1.1 This report presents analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on prisoner voting. The consultation opened on 14 December 2018 and closed on 8 March 2019. The consultation paper is available at https://consult.gov.scot/elections/prisoner-voting/.
Background and context
1.2 There has been a longstanding ban on convicted prisoners voting in all elections in the UK. The Representation of the People Act 1983 established the current legal basis for the ban and Section 3 of the Act sets out that any convicted person is "legally incapable" of voting at any election while detained in pursuance of their sentence or while unlawfully at large when required to be so detained.
1.3 The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found in 2005 that the UK's blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting in elections is in breach of Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Scotland Act 2016 devolved responsibility for the franchise for Scottish Parliament elections. The Scottish Parliament now has the competence to legislate on all matters relating to the Scottish Parliament and Local Government franchise, and therefore the responsibility for ensuring compliance with the ECHR in relation to these matters.
Profile of respondents
1.4 In total, 268 responses were received. Of these, three duplicate responses were removed prior to analysis, leaving 265 responses to be included in the analysis. Of these, 35 were from groups or organisations and 230 from members of the public. The majority of responses were received through the Scottish Government's Citizen Space consultation hub. Others were received via email or in hard copy.
1.5 Respondents were asked to identify whether they were responding as an individual or on behalf of a group or organisation. Organisational respondents were then allocated to one of eight categories by the analysis team. A breakdown of the number of responses received by respondent type is set out in Table 1 below and a full list of organisational respondents can be found in Annex 1.
Table 1: Respondents by type
|Type of respondent||Number|
|Community Justice Partnership||5|
|Electoral Body or Group||4|
|Legal or Justice Sector Body||3|
|Public or Representative Body||3|
|Religious Body or Group||3|
|Third Sector Organisation||8|
1.5 As with any public consultation exercise, it should be noted that those responding generally have a particular interest in the subject area and the views they express cannot be seen as representative of wider public opinion.
1.6 The responses from the 238 respondents who agreed to their response being published (all organisations and 203 individual respondents), can be found on the Scottish Government's website at: https://consult.gov.scot/elections/prisoner-voting/consultation/published_select_respondent.
Analysis and reporting
1.7 This report presents the analysis of the responses to both quantitative (closed) and qualitative (open) questions. Analysis of comments made at the open questions focuses on identifying main themes, as well as setting out the full range of views.
1.8 A small number of respondents did not make their submission on the consultation questionnaire but submitted their comments in a statement-style format. This content was analysed qualitatively under the most directly relevant consultation question.
1.9 Where a closed question was asked, the results are presented by respondent type.
1.10 A count of comments made is provided at each open question. This count may include comments which have been moved from another question and from the final question (Question 6) in particular.
1.11 The remainder of this report presents a question-by-question analysis and reflects the diversity of issues raised by respondents. When a significant proportion of those answering an open question (1 in 10 respondents or more of comments made at that question) raised the same point an indication of scale has been given. It should be noted, however, that this reflects how many respondents raised the issue, rather than suggesting any overall balance of opinion.
1.12 A small number of respondents, including from the Electoral Body or Group, Legal or Justice Sector Body and Third Sector Organisation respondent groups, made extensive and detailed comments. These comments often concerned either the legal arguments surrounding prisoner voting or the practicalities which need to be considered. An overview of these responses is included within the analysis and all responses are available in full to the relevant Scottish Government Policy Team. As noted above, all organisation responses can be accessed from the Scottish Government's website.
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