Quiz 5: Referendum Franchise

Quiz 5: Referendum Franchise

Purpose: This quiz will help develop knowledge and understanding around who can vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

The quiz is the fifth of a series. The purpose of each quiz is to inform citizens of all ages, particularly school children and young people, so that citizens are able to make informed choices and participate in the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future leading to the 2014 referendum on independence.

The quiz series is part of a project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council at the University of Edinburgh and managed by Professor Stephen Tierney of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law.

Additional Resources:

Instructions: Read the following text and answer the multiple choice questions below. For further discussion refer to the research and discussion section after the multiple choice questions.

Who Can Vote in the Referendum?

First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron met on 15 October 2012 and reached an agreement on how the referendum is to be run. We call this: ‘The Edinburgh Agreement’.

It was agreed that it was for the Scottish Parliament to determine who would be entitled to vote in the referendum on 18 September 2014. We call the entitlement to vote ‘the franchise’.

The Scottish Parliament has now passed two laws which set out the process for the referendum. These are:

  • the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 and
  • the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013.

It is the latter of these, the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 which sets out the main rules as to who can vote.

The franchise for the 2014 referendum is the same as for Scottish Parliament elections and local government elections. This means that the test is basically one of residence.

In elections to the Scottish Parliament anyone aged 18 years or older who is resident in Scotland can vote if they are a British citizen, an Irish citizen, a citizen of a Commonwealth country who has rights of residence in Britain, or a citizen of any other European Union (EU) country.

It is notable that citizens from other European Union countries can vote in the referendum, provided they are resident in Scotland.

This also means that simply being born in Scotland does not entitle people to vote if they are not currently resident here. There are many Scots around the world – including famous actors and sportsmen – who will not be able to vote as they are not resident in Scotland. The reason for this, according to the Scottish Parliament, is that only people living and working in Scotland should be able to determine the country’s future.

The franchise for the 2014 referendum has however been extended on the basis of age. For the first time in a major vote in Britain anyone aged 16 or over can vote. Some argue that 16 and 17 year olds are not mature enough or don’t know enough about the issues to vote. Others refute both these claims and also assert that people aged 16 and over who are free to leave school, work and even get married, should have a say in the country’s future.

It is also notable that people convicted of crimes cannot vote if they are in prison at the time of the referendum. This is a subject of some controversy since the European Court of Human Rights has recently questioned the wider UK ban on voting by people in prison. It seems however that the right of prisoners to vote under European human rights law only extends to voting in regular elections and not to referendums and therefore that the ban in the Scottish referendum does not breach European human rights law.

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