A bid by two MSPs to give prisoners the chance to vote in next year’s Scottish independence referendum has been thrown out by a committee of MSPs. The Lib Dems’ Alison McInnes and Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie argued it was wrong for all prisoners to be automatically disenfranchised. But their amendments to the Referendum Franchise Bill were defeated in the Referendum Bill Committee. Scots will take part in the referendum on 18 September 2014. The committee also agreed that 16 and 17-year-olds, who will receive the right to vote for the first time, would have until 10 March next year to sign up to the electoral register. The Scottish government has consistently opposed giving prisoners a say in the vote.
In making his argument forgiving prisoners the vote, Mr Harvie told the committee: “An offender in prison is still a human being, is still a part of society, is still subject to the decisions of a Scottish government.”
Ahead of the Holyrood meeting, Ms McInnes said it “seems disproportionate to deny someone serving a short sentence a say in the future of their country”.
She added: “The independence referendum is unlike any democratic decision Scotland has had to make before. Where a general election dictates a country’s direction for the next four years, this decision could steer Scotland’s path for the next 300 years.