Sunday, February 05, 2012

Playing by the rules

Should there be a referendum in Scotland on Scottish independence, perforce, the English will not get a vote, even though it is our union as well, and the outcome has significant implications for us. Howsoever, we now learn, courtesy of The Scotsman, that this exclusion will not apply to almost 60,000 citizens of EU member states who currently live in Scotland.

Thus has been admitted by the hapless Scotland Office minister David Mundell, as the exemption which applies to general elections (aka electorally mandated reshuffles) does not hold with referendums.

However, also excluded – under current rules – are the 750,000 Scots living south of the border. On the other hand, no one is saying how many native-born English are now living north of the border, and are eligible for a vote.

Labour MP Thomas Docherty questions why a "French student studying for a year at Edinburgh University" would be allowed to vote when someone born in Scotland but now living elsewhere in the UK could not.

One person particularly miffed by this is James Wallace, a Dumfries-born law graduate who is about to start a career in London. He is campaigning for Scots based elsewhere in the UK to be given a vote. "I would not want to deny European Union nationals the vote. But we should be allowing Scots like me to vote under the 15-year rule", he says.

"It is difficult to argue that someone who just moves to Scotland is a greater part of 'the Scottish people' when they would never describe themselves as Scottish, yet individuals whose entire life has revolved around the country and are away developing knowledge to bring back to the nation they call home are denied a vote on something so fundamental as independence".

But that, dear boy, is what being in the EU is all about. And if you are a member of the club, you have to obey the rules. Of course, we could resign from the club …