“What would the world’ve thought of Scotland if we’d disenfranchised English or EU migrants for #indyref?” asks the Herald’s chief reporter David Leask as news breaks that more than 1.5 million EU citizens living in Britain will not be able to vote in the EU referendum, as they are in local elections.
The world and most notably the ‘UK’ media would have slated us as separatists and Blood and Soil nationalists. Of course they did that anyway. It didn’t matter that the Scottish referendum was based on a generous, civic and expansive base: if you live here and you’re on the electoral roll, you get a vote. The generosity lost us the vote, but it was still the right thing to do. ‘Why build another wall?’ was the plaintive one-dimensional plea from the Unionist campaign. We’re Better Together we we’re told because we live in an interconnected world, and, my favourite, ‘independence doesn’t really exist any more’.
Perhaps not over-brimming with the milk of human kindness, Alex Massie wrote: “Who cares? Plenty of Scots residing in UK didn’t get a vote in indyref either. Them’s the breaks.” It’s a sort of casual dismissal of a decision that may have huge implications – not just for the 1.5 million but just for the European Union but for the continuing British one too. A YouGov poll yesterday put 68 per cent of Scots would vote to remain in the EU. If England votes Out and Scotland votes In, further cementing the disparity between the citizen – subject divide, will that be case of “Them’s the breaks” too? The decision further marks a gulf between two countries with different visions of our place in Europe and our role in the world.
Cameron’s short-term gerrymandering plays well to his xenophobes and the anti-EU rabid right, but the excluded 1.5 million have soft power and it helps clarify who the real ‘separatists’ are. It will also go down extremely badly in the rest of Europe, not that they care, but with negotiations coming up this could prove important. Cameron will meet Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, French President Francois Hollande, Poland’s Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the next week.
The bill – set out this Wednesday – will also rule out giving the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, an idea put forward by Angus Robertson here. The government has also ruled out extending the right to vote in the upcoming EU referendum to all British citizens living abroad, despite a promise made by the Grant Shapps that it would. Okay, so ‘Shapps in Untruth Shock’ is maybe not a headline you are going to read anytime soon, but the rank hypocrisy of the story being told about the two referendums and the political cultures behind them is stark.
It feeds the already emboldened Anglo-British voice, personified by the likes of former Defence Secretary Liam Fox who called the idea of EU citizens living in Britain being allowed to vote the “unacceptable dilution of the voice of the British people.”
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