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Scotland Referendum

Volume 561: debated on Wednesday 24 April 2013

8. What discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on how many non-UK EU nationals will be eligible to participate in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. (150806)

On 15 October 2012, the UK and Scottish Governments signed an agreement to ensure that a legal, fair and decisive referendum on Scotland’s future can take place. It is for the Scottish Parliament to determine the franchise for the referendum.

Would it not be completely outrageous were the Scottish Parliament to decide to use the local election franchise and therefore allow the possibility of the future constitutional make-up of the United Kingdom to be decided by some several hundred thousand non-UK EU nationals?

It will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine the franchise, but my hon. Friend is incorrect: the number of EU nationals able to vote on the Scottish Parliament franchise is less than 2% of the total.

Those who defend our country should be allowed to take part in deciding its future. What steps will the Minister take to make sure that armed forces personnel serving abroad will be able to cast their votes in the referendum?

This is an important matter. A service declaration is already in place which allows armed forces personnel with a link to Scotland to register at an address in Scotland. It will be for the Scottish Parliament, if it so chooses, to put additional measures in place.

Does the Minister agree that another difficulty with regard to the people who will be able to vote in this election is the issue of 16 and 17-year-olds? Has he had any discussions with the Scottish Government to see whether they have found a solution to the severe problems that that will cause, including putting 14 and 15-year-olds on the register?

The Scottish Parliament will have the ability to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum. A draft Bill has been introduced for debate in the Scottish Parliament, which is the appropriate place for those issues to be considered.