We welcome extension of voting rights

June 4, 2020

Scottish Parliament Extends Voting Rights to Everyone Legally Resident in Scotland and to Some Prisoners. 

We welcome the news of the enactment of the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Act, giving prisoners serving less than 12 months and anyone legally resident in Scotland (including refugees and those granted asylum) the right to vote in Scottish and local elections.  

The ability to partake in elections is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of a democratic society, and we welcome the recognition that those who have come to Scotland as refugees or who have been granted asylum seeker status are part of our communities and should be treated as such and afforded voting rights. 

We also welcome the extension of voting rights to some of those in Scotland’s prison system. The withholding of voting rights for prisoners is a breach of their human rights, and serves no meaningful purpose as a form of punishment or rehabilitation. 

Humanist Society Scotland Chief Executive, Fraser Sutherland, said,

In a week where infringements of human rights have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we are heartened to see the enactment of this act, which takes steps to safeguard the human rights of two vulnerable groups in society by passing this Bill. We welcome refugees and asylum seekers to Scotland and think the extension of voting rights to this group is exactly how a tolerant and just society should treat those who join its communities after fleeing from war or persecution. We are also pleased to see the inclusion of some prisoners in the Bill. Not only is the removal of voting rights an infringement of prisoner’s human rights and an arbitrary punishment, it is a dangerous precedent that can exacerbate existing inequalities and further undermine Scotland’s goal of being a tolerant and equal society.

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