that leaves 11,680 of potential voting age – say 12,000.
So, very approximately, we are looking at 132,000 minus 12,000 to give (around) 120,000 EU citizens who could vote in a possible second referendum held under a Scottish Parliament Franchise, and who could not vote if it were held under a British Parliament Franchise.
Alex Salmond has stated that he believes 90% of them would now vote for separation. That would be around 108,000. That's certainly enough to swing the vote considerably!
(Reported in Ewen MacAskill, "Scotland is moving inexorably to a second independence referendum. Brexit has changed the debate, but is a Yes vote more likely now?", The Observer, 12-3-17, pp26-27 at 27.)
We examined the Franchise laws in more depth in this article on our Legacy Site
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