Scots Expats Up In Arms Over Referendum Vote

Denying Scots expats the right to vote could delay the independence referendum if any of the 1.1 million living elsewhere in the UK or overseas mount a legal challenge.

Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond decided against giving expats the vote because the process was considered too cumbersome and costly.

However, lawyers claim the decision breaches the rights of Scots under European law and could be overturned by the courts.

Allowing Scots expats the vote could have a huge influence on the election as the equivalent of 25% of the country’s 5.2 million population live outside their country of birth.

Around 750,000 live in England.

Judicial review

European law expert Aidan O’Neill explained, the rules imposed by Salmond might not survive a court challenge because they take away the right of Scottish expats to enjoy freedom of movement under European Union law.

The referendum is due to take place on September 18, leaving plenty of time for an emergency judicial review to put the matter before the courts.

The problem came to light when a Scottish born lawyer working in London took advice on his right to vote.

Other high-profile Scots living in England have also voiced their concerns over the rule and put their name to a petition that could go before a judge.

They include former Scottish rugby union player Kenny Logan, who is married to TV presenter Gabby Logan and Alex McLeish, a former manager of the Scotland international football team.

Yes vote chaos

Going to court will cost the expat protestors about £100,000.

However, although a million Scots are frozen out of the referendum, thousands of English, European Union and citizens from other nations living in Scotland do have the right to vote on independence.

If the vote is for independence, expats from the European Union living in Scotland and Scots abroad face chaos while the nation is not part of the EU.

As a result, they would lose the right to free healthcare and other benefits in EU countries, while EU citizens would lose those rights in Scotland.

Not only are independent Scots looking at mounting a court challenge over the expat right to vote, but Elaine Murray, a member of the Scottish Parliament has already raised the issue in Scotland, while British Prime Minister David Cameron is rumoured to have called for a legal briefing on the topic.

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