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Showing posts with label citizenship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label citizenship. Show all posts

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Referendum voting rights, residence qualification and citizenship aspects

I am not a lawyer, just a voter trying to stay informed in the lead-up to the most important event in Scotland for three centuries. Don’t treat my understanding as authoritative – check your own facts!


Service and Crown personnel serving in the UK or overseas in the armed forces, or with Her Majesty's Government, who are registered to vote in Scotland are eligible to vote in the referendum. This is consistent with local election residential criteria and previous referendums.

The criterion of residence in Scotland is fundamental, and any attempt to extend or ignore it in a referendum would be challenged by other nations, as the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear.

I lived and worked for nine years in England, and voted in local and national elections in my English constituencies. As a resident in England in 1979, I took a keen interest in the Scottish referendum, but never felt or claimed entitlement to vote in it. I have Scottish-born family living in England and abroad – none of them feel an entitlement or claim a right to vote in 2014.

Richard Mowbray is an Englishman resident in Scotland, one who, I am sure, has made his full contribution to Scottish society, voted in elections and perhaps a previous referendum based on the existing residential criterion. I support and defend his right to do that – and comment on and take a position on Scotland's independence, and vote accordingly in 2014. I also support the same rights for the Romanian Big Issue seller in Glasgow, participating in an admirable social initiative to give him or her a foothold in Scottish economic activity, and the rights of the French financial analyst in Edinburgh, both of whose rights Mr Mowbray appears to challenge.

Scotland's wish to stand as an autonomous, independent nation state does not rely on a concept of Scotland based on romantic ideas of blood ties, empire, monarchy and valiant deaths on foreign fields. Scotland is an open, welcoming country, granting the right to full political participation in its democracy to all who chose to live, work and contribute, as Mr Mowbray has done.

Peter Curran,


Alex Sloan and John F. Crawford et al seem a little confused over citizenship.

Citizenship and eligibility to vote in referendums are different, but related concepts. For example, British citizenship on its own does not create eligibility to vote in a UK election - one must be over 18 years of age on polling day and registered to vote. Eligibility to register to vote requires that you are 16 years old or over and a British citizen or an Irish, qualifying Commonwealth or European Union citizen resident in the UK. If you are 16 or 17, you can only register if you will be 18 within the lifetime of the electoral register. You cannot vote until you are 18. 16-17 years olds will be eligible to vote in the referendum, subject to similar constraints and requirements

There are exclusion from the right to vote among British citizens, e.g. members of House of Lords, convicted prisoners serving their sentences, anyone guilty within five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election.

EU citizens resident in the UK may not vote in UK general elections, but can vote in local elections, devolved elections - e.g. Scottish Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland devolved assemblies and of course in European Parliamentary elections.

I am not a lawyer, but the above represents my best understanding of an often confusing subject. I try not to allow my commitment to an independent Scotland to blind me to objective facts. Better Together supporters might try for the same commitment - it will keep the debate rational and objective, in line with the great debating traditions of Scotland.

It is worth bearing in mind that much British legislation on citizenship and voting rights is simply the fragmented legacy of a global empire that has progressively fallen apart, because of its component nations seeking - and achieving - their independence, because they didn't feel they were better together.

Happy to be corrected on factual errors in my understanding!

Monday, 11 July 2011

This and that …

So far today no burning issues have got my adrenalin pump going and I will seize the opportunity to ramble inconsequentially.


The ugly and inaccurate usage obsessing over continues, including from respected Scottish journalists who should know better. Obsessing over makes as much sense as fascinating over, i.e. none whatsoever. Usage trumps all, so if this continues, the OED will eventually capitulate and offer it as an alternative usage, and an important word will be lost in its real sense to the language. It equally bad twin is bored of, a usage beloved of youthful chavs everywhere, and a few not so youthful.


A few email correspondents have taken me to task for describing Rory Stewart MP as a ‘half Scot’. For the record, on the Newsnight debate, Rory Stewart said “I’m half-Scottish, half-English, like many people in this country …” so half-Scot is genealogically accurate. In the interests of perspective, let me say that I am a half-Scot by birth (my mother was Scottish, my father Irish) and since all my grandparents were Irish, I am a quarter-Scot. If I have an ethnic identity, it is Celtic. (My wife is a half-Scot - her mother was English.)

But I used the term for Rory Stewart, and for others of his class and background, not as an ethnic or genealogical description, but in terms of allegiance. I owe 100% allegiance to Scotland and the Scottish nation, not to the hybrid state of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Rory Stewart, in contrast, owes 100% allegiance to that hybrid state, whatever his vaguely nostalgic ethnic Scottish leanings.

(Despite my Irish ancestry, I owe no political allegiance whatsoever to The Republic of Ireland nor to the province of Northern Ireland.)

I have contacts who are entirely English by birth  and ancestry, but who have made their lives in Scotland, owe allegiance to Scotland, vote Scottish nationalist and  eagerly await Scottish independence. These are political, social and economic loyalties, not misty, nostalgic ones. I am absolutely certain that is true among the many ethnic minority groups in Scotland.

For the moment, however, we must accommodate ourselves as best we can to the ugly realities of our unwilling membership of the British state and subservience to the British Establishment, and the legal and constitutional demands of that failing state, as must the English and Welsh peoples.

(The people of Northern Ireland have their own complex problems and relationships to deal with, and nothing I have to say can contribute anything useful to that debate.)


I recognised GBS from early childhood as a wise old man with a long, grey beard and a twinkle in his eye: he popped up in the newspapers and on the newsreels. He died, age 94, just as I left school. My teachers at St. Mungo’s Academy, Marist Brothers in the main, thoroughly disapproved of him - he was Irish, but an atheist and a radical Socialist!

As far as I know, he was the only person ever to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and a Hollywood Oscar, for his adaptation of his own play, Pygmalion for the cinema. It of course later achieved even greater fame as on Broadway as My Fair Lady. I knew the film, as a compulsive filmgoer in the fleapits of Dennistoun and Calton, and also the film (1945) from his play Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) which a member of the Wranglers debating society in Newcastle told me  proudly in 1976 had first been staged in the city in 1899.

This film, together with Pygmalion, which I had seen much earlier, led me to borrow Three Plays for Puritans from Dennistoun library and read Shaw for the first time. I recognised his socialism and his deep feeling for the ordinary man, but was riveted by his accessible style. I then read a fair amount of his work, but it was not until my mid-twenties that I came across his collected Prefaces in a very bulky volume from Clydebank Public Library, a work that I read and re-read, borrowed and re-borrowed. (I now have my own copy.)

Then somehow I forgot Shaw for a long, long time, until a few months age I wandered into a charity shop in Corstorphine, glanced briefly across the rows of rubbish books that now form their main stock. But in a corner, quietly and inconspicuously waiting for me on the shelf were a number of volumes in the 1937 Constable edition (1950 reprint) of some of Shaw’s works.

After the briefest glance at the titles, I grabbed the lot and bought them for £2 apiece. When I began to put them on my shelf next to my other Shaw books, noticing ruefully the duplicates, one caught my eye, because of its odd title. - London Music in 1888-89 as heard by Corno Di Bassetto. I had never heard of this work by Shaw, but as a musician of sorts, I recognised corno di bassetto as the basset horn, and a vague memory came to mind that Shaw had briefly been a music critic for a London newspaper, The Star.

Up till that moment, I regarded the funniest prose works in the English language as being P.G. Wodehouse and the Irish RM stories of Somerville and Ross. But now they had a rival, and I have succeeded since in annoying my family by laughing out loud at regular intervals, and boring all and sundry with the words of Corno Di Bassetto, which are about as contemporary as one can get in style, and terrifyingly knowledgeable about music in all its aspects, with savage and hysterically funny criticism of the operatic and concert performers of the day.

More to come …