Thu 16 Jan, 2020

Our democracy must be representative of the people who live here and make Scotland what it is. We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns Mark Ruskell

Administrative complexities often experienced by asylum seekers must not be an excuse to exclude them from democracy, the Scottish Greens have said.

While moves to give refugees a greater say in Scotland’s future win have been welcomed by campaigners, Scottish Green proposals to also give asylum seekers the vote, stand for election and hold office were frustrated as the Scottish Elections Bill passed Stage 2 at Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

The Scottish Government accepted the premise to give refugees the vote after a debate amendment from the Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer in 2018, but reluctance on asylum seekers means a Green amendment to include them was rejected at Stage 2 on Thursday.

Mark Ruskell, who saw the bill through committee, said: “At a time when Brexit xenophobia has a grip of the UK narrative, it’s important that Scotland doesn’t just welcome people fleeing terror, we also empower them to make a positive contribution to the future of their new home.

“Our democracy must be representative of the people who live here and make Scotland what it is. We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns. It would be very poor if we denied asylum seekers the right to vote because of an administrative reluctance to add them to electoral registers. They are lawfully resident in Scotland and they have legal identification documents and registered addresses.”

Lorna Gledhill, Policy Officer, Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We firmly believe that everyone who makes Scotland their home should have a say in how the country is run. This includes people seeking asylum. People seeking asylum come to Scotland for safety, to rebuild their lives and find peace for themselves and their children. They are our neighbours, our friends, activists, campaigners and party members. Their lives are shaped by policies set in Holyrood and local government; they should have a say on how that happens, like everyone else.

“Granting voting rights to all New Scots – inclusive of people seeking asylum – best reflects Scotland’s reputation for being a welcoming, inclusive country where everyone should be treated equally, no matter where they are from.”

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