Jean demands referendum votes for EU citizens

Jean Urquhart has written to the Prime Minister to demand that European Union citizens resident in the UK are permitted to vote in the forthcoming referendum on membership of the EU.

Jean was writing on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Poland, of which she’s the Convenor.

In her letter, Jean says that the proposed voting restrictions were “seen to be discriminatory” by the Cross-Party Group, and were “extraordinary” in the context of recent participation by Polish Scots in the independence referendum. The full text of the letter is below.

She wrote that it was “absurd that … Poles and other EU citizens were able to vote on the biggest constitutional issue facing Scotland and the UK since 1707 but are being denied the right to determine another constitutional question just a matter of months later.”

Jean said:

“We are proud that citizens of every EU nation have chosen to make Scotland their home. A Scot from Warsaw is just as much a part of our community and our country as one from Wishaw, and we all have a right to our say on Scotland’s future in Europe.

“The Conservative government’s plan to deny EU citizens a vote in the referendum smacks of the same kind of xenophobic nationalism that inspired their referendum pledge in the first place.

“It is ironic that the Conservatives used scare stories about EU membership to try to persuade EU Scots to vote No just a few months ago, but now want to prevent the very same voters from having a direct say on the very same issue.

Ms Urquhart also urged the Prime Minister to grant 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote on the issue:

“16- and 17-year-olds proved during the referendum that they can engage with big political issues with intelligence and enthusiasm. Next week, they will finally get the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local council elections. There’s no longer any excuse for refusing 16- and 17-year-olds full voting rights.

“Our future in Europe is a decision for the whole country. I’m calling on David Cameron to amend the EU Referendum Bill to recognise the right of 16- and 17-year olds and UK-resident EU citizens to be part of that decision.”

Jean’s letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Mr Cameron,

European Union Membership Referendum

I am writing on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Poland, which I convene, regarding the recently announced voting criteria for the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Members of the CPG are dismayed by the decision to restrict voting to only those who would qualify to vote in UK Parliamentary elections. The membership of the group is diverse – it includes not only Polish nationals, but the descendants of Polish nationals and other individuals who have an active interest in Poland – but the proposals have outraged the group.

The proposal to adopt the same rules for voting in the EU Referendum to those used for UK Parliamentary elections are seen to be discriminatory. There are thousands of people who are resident and paying taxes in this country who will be denied their right to determine the future of the country they live in – it’s the worst possible demonstration of ‘taxation without representation’, something which has no place in a modern Britain.

The referendum is, crucially, not the same as a UK Parliamentary election and as such, there is no precedent for restricting voting in this way. It is a unique opportunity for the people who live – and pay tax – in the UK to make a collective and direct decision about the UK’s future in Europe. Why would you deny European Union citizens the right to vote on the future of their country of residence, especially when it has a direct impact on their home country and their own residential status? Especially when one considers that EU citizens can vote in Britain in EU elections, but are now being denied a say on the future of that very institution.

In a Scottish context, the proposal is extraordinary given that EU citizens were able to vote in last year’s referendum. It seems to the group that it is absurd that many of the members – and of course many other Poles and other EU citizens – were able to vote on the biggest constitutional issue facing Scotland and the UK since 1707 but are being denied the right to determine another constitutional question just a matter of months later.

We write to urge you, and the members of your Cabinet, to rethink the voting strategy. Excluding EU citizens from this vote fails to recognise not only the diversity of the British population, but also the contribution EU tax payers make to our economy. It flies in the face of recent precedent on the determination of constitutional issues and ignores the fundamental right of a taxpayer to have a right to be represented within a democracy.

We hope that you will reconsider your position on this matter and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jean Urquhart MSP

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Motion: The Big Hospitality Conversation

Motion S4M-05745: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 27/02/2013

The Big Hospitality Conversation
That the Parliament welcomes the Big Hospitality Conversation summit, hosted by the British Hospitality Association and Springboard, which provides a forum for industry practitioners to meet young people interested in working in the hospitality industry; understands that, in Scotland, the hospitality industry directly employs 220,000 people, which is 9% of all employment; believes that the hospitality industry continues to offer great career opportunities for young people, and recognises what it sees as the determination of the sector to create pathways to work by increasing the number of apprenticeships available.

Speech: Employability Debate, 8th January 2013

My first opportunity to speak in the Chamber in 2013 was in a Finance Committee debate on employability. I’ve placed the speech below for those interested.

Although I am a member of the Finance
Committee now, I was not a member when it
heard evidence on employability. However, as
other members have attested to, employability ties
in with many other issues across our
constituencies—not the least of which is multiple
deprivation.
Some people may think that areas of multiple
deprivation are located only in urban areas and
that regions such as the Highlands and Islands are
somewhat immune from its worst effects. That
could not be further from the truth. As the
Government’s Scottish index of multiple
deprivation shows, Caithness, Ross-shire,
Inverness, the Western Isles, Argyll and Bute and
Orkney—to name but a few—all contain data
zones that have been identified as being among
the most deprived parts of Scotland. That
becomes more alarming when we consider that
the data zones in rural Scotland often cover very
large areas that perhaps mask even more acute
problems in certain towns and villages. Although
the Government has produced its own SIMD data
map, which is useful for examining the issue,
Holyrood magazine recently highlighted a Google
map that had been overlaid with the SIMD data
and which provides an easier snapshot of
deprivation. I cannot recommend it highly enough
to colleagues.
A key message that came out of the evidence
sessions, and for which I have much sympathy, is
that it is important to place employability in the
wider context. As others have emphasised in
today’s debate, employability is not about getting
people into just any job, but is about finding the
right job for the right person and helping to make it
as easy as possible for long-term benefits to be
accrued by, and confidence to be instilled in,
people who may have been looking for a job for
some time. In my opinion, that must mean a strong
focus on the small and medium-sized enterprise
sector. In my experience—both as an employee of
small businesses and as an employer—the trust,
responsibility and camaraderie that are gained
through working for a small business can be worth
their weight in gold to employees.
I believe that Highlands and Islands Enterprise
was right to point to its work with Nigg Skills
Academy and the Social Enterprise Academy in
helping to establish learning and employment
opportunities in the Highlands and Islands, as well
as to its work on supporting the region’s small
businesses that hope to grow. Employment can
take on many different guises—it is not always the
direct Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 route—and it is
vital that we support those from every possible
angle.
However, I acknowledge the issues that have
been raised by the Federation of Small
Businesses, whose evidence pointed out that
small businesses often recruit on an informal or
personal basis rather than as part of any national
scheme. In addition, many employers in my region
employ seasonally, which adds another layer of
complexity to the debate. The FSB has also
recently provided further evidence on the barriers
that small businesses in the Highlands and Islands
face. It is an extraordinarily good read that
highlights some of the problems that we face in
overcoming such barriers.
In conclusion, I thank every organisation that
gave evidence on employability to the committee
last year, and I thank the then members of the
committee for their work. It is vital that Parliament
continue to examine issues that affect
communities across the country where, through
our actions and attention, we can bring about the
necessary change.
I will add a final comment on Hanzala Malik’s
criticism of the Government for challenging the
colleges. We cannot have change without change.
From evidence that I have received, I can say that
young people have been let down by those selfsame colleges, so we have to investigate that and
make change happen. That is part of what we need to achieve here; I hope that we do it.

Motion: Shetland’s Emily Shaw, Scotland’s Young Ambassador

Motion S4M-05238: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 18/12/2012

Shetland’s Emily Shaw, Scotland’s Young Ambassador
That the Parliament congratulates Emily Shaw, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) on being selected as Scotland’s new UK Young Ambassador; understands that the project gives young people the opportunity to discuss issues that affect them at an international level; notes that, in 2012, Emily has already represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Youth Parliament as well as representing Shetland in her role as an MSYP; applauds Emily’s engagement with and interest in the democratic process; believes that she is a positive role model for young people across Scotland; considers that Emily’s experiences demonstrate the benefits of the youth parliament to young people and Scotland, and encourages young people to get involved in their communities in whatever way they can.

Motion: Ainslie Henderson, International Animation Award Winner

Motion S4M-05244: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 18/12/2012

Ainslie Henderson, International Animation Award Winner
That the Parliament congratulates Ainslie Henderson of the Edinburgh College of Art on being named winner in the animation category at the 2012 Adobe Design Achievement Awards; understands that Ainslie’s work, I Am Tom Moody, beat nearly 5,000 entrants from 70 countries; further understands that Ainslie enlisted the vocal help of the actor, Mackenzie Crook, for his project; considers that Ainslie’s victory, given the number of entrants, demonstrates the creative talent studying at Scotland’s colleges and universities; believes that this international recognition further demonstrates the opportunities available to those who pursue an interest in the arts, and encourages young people with creative talent to use it in whatever way they can.

Motion: British Council Scotland’s World Scots Campaign

British Council Scotland’s World Scots Campaign
That the Parliament welcomes the launch of British Council Scotland’s campaign, World Scots; supports the campaign’s principal aim, which is to give Scotland’s young people a competitive edge in the global marketplace by encouraging them to adopt a global outlook when it comes to their employment prospects and future careers; understands that British Council Scotland will set itself a challenging new target of increasing by 25% the proportion of Scots participating in its key outward mobility programmes by the end of the 2012-13 academic year; notes that these programmes include the EU-funded Erasmus and Comenius schemes, IAESTE work internships, the development of language assistants and school linking and twinning; believes that these programmes give young people the skills that they need to operate comfortably in an increasingly globalised economy and interact successfully with people from other countries and cultures; shares with British Council Scotland its reported concern regarding the Global Skills Gap survey of 500 senior business leaders, which was commissioned by the British Council and Think Global, in which 75% of those surveyed suggested that they were worried that young people’s horizons are not broad enough to operate in the globalised economy; notes also that 80% of those surveyed regarded international experience as a key asset for new recruits, and welcomes what it understands to be the broad support from across Scotland’s business and youth organisations for the campaign, including that of CBI Scotland, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Institute of Directors Scotland, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Scottish Financial Enterprise, Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Supported by: Kevin Stewart, Joan McAlpine, John Mason, John Finnie, Rob Gibson, Bill Walker, Kenneth Gibson, Annabelle Ewing, Richard Lyle, Dennis Robertson, Humza Yousaf, Margaret Burgess, Margaret McCulloch, Chic Brodie, Graeme Dey, Maureen Watt, Roderick Campbell, Angus MacDonald, David Torrance, Adam Ingram, James Dornan, Mike MacKenzie, Hugh Henry, Christina McKelvie, Jamie Hepburn, Mark McDonald, Dave Thompson, Aileen McLeod, Colin Beattie, Gil Paterson, Alison Johnstone, Rhoda Grant, Clare Adamson, Linda Fabiani, Sarah Boyack, Stewart Maxwell