Referenda planned on Scottish independence or becoming increasingly likely on UK membership of the European Union (EU), pose some interesting questions on the voting rights of British citizens living in Scotland, the United Kingdom (UK) or within the EU.
There is also the associated issue of the current 15-year-limit on the UK voting rights of British citizens living outside the UK. This latter issue could again be raised during the next day of the delayed committee stage in the House of Lords, for the Electoral Registration & Administration Bill, which is now currently planned for 14th January, 2013.
It appears that further progress with this Bill could depend on the government accepting, in the face of majority opposition in the Lords, to postpone proposed constituency boundary changes which would reduce the number of parliamentary seats from 650 to 600, until after the next general election in 2015.
This could then allow Lord Lexden, within the scope of the Electoral Registration & Administration Bill, to again attempt to introduce secondary legislation removing the current 15-year-limit on the voting rights of British citizens living abroad. The general understanding among the parties would then have to be that the necessary amendment to primary legislation would be deferred until after the next general election.
However, the continuing undemocratic nature of such restrictions on the normal voting rights of British citizens is also illustrated by:
- The referendum on Scottish independence for which it is proposed that only British citizens resident in Scotland could be allowed to vote and,
- The increasingly likely referendum on UK membership of the EU and in which British citizens resident in the EU but non-resident in the UK for more than 15 years, will currently not be able to participate, despite their future being impacted by the outcome.
Scots who are again by definition British citizens, freely resident and working in the UK but not actually living in Scotland at the time of the referendum on independence, could well feel unfairly discriminated against if not allowed to vote on the future of their land of birth.
Similarly non-UK resident British citizens living outside the UK for more than 15 years but within the EU at the time of a referendum on EU membership, could feel similarly aggrieved at being deprived of their right to vote on their future.
Whether UK-resident Scots or EU-resident Brits, both examples demonstrate why the right to vote should be based on nationality and without time limit, leaving the democratic choice of whether to exercise that right up to the individual voter to decide, and not the political parties with their different agendas.
If you agree, we would also appreciate you showing your support for our campaign to remove the 15-year-limit on British citizens voting from overseas, by adding your vote here in our on-line poll.