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.
Jean Urquhart MSP