Foreign nationals granted right to stand in Scottish local elections

Nations entering into treaties with the UK could be added to the list of countries from which nationals could stand in Scottish votes.

Foreign nationals from four countries granted right to stand in Scottish local elections iStock

Foreign nationals will be allowed to stand as candidates in local government elections in Scotland after MSPs gave their backing to “important” new legislation.

The Scottish Local Government Elections (Candidacy Rights of Foreign Nationals) Bill was passed unanimously in Holyrood on Thursday.

The Bill allows all nationals of Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain to stand in council elections, with ministers being granted power to add to the list of countries with the arrangement using regulations.

A new country can only be added to the list by ministers if it is entering into a treaty with the UK.

The four countries granted the allowance so far have entered into treaties with the UK allowing their nationals to stand as candidates, with the new legislation putting this into law.

The passing of the Bill means it is enough for individuals from the countries involved to have any type of leave to remain in the UK as criteria for standing.

However, Scottish ministers will have the power to remove a country from the list if it stops being party to a treaty with the UK.

SNP MSP George Adam called the Bill “an important part of our continuing conversation on candidacy rights and the question of who should be empowered to stand in our elections”.

Stephen Kerr, from the Scottish Conservatives, said he was “delighted” that the UK is “forging these treaty relationships” with the countries involved, adding: “I hope there will be many more such treaties.”

“I think it’s important that the wider world, and the citizens of the wider world, play an important part in the life of our country,” the Central Scotland MSP said.

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said it is “some small comfort” to the citizens of countries currently on the list that they can participate in democratic processes in Scotland after “the disastrous loss of rights inflicted on them” following Brexit.