Wee Eck the Big Numpty

I am nae chuffed.

Let me put that another way. I’m crabbit. Awfy crabbit. So I’ve come on here to have a wee blether about it.

I don’t know if you’ve been paying any attention to the stramash around the Scottish Independence referendum? In my corner of the world, it has been hard not to. There has been a lot going on. David Cameron has been sticking his big old neb in, the Scottish Government have released a draft consultation document, and the tartan blogosphere is talking itself round in circles.

There are countless uncertainties about the referendum – when it’s going to take place; who is going to run it; whether it’ll be a straightforward single question (yes or no to independence) or whether it will give three different choices (stay in the union, become independent, or devolve further powers to Holyrood).

I have been paying close attention. Because, y’know, I’m Scottish. I don’t tend to paint my face blue or get my kilt out too often – I am one of the quietly proud, self-deprecating, occasionally sweary Scots rather than the fiercely nationalist Braveheart-loving ones – but I am Scottish nonetheless.

And I feel that when the time comes to vote, it’s my duty need to make a well-informed and thoughtful decision. At this point, I know that if devo max were an option, I would definitely vote yes. But if it’s a straight yes or no…. Well. Hmm, that is a little trickier for me. I honestly don’t know yet.

But here’s the thing. Here’s why I’m crabbit.

Based on the current proposals as set out in the consultation paper, I won’t get to vote. I won’t get any say… because I’m not currently resident in Scotland.

*Blows a giant disdainful raspberry at the computer screen*

I was born in Scotland. I got married in Scotland. My son was born in Scotland. My family  are still in Scotland. My bank accounts are with Scottish banks. I have a case of Irn Bru in my fridge, for goodness sake! Our postal redirection is still set up! But because we’ve had to leave Scotland for a few years, for work reasons, I won’t get a vote.

I have lived in Scotland for nearly 29 years and out of Scotland for eleven weeks. But if the referendum were held tomorrow I – along with 800,000 other Scots who live in the UK but not in Scotland – wouldn’t get a vote.

What a pile of pishy auld nonsense that is. What an insult to those of us who plan to come back to Scotland when we can, and are being denied a say in the most important decision to take place there in 300 years.

I am sure the Scottish Government will have their reasons. Some other bloggers have suggested that the decision is politically motivated; that Scots who have left Scotland are more likely to have a broader worldview and are more likely to vote against independence. Others state that it is purely an issue of logistics; but that seems disingenuous. If I were a Scot who had been living abroad for less than 15 years, I would still get to vote for the Scottish Westminster MP in my constituency. My husband has not been resident in the US for nearly seven years, but he will still have a say in who the next US President is. There are precedents on this kind of issue.

If it’s too much of a challenge for the Scottish Government to work out some guidelines to determine which ex-pats should and should not be eligible to vote, then that does not inspire me with confidence in their ability to run a country.

I am not impressed, Mr Salmond. I think you are a numpty. And an eejit. And I would like a vote, please. Hell hath no fury like a Scottish woman scorned, so maybe you could give it some thought.

***

The Let Wallace Vote campaign has been set up by some other displaced Scots who are concerned about this. You can find them on Facebook, and on Twitter, and there is a petition running here.

19 responses

  1. Not forgetting that there are many of us ‘part-Scots’ who lived in Scotland for a number of years, and have a connection with the place, that are also not getting a vote. Sure, my connection may not be as strong as either yours or James’, but as a guy who proudly owns a proper kilt and is the ‘poster boy’ for one of Scotland’s premier universities, it frustrates me that I can’t vote.

  2. As meritorious as James’ campaign might be, what he’s proposing is nigh on impossible. This is for the simple reason that, at present, there exists no such thing as a “Scottish citizen”. James, like you and I, is a British Citizen who no longer lives in Scotland. How does one go about deciding who gets a vote, if not on the basis of residency?

    In a recent discussion with James he proposed that birth should be a factor. But what about those who were born to two Scots parents, lived in Scotland most of their life, and even had haggis for dinner last night – but weren’t actually *born* in Scotland. How do you go about extending the franchise to Scots like that should they presently reside outside of Scotland?

    Even if you did proceed down the road of “birth” then from a practical perspective it would be exceedingly difficult as the Electoral Register would have to be updated to include every voter’s place of birth and an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1883 (a Westminster Statute) would likely be required. It’s not all Alex Salmond’s fault (for once!)

    So unless you wanted to create a test of “allegiance” – whereby someone attests to their personal allegiance to Scotland (and Jordan, you’d get a vote) then it cannot, practically, be done.

    I personally would like to be able to vote in Scottish Parliament elections, but as an overseas elector I can only vote in UK Parliament elections, because the same difficulties as I’ve outlined above apply to trying to ascertain the franchise for Holyrood by anything other than residence.

    • Thanks for your detailed reply Stuart.

      I don’t know about a test of allegiance, but I do like the idea of a Scottish citizenship test – like the Life in the UK test – and only people who pass can vote. Sample questions:
      1. List five synonyms for ‘drunk’.
      2. At what temperature do you deep fry a Mars Bar for optimum crispness?
      3. Complete this well known phrase: ‘Gonnae no ______’

      Okay, maybe not🙂

      I think what troubles me is that while all those questions you bring up are difficult ones for sure – whether eligibility should be based on place of birth or take into account other factors – that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be addressed. If Scotland does become independent and have its own ‘citizens’ then it will need to decide what constitutes a citizen, so why not now – so that people know what they are really voting for.

      If, for example, a fully independent Scotland was going to issue its own passports, they would have to decide who would be eligible for those. Or if they were going to do what the US does and say that their ‘citizens’ living overseas still have to pay income tax, they’d have to work out who that was going to apply to.

      It’s not like saying ‘oh I live in Scotland but I should get a vote in the London Mayoral election’ – because the decisions of the London Mayor are not going to affect you unless you move there in the future. The decisions of the Government – on things like tax and immigration – in an Independent Scotland would be very likely to affect you if you were born in Scotland – whether you are still resident there or not. Presumably that’s why UK citizens living abroad still get a vote in Westminster elections for a set period of time.

      It does mean that we have to get into tricky discussions about race and ethnicity and the like – but if the result of the referendum is a yes to independence those discussions will have to take place anyway. I think it’s fairer if those people who will be affected by the outcome have a say in it, that’s all (in ADDITION to all the people who are resident in Scotland , obviously – I’m not suggesting that people living there should be excluded).

      I’m looking forward to seeing what James has come up with in terms of his views on eligibility. As a lawyer I’m hoping he’ll be able to put all this in a more coherent way than I can!

  3. There must be a way of giving those who deserve to vote the ability to vote… If someone has lived in Scotland for the most part of his/her life, he/she should have a say! If living in Scotland at the time of the referendum is the only qualification, you’ll have crazy people like me moving to Scotland for a few weeks to have a say…

    • Ha! I’ve had a few folk suggest that I move back in with my parents to get a vote! Either that, or we should have a buddying system – those people who are resident and don’t give a hoot about the outcome should be paired up with those who live outside and do, and they can go and vote on our behalf😉

  4. I think he’s a numpty too and quite frankly it scares me, a lot. I admit to not being the most politically aware but like never before I now need to read up, educate myself about it, start paying attention. The thought of being independent gives me the shivers and not in an excited way.

    • It is scary, I agree. And I do think we need to get into the difficult conversations as detailed above so that whatever way people are voting, they’re making an informed choice about what their future looks like.

    • How did I not know you were Geordie?! I will read all your wonderful posts in a Geordie accent now🙂 thanks for commenting. It’ll be interesting to see if this issue gains any traction or just fizzles out.

  5. Sounds like I’ll be getting a vote then, as I’m officially resident in Scotland even though I’ve been in Palestine for the past 13 months and was born in Wolverhampton. Incidentally, I’d vote for independence were the referendum tomorrow, but being so inadequately Scottish, I’m sure I could be bought should dorkymum feel so strongly.😉

  6. I am a Scot who faces the prospect of having to leave Scotland for work in the next 18 months, as such i will not be able to vote in any referendum. Although this pains me greatly it is something i accept for the following reason. Scottish nationalism is a civic nationalism based around choosing the right path for people living in Scotland, regardless of nationality. Introducing nationality or “place of birth” as deciding factor in who should or shouldn’t get a vote moves it away from this and towards a form of exclusive nationalism that is the antithesis of what it should be about.

    • That’s the best put argument I’ve heard so far – far more persuasive than talking about the difficulty of tweaking statutes😉 – thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. There are 115 countries worldwide where voting from abroad is now possible for Diaspora communities, 14 of which impose some time restrictions on such electoral participation. Despite what is being said by people who should know better, Diaspora members from 38 countries can participate in their home country REFERENDUMS.* Our debate over who can vote in the Scottish Referendum should particularly take note of the fact that the PARLIAMENTARY FRANCHISE includes overseas voters who have registered as such, up to the maximum time limit, but that the LOCAL ELECTORATE (the agreed- upon basis for voter eligibility by BOTH Westminster and Holyrood) does NOT include them. While it may be admirable of the SNP to include 16 and 17 year olds in the franchise, SCOTS, defined as those British citizens born in Scotland, or born to those who were (2 generations only) ARE BEING DISENFRANCHISED, by the residency requirement.
    By the way, when does an expatriate become a citizen-in-exile?
    David MacKay
    Strathnaver, Leith,and the Dominion of Canada
    *Voting from Abroad”: The International IDEA Handbook, 2007

  8. Thanks for linking up to the Love Politics Blogs Showcase. I think whatever type of registration and eligibility processes are used there will always be flaws with some people excluded or included inappropriately but this one seems too big to be ignored without risking undermining the legitimacy of any result. My suggestion would be to allow applications for postal ballots from people who have been on the electoral register in Scotland in say the last 10 years. You’d only need to provide name/DoB/address/date of residency and it would be very easy for this to be checked given the referendum won’t happen for ages. I know that’s not perfect either but it seems closer to being fair.

  9. Cat is very reasonable, but looking at some of the Parliamentary debate on January 26th, Scottish Parliament – Margo MacDonald in particular, my heart sinks! The problem is that Westminster agrees with Holyrood on the use of the local, as opposed to the parliamentary franchise – in other words there is a united wall of ignorance and fear around the whole question of those from abroad voting AT ALL, despite all the fine talk of Homecomings, etc. My fear as an SNPer from abroad is that the Referendum will lose without the vote from the Diaspora, which is another question re the vote, separate from the fairness issue of who is a citizen and should have the franchise!!

    MacKay in exile who may very well have to return in 2014!!

  10. Nothing to do with the refer undone but when I married my fine Scottish husband down in this lowly southern land the British system allowed his country of birth to be Scotland(quite rightly). I was not allowed to be English. I wrote England on the form and the registrar translated “british”.

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