Jean Urquhart writes to PM over EU referendum franchise rules.

Today Jean Urquhart MSP has written to Prime Minister David Cameron regarding the franchise rules for the upcoming referendum. These rules see the right to vote being given to British citizens living outwith the United Kingdom, even if they have not lived in, or paid taxes in the UK for up to 15 years.  At the same time, EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom and contributing to their communities are being denied the chance to take part in this democratic process.

Jean previously wrote to the Prime Minister in an appeal to reconsider the franchise and to extend the vote to 16 & 17 year olds and EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom, this appeal was rejected with no explanation.  Today’s letter was prompted by contact from numerous constituents asking why they were being denied the right to vote.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Friday 26th February 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

Since the announcement of the EU referendum, and the confirmation of the franchise for this referendum, I am increasingly contacted by constituents asking if it is true that they will be unable to vote, and why.  These are fellow EU citizens, now resident in the United Kingdom, and I am unable to offer them a reasonable explanation as to why they have been denied the right to take part in this democratic process.

That this government seeks to extend voting privileges to expats, tabling a Votes for Life Bill to abolish the 15 year rule, yet refuses citizens living and working here in the United Kingdom the right to vote, suggests that your values are based purely on ethnicity.  It sends a message that it does not matter if you are no longer contributing to the British economy, even if you haven’t stepped foot in Britain for years, you were born here and that gives you a privilege. And to those who pay millions each year into our economy, those who fill thousands of jobs, our nurses, our teachers, our doctors – even our politicians in the case of my colleague, Christian Allard MSP – are they to be treated as lesser citizens?  Many see this rhetoric as inherently racist and archaic.

Because of our relationship with the European Union there has never been a need for EU citizens to apply for British citizenship, yet they now face discrimination because of their ethnicity.

I have written previously, on behalf of my constituents and as Convenor of the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Poland, appealing for you to reconsider and amend the European Union Referendum Act.

I understand that it is now too late now to change the franchise for the upcoming referendum, but perhaps, for the sake of all those EU citizens who call the United Kingdom home, you could offer an explanation as to why you seek to alienate them from this process.

Yours faithfully,

Jean Urquhart MSP

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Photos: Signing Kevin Stewart MSP’s Anti-Bedroom Tax Letter

Along with other SNP, Green and Independent MSPs, as well as a number of voluntary organisations, trade unions and disability groups, I signed an open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP calling on the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped in this year’s Budget Statement on March 20th. City of Edinburgh-20130313-00046 City of Edinburgh-20130313-00047 City of Edinburgh-20130313-00050 IMG-20130313-00028 IMG-20130313-00029

Letter: Police and Fire Reform Bill (June 28th)

On Wednesday 27th June, I was proud to vote for the establishment of this new service that returns powers to local communities and helps to preserve our record high numbers of police officers, placing resources where they are most needed.

In contrast to the Scottish Government’s commitment to public services, the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government is set to slash 16,000 officers down south, an act that the Police Federation has described as being ‘on the precipice of destroying’ the police service in England and Wales.

Contrary to the claims of other parties, this new service does not move power away from communities. Instead, it places them in a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with their local commander, strengthening the ties between the service and the community it serves.

The fact that Shetland Islands Council, for example, must now have its approval sought on the delivery of services on Shetland is surely an improvement on the current arrangements.

I call upon people of all parties and none to help realise the potential of this new service by working with local communities to increase co-operation across all levels of government.

Yours,

 

Jean Urquhart MSP

Letter to TESS: Looked After Children (June 8th)

To whom it may concern;

As a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, I was struck by the scale of the task facing us all in levelling the educational playing field for children across Scotland. During the course of our enquiry into the attainment levels for looked after children we found that, despite 56% of school leavers achieving five or more qualifications, only 4.7% of children looked after away from home and 0.5% of children looked after at home reached the same level. When one considers that there are 16,000 looked after children in Scotland and nearly 5,500 children looked after at home, the size of this problem truly comes into focus.

There is, of course, a sensitive balance that must be struck between supporting families at home and intervening to remove children from harmful situations, which is why we have agreed to hold another, more detailed enquiry into this area. The Committee have also recommended that this issue is addressed in the Scottish Government’s early years strategy and its national parenting strategy. These are some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and deserve our interest and attention; we must work together with health visitors, social workers, teachers and other professionals to help all of our children to reach their full potential.

It must also be stressed that educational attainment is only one part of the jigsaw. Extra-curricular activities provide vital opportunities for children to socialise outside of an educational environment and to develop transferable skills for later life. However, evidence suggests that uptake of these extra-curricular opportunities is lower among looked-after children than others, illuminating the holistic approach that must be taken to this issue.

Helping all children to reach their full potential is not only a moral imperative, but a social and economic imperative as well. Education is one of the greatest tools we have for enabling social mobility, and the width and depth of this gap in attainment is wholly unacceptable. Working to reduce this gap must be a priority for us all, and is something that I shall continue to press within the Committee.

As a former member of Highland Council, I would also like to highlight the recent report released by the Council on children who are looked after at home in the region. I would urge everybody to read both reports, and would welcome correspondence from any individuals or groups who believe they could help in our efforts to help reduce this gap. Children do not get a second chance at their education; it is vital that we do everything we can to listen and learn from past experiences.

Yours,

Jean Urquhart MSP

MSP for Highlands & Islands