Prisoner voting: consultation

The proposal relates to Scottish Parliament and local government elections.

The Scottish Government's proposal

The Scottish Government recognises that there are strongly held views on whether or not prisoners should be able to vote. Factors that need to be considered include the rights of victims and the public interests in sanctioning criminal conduct and in enhancing civic responsibility and respect for the rule of law, as well as the rights of prisoners as members of society and the needs of rehabilitation.

It is clear, however, that the current blanket ban on voting by convicted prisoners in custody (but not those on remand, parole or HDC) is not consistent with the ECHR. The question, therefore, that faces the Scottish Parliament is what arrangements should be put in place to replace the blanket ban.

We acknowledge the thorough work that the Equalities and Human Rights Committee has undertaken on this issue, and the range of evidence from stakeholders on this topic. The evidence provided to the Committee, alongside other sources, has been used to help develop policy on this topic.

In the light of the range of evidence and arguments, the Scottish Government's view is that it is neither appropriate, nor necessary to ensure compliance with the ECHR, to enfranchise all prisoners. Having considered the Equalities and Human Rights Committee's report, the case-law of the ECtHR and international practice, the Scottish Government proposes that the right balance will be struck by enabling prisoners serving short sentences (which would be defined as a sentence of imprisonment for a length of time which is below a specified maximum threshold) to vote. Views are sought on what length of sentence would be an appropriate threshold.

The Scottish Government plans to bring forward legislation on the franchise for Scottish Parliament and Local Government elections[2]. Following consultation earlier in 2018[3], that will include proposals to extend the right to vote to citizens of all nationalities resident in Scotland.


Email: Elections Team

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