Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, has called for an investigation into reports that EU citizens were unable to vote in the EU Parliament elections.
Writing to the Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington and the Electoral Commission, Mr Russell warned the lack of time and information provided for EU citizens to complete the necessary paperwork risked causing uncertainty for EU citizens.
A full copy of the letter:
Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP
Minister for the Cabinet Office
I refer you to my letter of 3 April 2019 in which I expressed my concern about the lack of time being afforded to EU citizens to complete the required UC1 forms. I am sorry to say that my fears that this would lead to some EU citizens being disenfranchised have been realised, as widely reported in the media.
I would point out that you were aware that there was a risk that the UK would have to take part in the European Parliament Election if the UK was still in the EU on 31 March 2019. Despite the clear and obvious signs that this was highly likely to be the case, no preparations were made until the last possible moment.
I refer you to the statement made by the Electoral Commission which points out: ‘The very short notice from the government of the UK’s participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process amongst citizens, and for citizens to complete the process’.
The system of requiring EU citizens to complete forms to enable them to vote is also at fault. In the same statement, the Commission make the point that ‘This legal process could be made easier for citizens, and the Commission made the case for doing so following the last EU elections in 2014. However, improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by Government and Parliament.’
It is a disgrace that in addition to the uncertainties that EU citizens have had to endure, over the last almost 3 years since the EU referendum, some have been denied their right to vote in the European Parliament Election. We want EU citizens in Scotland to feel settled and secure, and to continue to feel welcome and valued in Scotland. This debacle will do nothing to ease their concerns.
We also have first-hand reports of EU citizens being unable to vote even though they had completed and returned the forms on time. I would ask you to investigate the scale of this problem which may have arisen due to the lack to time in the run up to the election. If you require evidence of this many instances were described online under #deniedmyvote.
I believe it is imperative that an inquiry is conducted into these issues as a matter of urgency. Any seat that is secured by only a small number of votes could be impacted by this outrageous deprivation of democratic rights.