Building a New Scotland: citizenship in an independent Scotland

This paper sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for citizenship in an independent Scotland.

Becoming a Scottish citizen by entitlement

This chapter describes the Scottish Government's proposals for who would automatically be entitled to Scottish citizenship at the point of independence and in future. Ultimately, it would be for the Scottish Parliament to decide how to take these proposals forward.

If the people of Scotland vote to become an independent country, a new Scottish citizenship will be created. Some people would automatically become Scottish citizens, while others would be able to register as a Scottish citizen or apply for Scottish citizenship depending on their circumstances, as described in the chapter 'Choosing to become a Scottish citizen'.

There would be no barrier in Scottish law to holding multiple nationalities, just as there is no barrier in UK nationality law that limits or prevents British citizens acquiring other nationalities.[78] Eligibility for British citizenship, and how Scottish independence affects that for Scottish citizens, would be a question for the Westminster government but we fully expect that all British citizens at the point of independence who are eligible to become Scottish citizens would continue to hold British citizenship should they wish.

Citizens of Scotland who want to continue to identify themselves as British would be able to do so. British and Irish citizens, through our commitment to the CTA, would always be free to live and work in Scotland, and would not need to become Scottish citizens or seek any form of permission in order to stay here after independence.

Scottish citizenship on independence

The interim constitution would establish that the following groups would be entitled to Scottish citizenship at the point of independence:

  • British citizens habitually resident in Scotland
  • British citizens born in Scotland but living elsewhere
  • British citizens living elsewhere but with a parent who was a British citizen born in Scotland
  • British citizens living elsewhere who previously lived in Scotland for at least ten years, or five years as a child, with a pro rata calculation for young adults

This is an open and inclusive offer of citizenship to all people who live in, were born in or have a close and enduring connection to Scotland and are British citizens at the point of independence.

People whose entitlement to Scottish citizenship would be based on their present personal circumstances at the point of independence – i.e. they live in Scotland, or were born in Scotland – would be able to access services for citizens after independence without needing to do anything else.

People who don't live in Scotland and whose entitlement to Scottish citizenship would be based on past circumstances or those of a parent would also be able to access services for citizens, although they may be asked to provide evidence of their eligibility.

Some people may not wish to become Scottish citizens in this way. This could be because some countries place limits on their citizens holding additional nationalities. A British citizen who is a dual national with such a country may not wish to automatically acquire Scottish citizenship as well, as that may not comply with nationality law in the other territory for which they hold citizenship. We would put in place a process for people to opt-out of automatic acquisition of Scottish citizenship at the point of independence if they chose to do so, but would also engage with key partner countries with the aim of removing barriers to dual nationals acquiring Scottish citizenship if they wished it.

Children born after independence

After independence, a child born in Scotland would automatically be a Scottish citizen if at least one of their parents is:

  • a Scottish citizen
  • a British or Irish citizen, or
  • "settled" in Scotland under Scottish immigration law

"Settled" means having the right to live and work in Scotland without restrictions, such as needing a visa or needing to follow EU free movement rules. This is normally called "indefinite leave to remain" in UK law and "permanent residence" in EU law.

A child born outside Scotland would automatically be entitled to Scottish citizenship if at least one of their parents is a Scottish citizen.

As well as registering the birth according to the regulations of the country in which the child was born, the birth could also be registered in Scotland. This would not be necessary in order for the child to qualify as a Scottish citizen or to apply for a Scottish passport, although it would help evidence eligibility for a passport in any subsequent application.



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