The Scottish government is considering allowing refugees and non-EU citizens to vote in local and Scottish parliament elections.
Holyrood was granted new powers over taxation and the running of elections by Westminster in 2016 and the SNP minority government is keen to make major changes that will set it apart from the rest of the UK.
This would mean anyone granted asylum or a visa to live in Scotland would be able to vote in the country’s regional parliament and local council elections – including refugees and non-EU or non-Commonwealth citizens.
The extension of the franchise would not include Westminster elections as these are still controlled by the Government in London.
The Scottish minister for parliamentary business, Joe FitzPatrick, said: “The Scottish government is committed to ensuring access to democratic participation for all citizens. Scotland has led the way internationally by lowering the voting age to 16.
“We now seek to extend the opportunity to vote to all who are legally resident in Scotland. It seems only fair that those who have the right to live here, whether from EU countries or elsewhere, have the right to vote.”
He said there was a “view” that the current rules on suffrage did not reflect modern Scotland and “that linking citizenship with the right to vote is undemocratic”.
“As citizens from a very wide range of countries come to live and work in Scotland, it can be considered discriminatory to deny the right to vote to resident immigrants who are neither EU nor Commonwealth citizens”, he added.