Refugees and asylum seekers could be given the right to vote and stand as a candidate in Scottish elections under new proposals.
MSPs are considering a range of reforms to electoral law in the Scottish Elections Bill, including a move to extend the franchise to citizens of all countries who are legally resident in Scotland.
An amendment by the Scottish Greens aims to ensure a refugee who has had their application to enter or remain in the UK recorded would be deemed to be a “qualifying foreign national”.
It would allow them to cast a vote, stand in elections and hold office.
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell outlined the importance of everyone in communities across Scotland being allowed to take part in democracy.
He said: “Securing the vote for refugees fleeing terror would be a major win for the Scottish Greens.
“After the incredible engagement in the independence referendum of 2014, where 16-year-olds could vote in the UK for the first time, Scotland should be looking to widen the franchise further to ensure that everyone has a say in our future.
“Everyone who makes up our communities should be able to take part in our democracy. Our approach, especially to those who have fled war, famine or persecution to come here, should be to ask them to pull up a chair.
“I hope the Scottish Government will consider this important step in making sure everyone feels welcome in Scotland as a progressive, inclusive democracy.”
‘This groundbreaking legislation will underline the reputation Scotland has already established as a welcoming nation.’The Scottish Government
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This groundbreaking legislation will underline the reputation Scotland has already established as a welcoming nation.
“The Bill, as introduced, enables foreign nationals to vote for the first time, giving them a voice on matters which affect them.
“The Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill already makes provision to give the vote to all those granted refugee status.
“We have examined proposals to expand the franchise for those with a pending asylum claim but electoral registration officers have highlighted practical concerns over obtaining residency information and in ensuring that those whose claim is refused, or who leave Scotland, can be removed from the electoral register.”
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