This summary presents the Scottish Government's proposals for citizenship in an independent Scotland. It:
sets out our vision for an inclusive model of citizenship after independence for people, whether or not they were born in Scotland or define themselves as primarily or exclusively Scottish, and
describes who would become a Scottish citizen at the point of independence, and who could become a Scottish citizen from then on
These proposals reflect an inclusive and welcoming approach to the entitlement to Scottish citizenship.
This summary is available in other versions:
The report that follows provides more details on these proposals, an analysis of the evidence that informs them, as well as references to sources.
Scottish citizens would have the right to live and work freely in Scotland. They would also be able to get a Scottish passport.
Most Scottish people right now are British citizens. UK law allows British citizens to hold multiple nationalities. We propose that, after independence, the law in Scotland would allow Scottish citizens to do the same – so people can hold both Scottish and British citizenship if they want, or only one or the other.
Under our proposals, British citizens would not have to become Scottish citizens after independence in order to live and work in Scotland, because Scotland would continue to be part of the Common Travel Area, which includes the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
There would be four ways to become a Scottish citizen if Scotland becomes an independent country:
- automatic entitlement on the day of independence
- by birth after independence
- by registering as a Scottish citizen, or
- by applying to become a Scottish citizen
The next section summarises what each of these means. Note that there is also a 'quick guide' to our proposals in the Annex of this paper which describes how these proposals would apply depending on current nationality and other circumstances.
Ways to become a Scottish citizen
1.Automatic entitlement to citizenship
Under the Scottish Government's plans, you would automatically be entitled to Scottish citizenship on the day Scotland becomes independent if you are already a British citizen and you:
- live in Scotland (described in law as 'habitually resident')
- were born in Scotland
- have a parent who was a British citizen born in Scotland, or
- previously lived in Scotland for at least ten years, or five years as a child, with a pro rata calculation for young adults.
If your entitlement to Scottish citizenship is based on your present personal circumstances – you live in Scotland or were born here – you would be able to access services for citizens without needing to do anything else.
If you don't live in Scotland and your entitlement to Scottish citizenship is based on your past circumstances or those of a parent, you would also be able to access such services, although you may be asked to provide evidence of your eligibility.
If you did not want to automatically become a Scottish citizen, you would be able to opt out.
2. Children born after independence
Children born in Scotland after independence would automatically be Scottish citizens if at least one of their parents was:
- a Scottish citizen, or
- a British or Irish citizen, or
- "settled" in Scotland under Scottish immigration law
A child born outwith Scotland after independence would automatically be entitled to Scottish citizenship if at least one of their parents is a Scottish citizen.
3. Registering as a Scottish citizen
This further right to citizenship would be open to two groups of people:
- British and Irish citizens living in Scotland, and
- children of any nationality living in Scotland who were brought up here
And there would be a further route for anyone wanting to become a Scottish citizen after independence: applying on the basis of the qualifying criteria.
4. Applying to be a Scottish citizen
The process of applying to become a citizen of another country is sometimes called "naturalisation."
A person of another nationality could apply to become a Scottish citizen if they:
- had lived in Scotland for at least five years, and
- had been "settled" in Scotland for at least 12 months
Scottish citizens would be entitled to hold a Scottish passport after independence. You would not need to hold a Scottish passport if you do not want one. You would be able to get a Scottish passport through the same kind of application process that exists now for British citizens who want a British passport.
The Common Travel Area and the European Union
Scotland is part of a Common Travel Area on these islands. As part of the Common Travel Area after independence, British and Irish citizens would be able to live and work in Scotland without restrictions, as they do now, and Scottish citizens would retain those same rights in the UK and in Ireland.
Once Scotland rejoined the European Union, Scottish citizens would once again become EU citizens. This would allow them and their families to live, work and study freely across all 27 current EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Citizenship and the constitution
This government's proposals on citizenship would form part of the interim constitution if Scotland becomes independent. Whether and how citizenship forms part of the permanent Scottish constitution, or if nationality law should be made through Acts of the Scottish Parliament, would be a matter for the constitutional convention, as described in 'Building A New Scotland: Creating a modern constitution for an independent Scotland'. These proposals have been set out in detail in this paper so that everyone involved in the discussion on Scotland's choice of constitutional future is clear where the Scottish Government stands and how they would be affected in the event that the country makes that choice for independence.
Independence would create in law a new nationality and would give the people of Scotland an opportunity to be part of that inclusive national identity. Being a Scottish citizen would be a meaningful, positive outcome of independence. The new right to hold a Scottish passport, continued rights in the Common Travel Area and, after Scotland's accession to the EU, resumed rights as EU citizens are all benefits that Scottish citizens would be able to enjoy.
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