The world's most-read Scottish politics website

Wings Over Scotland


The “foreigner” vote

Posted on August 03, 2013 by

Last year’s argument over the referendum franchise saw the Scottish Government’s view win the day – that the matter should be decided according to a civic definition of nationality, rather than along the ethnic lines proposed by some in the No camp.

multiscots

But what of the people of non-Scottish ethnic origin who’ve been thus enfranchised and entrusted with the future of the nation they’ve chosen to make their home?

“New Scots” contribute to our taxes, our culture and our shared history, often living in Scotland for many years, marrying and having Scots children. They are members of their local communities, without whom businesses and public services would struggle to meet skills shortages which damage the economy.

Yet some of these immigrants may still feel, amid a barrage of ugly talk from the “Better Together” campaign about “foreigners” and so-called “Real Scots”, that this is not their fight, that to vote either way in next year’s referendum would be to interfere in the governance of Scotland in a way that would not be appropriate.

But the decisions made in the independence referendum could have far-reaching consequences, especially for European citizens living and working in Scotland.

Hundreds of thousands of people from across Europe have made their homes here in Scotland. 7.6% of the total UK population is made up of EU nationals, which is 4.8 million people. With Scotland’s 8.4% population share we could reasonably extrapolate that something like 400,000 EU nationals are living in Scotland (not including the 413,924 from other UK nations living here), although the actual number will likely be a bit lower because immigration isn’t equally spread across the country.

Many thousands are able to take this opportunity mainly due to the freedoms provided by membership of the European Economic Area (which includes all EU member nations and three of the EFTA states – Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein). Within the EEA, freedom of movement is promoted.

It’s this policy that allows a citizen of one European country to freely move to another without the need for a visa. And while it may be an increasingly unwelcome one in many areas of England, the situation in Scotland is quite different.

ukborder

Without this ability there would be fewer people coming to Scotland and playing a productive role in both culture and the economy. This influx of the young and talented is something that benefits the slowly aging population of Scotland by supporting the economic activity that the country needs to prosper. Without EU membership we wouldn’t be part of the EEA and therefore not privy to this benefit.

The upcoming independence referendum is an opportunity for the people who have come to Scotland to settle, to have their voices heard in what is now their home. Threats from the No camp that an independent Scotland would not be a member of the EU are implied as a very bad thing for our new Scots, as the rights that allow them to move, live and work here without visas would be lost.

But even in the unthinkably absurd scenario of Scotland being ejected from the EU, EFTA has made it clear that Scotland is welcome to apply. So either way it seems clear that an independent Scotland would remain within the EEA, ensuring that EEA nationals resident within Scotland could continue building their lives unmolested.

The danger to non-ethnic Scots, of course, doesn’t lie in the referendum of 2014, but in another referendum, currently slated to be held in 2017.

As we know, it’s the voters of England who elect the UK government, with Scotland only getting the government it votes for if the people of England also choose it. And the voters of England are increasingly hostile to both immigrants as a group and to the EU. Polls currently show that should there be a UK referendum on EU membership in 2017, the UK will be on its way out of Europe.

ukeupoll

(Despite Scots being likely to vote overwhelmingly in favour of staying in.)

scotlandeu2

This is not, as commonly believed, only a possibility in the event of a Conservative-led government after 2015. There is considerable pressure within the Labour Party to respond to public opinion by also committing the party to an in-out referendum. A bill last month to bring forward such a referendum by 2017 was voted through to a second reading in the House of Commons unanimously, by 304 votes to zero.

In that event, it’s unlikely that the EFTA escape route available to Scotland would be viable for the UK, even if there was a public appetite for it. The largest country in EFTA is Switzerland, with a population of 7.9 million. For EFTA it would be like sharing a bed with an elephant and something they’ve already subtly rejected, when second-largest member Norway suggested the UK should remain in the EU.

Clearly, then – despite some quite outrageous allegations from No campaigners that independence would lead to a growth in racist attacks – the main risk to the happiness of non-ethnic Scots comes not from a Yes vote but from a No one.

bnpscum1

Voting for the Union means voting to stay in a country which currently seems set to deprive them of the right to residence, and which has a growing dislike for immigrants bordering on hatred. It doesn’t seem like a tough choice.

Print Friendly

    1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

    1. 25 07 14 10:34

      Les étrangers invités à se prononcer sur l'indépendance de l'Écosse

    56 to “The “foreigner” vote”

    1. handclapping says:

      The problem is not how to vote, which is overwhelmingly Yes, but whether one should. Many feel that they are guests here and that they shouldn’t make choices for their hosts. If we can break down that barrier we have a large bonus.

    2. muttley79 says:

      Everyone who stays in Scotland, and is registered to vote, should be encouraged to vote.  This is the biggest vote in hundreds of years. 

    3. HandandShrimp says:

      I think it would advisable as the date approaches for Yes Scotland to ensure their leaflets and broadcasts are both inclusive and include new Scots to ensure that a positive message is put across and that the civic and inclusive nature of our society encourages a Yes vote.
       
      The ethnicity thing that some No campaigners have been desperate to tout is just embarrassing and should be stamped on by Darling and McDougall (but I won’t hold my breath)

    4. Chic McGregor says:

      Slight correction, though it doesn’t change the point made at all.  Switzerland is the largest nation in EFTA with a population of about 7.9 million. Granted, Norway is the largest by area.

    5. JLT says:

      I’ve already spoken to a Polish lass in our work. Pointed it out (when she said, she would vote ‘No’), that if Britain pulls out of the EU, then technically, she would be an illegal immigrant.
      As I said to her, better to vote ‘Yes’ and thus protect her own status within the British Isles by having Scotland as part of the EU. Rather wide-eyed, she said she ‘hadn’t thought off that!’
      Guess how she’s voting now?
       

    6. The Man in the Jar says:

      I have always thought that it is good that the SNP always refer to “The People of Scotland” (how often have you heard Alex Salmond repeat that?) as opposed to Bitter Togethers “Real Scots”

    7. Sylvie Capuano Burnett says:

      https://www.facebook.com/EuCitizensForAnIndependentScotland   was formed a few months ago, when looking for answers as to what Independence for Scotland would mean to us, Non Brit/Scots Eu nationals.We posted the same  status on the Better together page and on the Yes to an Independent Scotland page.We were non British Nationals who valued the EU, especially human rights, employment laws and wanted to know if an Independent Scotland would still be part of the EU. No admin answered our question on the better together page but plenty others did. They wanted out of the EU and said they would never be Europeans and we had better go home to our own countries. The Yes page answered that it was their intentions to remain in the EU and would be negotiating their membership in the run up between the referendum and Independence date. We had discussions on both the BT page and the Yes page before deciding to support Independence. Scotland has a strong identity and  it is only right that decisions regarding Scotland should be taken by the people who live in Scotland. EU nationals who have been living in Scotland for less than 5 yrs don’t feel they should vote, but others who have been here a lot longer like myself are heavily involved in the debate.

    8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      Slight correction, though it doesn’t change the point made at all.  Switzerland is the largest nation in EFTA with a population of about 7.9 million. Granted, Norway is the largest by area.”

      IT QUITE CLEARLY SAYS “SWITZERLAND”.

    9. Iain says:

      @Sylvie Capuano Burnett
      ‘others who have been here a lot longer like myself are heavily involved in the debate’

      Good to hear that!
      In some ways its admirable that more recent residents have the delicacy to feel reluctant to cast a vote on Scotland’s long term future, but if they feel in any way that they may consider carrying on living in Scotland, they should vote.

    10. An Duine Gruamach says:

      Does anyone know if Norwegians can vote next year?

    11. annie says:

      I asked a workmate other night how she would vote in referendum. She said that she hadn’t decided yet and there had been a lot of problems when her home country Lithuania became independent.  I explained that Scotland was a wealthy country and would be unlikely to have similar problems she said we had plenty time for me to convince her, which I will.

    12. Richard Lucas says:

      If nothing else, surely the #racistvan and the immigration service round-ups would be enough to convince any decent person that the UK is not a concept you’d want to associate with.  We’ve heard a few squeaks from the LibDems, who say they weren’t consulted (are they ever?). I seem to have missed the Labour Party’s vehement condemnations of all this racism – perhaps someone can provide a link?

    13. Ray Ross says:

      This I think is a difficult one,  do foreigner`s get a vote because they live in Scotland?  if they have live  in Scotland for years and made Scotland their home then that has got to be 100% yes.  but then again there are a very lafgre amount of english living in Scotland  and would they really vote  Yes thats a hard one I would hope they vote yes as they have decided to live in Scotland and make Scotland their home but because they  believe Scotland being independent and govern itself would be better for Scotland.  But there is a down side  to this how will Scots feel if Scotland gets a NO vote  and that may be down to the foreigner? what other country would allow people not born in their country have a vote in such an import decision whether their country should become independent?

    14. panda paws says:

      Another good article Scott but one thing I’m unsure about. Even if Scotland was thrown out of the EU and not allowed back in (I know it won’t happen), surely Scotland can let anyone it likes come and stay here?
      “as the rights that allow them to move, live and work here without visas would be lost.”
      So we could say if you are already here under the old free movement scheme, you can stay without a visa. We could even say anyone from the EU could come without a visa if we wanted. I mean visas are not compulsory are they? Or am I missing something?

    15. Seasick Dave says:

      Welcome aboard Sylvie and I hope that you keep contributing to the debate.
       

    16. Tris says:

      I have several eastern European friends, particularly from Hungary and Bulgaria. They are students at the University of Dundee, at Abertay University and Dundee College.
       
      We have discussed the choices at length. All of them will be voting for independence.
       
      With the likelihood of England or the UK pulling out of Europe, I can’t imagine why any European would not want an independent Scotland.
       

    17. TYRAN says:

      I work alongside a Madrid man. He said he will vote for indy as will others, like his good lady and other friends who have came to Scotland.  

    18. HandandShrimp says:

      Panda Paws
       
      No you are correct it would be up to an independent Scotland. Even if no longer in the EU it could still allow freedom of movement. This may not be reciprocated by the EU but as we are looking for people to come here that wouldn’t necessarily be much of a hardship. However, it is as you say a bit academic as it is unlikely that the EU would kick us out.

    19. Vincent McDee says:

      An Duine Gruamach says:
      Does anyone know if Norwegians can vote next year?
      Only if they are included in the electoral register.
      An Duine Gruamach

    20. Ghengis says:

      @An Duine Gruamach
      Does anyone know if Norwegians can vote next year?
       
      I don’t know unfortunately, but you should try registering on the electoral roll here:  http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

    21. HeatherMcLean says:

      I was on the Yes stall today at Dundee’s Baxter park , I offered leaflets to a man who told me in a foreign accent that it was a waste of leaflets as he couldn’t vote here. I asked if he lived, worked and paid council tax in Dundee, he replied that indeed he did. I then explained that he was eligible to vote. He had been informed otherwise but was delighted to receive my information and went away happily clutching one of every available yes leaflet I could find to give him.
      I somehow don’t think he was alone in thinking that he couldn’t vote in the Referendum and the UK OK people or the media are not in the business of enlightening anyone!!

    22. Robert Kerr says:

      The YES campaign should seriously consider multi-language leaflets, a brief synopsis of the case for Independence and a description of the path to the electoral register for the referendum would be a start. 
      Is it necessary to speak english or gaelic for registration to vote in the referendum?
      Hail Caesar!
       

    23. Ghengis says:

      Looks like Norwegians Wont be able to vote as on clicking further in the page I linked above there does not appear to be an option to let Norwegian nationals register.
       

    24. David Smith says:

      Lots of UK nationals reside in other parts of Europe. They might find themselves on the end of some ‘tit for tat’ if London runs away from the EU and starts chucking ‘foreigners’ out.
      It would be interesting to see how many would be enthusiastic about being returned to such a regressive, nasty little country.
      if I were in their shoes I’d claim asylum.

    25. Guy Fawkes says:

      I’m a Londoner who has lived in Scotland since 1989 but i don’t feel comfortable about voting in the referendum that decides the Scot’s future. Ironically if I was to vote it would be Yes, I can’t see any disadvantage in breaking from the UK. 

    26. Marcia says:

      Guy,
      It is not a vote restricted to those only born in Scotland. It is for all who live in Scotland regardless where you come from. I do hope you will reconsider your position.

    27. Shinty says:

      The YES campaign should seriously consider multi-language leaflets, a brief synopsis of the case for Independence and a description of the path to the electoral register for the referendum would be a start.
       
      Completely disagree with you there. If you decide to make Scotland your home, you have to have an understanding of the language, written and spoken. ( I am not talking about being fluent )
       
      I have lived and worked abroad for many years and it was only when I learned the language that I had a better understanding of both the country and its people.

    28. Taranaich says:

      I agree with both of you, but having multi-language leaflets for an event which happens next year would facilitate things for those who have not yet mastered English. It’s a very tricky language for those not born to it, and even if they make the effort, it can take years to get to grips with it, let alone become fluent. There could be newcomers to the country who want to take part, but aren’t yet confident enough in their English to converse in it: why leave them out?

    29. Smokeball says:

      “I was on the Yes stall today at Dundee’s Baxter park , I offered leaflets to a man who told me in a foreign accent that it was a waste of leaflets as he couldn’t vote here”
      Heather – did you ask him what nationality he is? If he’s an EU or Commonwealth citizen, he has a vote, but if not, ie he’s Brazilian or Russian, he doesn’t. Living, working and paying taxes here makes no difference

    30. Caroline Corfield says:

      Guy, I’m a Scot living in Northumberland, I don’t think it’s right that some people suggested folk outside of Scotland with some sort of Scottish link should decide the future of those living inside the country. I voted for a Regional Assembly for the NE of England because I live in the NE of England, it makes a difference to me what happens in the NE of England. I respectfully suggest you vote since it will make a difference to where you live. 

    31. Smokeball says:

      While I am happy for those who have made a commitment to living and working in Scotland to have a vote in the referendum, I’d prefer it if temporary residents decided not to vote. I do not think it’s right to cast a vote on the future of a country you don’t intend to stay in.

    32. HandandShrimp says:

      Taranaich
       
      That said I do think it is important that they crack the difference between Yes and No

    33. HenBroon says:

      I have leave to remain in the UK but I’m not a British citizen, can I register to vote?

      Electoral registration is linked to citizenship and British, Irish, EU and qualifying Commonwealth citizens are eligible to register to vote. If you are not a citizen of any of the above you are not be eligible to register to vote. For more information on voting at elections see the What can I vote for? page.

    34. HenBroon says:

      SCOTTISH REFERENDUM FRANCHISE BILL
       
      http://bit.ly/15pPyqk

    35. Ken Johnston says:

      Jings, and we’ve got wan o they Bulgarian furiners in the branch.

    36. Richard Lucas says:

      I’ve lived in Scotland since 1989 as well, an emigrant Yorkshireman.  My children are Scots, my grandson is a Scot, and I’ll be voting ‘Yes’ for their future, and my own.  

    37. Doug Daniel says:

      When I was out canvassing with Yes Aberdeen once, we knocked on the door of a South African woman who said she was undecided, but was swaying towards a Yes vote, precisely because of the possibility of the UK leaving the EU. So it’s important this message gets hammered home loud and clear to people!
       
      Robert Kerr and others – Yes Scotland are already producing literature in languages such as Polish. In fact, at the “launch” of Better Together Aberdeen, one gentleman asked if Better Together would be doing the same, as he was concerned about “Alex Salmond’s SNP” printing propaganda (“and I will use that word” he said – what a guy!) in foreign languages.
       
      Guy – by the time the referendum comes around, you’ll have lived in Scotland for 25 years – many people who will vote in it haven’t even been alive that long! In fact, many of those who WILL vote in it will leave Scotland and never come back. Why should they be entitled to vote and you not?
       
      This is your home, and you have as much right to vote in the referendum as anyone else.
       
      And as for the point Caroline has brought up about people maybe not realising they can vote – perhaps what we need is a national campaign to put adverts on billboards, telling people to check that they will be able to vote? Having a YesScotland logo in the corner might have a handy side-effect as well… 😉

    38. AnneDon says:

      I hope we will be able to meet many New Scots during canvassing, but agree it would be great if a publicity campaign was launched. Surely the Electoral Reform Society have something to say about that? It must be valid for the Scottish Government to finance such an important issue?

    39. HeatherMcLean says:

      Smokeball says:
      3 August, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      “I was on the Yes stall today at Dundee’s Baxter park , I offered leaflets to a man who told me in a foreign accent that it was a waste of leaflets as he couldn’t vote here”
      Heather – did you ask him what nationality he is? If he’s an EU or Commonwealth citizen, he has a vote, but if not, ie he’s Brazilian or Russian, he doesn’t. Living, working and paying taxes here makes no difference
      I think he was Polish .. although I didn’t ask 🙁

    40. Vronsky says:

      @smokeball

      “If he’s an EU or Commonwealth citizen, he has a vote, but if not, ie he’s Brazilian or Russian, he doesn’t. Living, working and paying taxes here makes no difference”

      Are you sure about that?  That would mean that the franchise does not include everyone living here, contrary to what we have been told.  My wife is an American citizen, long term Scottish resident (15 years) and an active campaigner for Yes.  Will she have no vote?  Isn’t this a matter to be decided by the November White Paper?

    41. Chic McGregor says:

      @Rev.

      “Slight correction, though it doesn’t change the point made at all.  Switzerland is the largest nation in EFTA with a population of about 7.9 million. Granted, Norway is the largest by area.”
      IT QUITE CLEARLY SAYS “SWITZERLAND”.”
       
      Damn these new specs. B(
      Although the Swiss government couldn’t sell the EEA treaty to it’s electorate (it was very narrowly defeated in a referendum) separate bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the EU come to effectively the same thing.  In particular movement of people, air traffic and road traffic.

    42. muttley79 says:

      @Vronsky
       
      Are you sure about that?  That would mean that the franchise does not include everyone living here, contrary to what we have been told.  My wife is an American citizen, long term Scottish resident (15 years) and an active campaigner for Yes.  Will she have no vote?  Isn’t this a matter to be decided by the November White Paper?
       
      Is your wife on the electoral register?  Has she voted before in Scotland?  If she has then she should be on the register.
       

    43. Hetty says:

      I was a Geordie, but now been here as long as in Gateshead, so, I’m voting YES and I feel more Scottish than English, by a long way. Home is where the heart is for sure.

    44. Hetty says:

      Looks like some things need to be cleared up re; who can actually vote, in my local co-op, a woman behind the counter asked why did I want’ Scottish’ strawbs? ‘Why not British’ she said! I didn’t go into it as there was a queue…she was I think, South African and I wondered what she really thinks about the whole Independence thing!

    45. Michael Granados says:

      There are a lot of NEW SCOTS who are quite active in the independence debate.  I consider myself one.  It is abundantly clear that to the UK I am a ‘foreigner.’ American’s get no special consideration in the UK unlike other Europeans which is fine.  Americans quite firmly rejected any union with Britian some time ago and it has worked out pretty well for us. Scotland has enormous potential and only needs to stand up for itself.  This new Scot is eligible to vote in UK ‘regional’ elections and will be voting YES.  Be sure to tell your foreign neighbours that if they live in Scotland they have a say in the referendum! https://www.facebook.com/NewScotsForIndependence

    46. Krackerman says:

      I think you’re starting to lose touch with reality if you’re saying being asked by the authorities to prove your right to residence is “horrifying”. It’s their lawful right to ask and if you are legally entitled be here it should be pretty easy to prove.
      Yes they have been stopping mostly non-white people in London – well blow me if logic does not dictate that most non UK and EU citizens are actually likely to be non-white….
       
      Shit… but why let logic and common sense get in the way eh?

    47. The Man in the Jar says:

      @Krackerman
      What about all the non-white UK citizens that will be stooped unnecessarily. There are plenty of non-white UK residents in London and all over the UK..
      Or don’t they count?

    48. HandandShrimp says:

      Krackerman
       
      I’m not entirely sure what is happening in London but if Farage thinks it is over the top then it must be pretty out of order.

    49. Erchie says:

      Krackerman

      Actually they don’t have any such right. There was a court case in the 50s about this very point about producing IDs that established that we don’t have to

      As a third generation Scot I have been discriminated against because of the colour of my skin. There was an account earlier in the week about a lassie of Spanish origin, but with right of residence on a bus that was stopped and papers demanded, and in London it was predominately folk with darker skins that were being stopped.

      And each person involved can keep schtumm and walk on because there is no right to do this unless there is actual evidence SPECIFIC TO YOU that you may be here illegally. Stopping folk in the underground does not indicate specific evidence

      And since you guys are always claiming that WW2 was a great reason to abandon all this Independence Nonsense, wasn’t part of the pride not having paralmilitary goons demanding papers?

    50. Patrick Roden says:

      Ah well, if anyone speaks to you about the foreign vote show them this:
       
      vote now

      <p class=”regularresulttext”> Enable JavaScript to see this poll. </p>

      Is the government’s immigration crackdown too aggressive?

      Is the government’s immigration crackdown too aggressive?

      Yes: it is unfairly demonising all migrants

       
      10 %

      Yes: it is unfairly demonising all migrants
      3,630 votes

      No: it is not tough enough

      81 %

      No: it is not tough enough
      30,712 votes

      The government’s policy is right

       
      9 %

      The government’s policy is right
      3,405 votes

      Skip to results

      Back to voting

      Share
      Share this

      Thank you for sharing on  Facebook
      Total responses: 37,747
      Not scientifically valid. Results are updated every minute.

    51. Smokeball says:

      Vronsky
      HenBroon posted a link to the Referendum Bill, six posts above yours. I looked and it definitely says the vote is for UK, Irish, Commonwealth and (other) EU citizens – not all residents. Mind you, I am not sure how thoroughly the authorities check the voters’ rolls for eligibilty. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are people on it who shouldn’t be. I once came across 2 people on a voters’ roll who had been dead for years.

    52. Holebender says:

      I think some people are confusing the right to vote in the referendum with the right to Scottish citizenship after a YES vote. The right to vote is dictated by existing UK rules because we are still part of the UK. The only exception is that the franchise is being extended to include all who have reached their 16th birthday by the day of the vote.
       
      SNP policy has been for a long time that anyone who is legally resident in Scotland on the day of independence will have an automatic right to Scottish citizenship, along with everyone born is Scotland or with at least one parent who was born in Scotland. Citizenship will be available, but will not be compulsory.

    53. Krackerman says:

      Erchie – you are confusing ID’s with evidence of right to reside. The authorities are 100% entitled to ask anyone to produce this evidence on demand.
      It’s how they do their job which is to catch criminals who have no legal right to work and reside in the UK…
      P.S. who is “you guys” … I wasn’t even alive in the 40’s…. ????
      PPS – I presume the poor wee lassie was able to produce said evidence?? if so what’s your problem? Why are you so against the authorities doing their job and catching criminals?

    54. Krackerman says:

      Man in the Jar – I’d assume they produce the evidence and go on about their business..
      I’m slightly confused and worried as to why you think the authorities going about the business of catching criminals is “unnecessary”…..

    55. Morag says:

      What evidence do you routinely carry every day that proves your right to be here?  I don’t.  Most days I have a bank debit card. Is that OK?  Sometimes I have my driving licence, but other times I keep that with my passport.  I seldom carry my passport on ordinary days.

      So what would you produce?

      As far as I know it is perfectly legal to walk down the street and even ride on the underground wearing clothes with no pockets and carrying no handbag, so long as you had the actual coins in your paw to get on the train.  Is this now changing?  My elders and betters told me we fought a war to retain that right, and now it’s just being swept away?

    56. Adrian B says:

      Krackerman – authorities need good reason to ask for ID – the suspicion of being suspicious is not good enough. It is not a legal requirement to carry ID in the UK – not yet anyway.



    Comment - please read this page for comment rules. HTML tags like <i> and <b> are permitted. Use paragraph breaks in long comments. DO NOT SIGN YOUR COMMENTS, either with a name or a slogan. If your comment does not appear immediately, DO NOT REPOST IT. Ignore these rules and I WILL KILL YOU WITH HAMMERS.




    ↑ Top