Who'll be voting?

Who'll be voting?


To be eligible to vote in Scotland’s independence referendum you do not have to be from Scotland, but you do have to be a Scottish resident.

That means over a million Scots living outside the land of their birth can take no part in the September 18 vote while one in six of those who can cast their ballot were born elsewhere. The rules have fuelled a debate on just what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century.

. LONDON, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

Ruth McPherson was born and educated in Scotland but left to work in London two years ago and so has no say on whether her native country should end three centuries of union with England.

"It's ridiculous," said McPherson, 26. Born in Inverness and brought up in nearby Elgin in the north, she studied in the capital, Edinburgh, before following generations of compatriots south of the English border, where she took up a job in publishing.

"I will be a Scottish citizen if the Yes vote goes through," she said. "It seems ridiculous that you can be a Scottish citizen without being able to take part in this decision.”

. EDINBURGH, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

When they agreed to be bound by the result of the independence referendum, both the separatists who run the devolved Scottish executive and Prime Minister David Cameron's government in London adopted a definition of who can vote based on British local election laws.

These limit voting to residents, comprising not just Britons but any citizen of the European Union or the Commonwealth of former British colonies.

Sabrina Scholl, who is originally from Germany and moved to Scotland last year, is one of those who will be able to take part in the poll. She says she will be voting Yes to independence.

. EDINBURGH, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

Around 70 percent of those who were born in Scotland and are now living elsewhere have moved to England, and some think the nationalist leadership wanted to exclude them for fear they would be more likely to vote No to independence.

Nationalists, however, have emphasised the importance of giving a voice to those who have committed to the future of Scotland by deciding to make a home there.

"It's a new kind of nationalism," said Christian Allard (pictured above), a Frenchman who sits for the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the Scottish parliament. "A nationalism that has nothing to do with where you are born, or what accent you have or what religion or culture you belong to."

"It is about where you live and where you decide and choose to live and have children and grandchildren," he said.

. EDINBURGH, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

First Minister Alex Salmond has put immigration at the heart of the SNP's vision for an independent Scotland.

Nationalists court the votes of foreign-born residents as well as Scots-born voters from ethnic minorities, notably from the fast-growing, 140,000-strong Asian community.

Fayaz Alam, who is originally from Pakistan and moved to Scotland in 2009, is eligible to take part in the referendum. However, he says he will be voting No to independence.

. NONE, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

There is little reliable polling data on how hundreds of thousands of English living in Scotland will vote. Polls do suggest that, across the board, voters identifying themselves less as Scottish and more as British favour a No vote.

There has, though, been a small but vocal Yes campaign by "English Scots" - English-born residents who see economic and political benefits from separation for everyone in Scotland.

Debbie Bruce (pictured above), originally from Margate in southern England is a member of the “English Scots for Yes” group.

. EDINBURGH, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

Scotland has a long history of outward migration, but in recent years people have been immigrating to Scotland on a scale hardly seen since arrivals from Ireland during the 1800s.

The 2011 census showed that about a sixth of Scotland's population were not born there, with the biggest increase among Poles - a factor common across Britain since Poland and other ex-communist eastern states joined the EU a decade ago.

Sebastian Malecki is originally from Poland and moved to Scotland in 2006. He is undecided which way he will vote in the referendum.

. LONDON, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

Management consultant Robbie Gibbons, 31, originally from Glasgow but who has lived and worked in London and Singapore for 13 years, said east Europeans who have settled in his home town over the past decade were more entitled to a vote than he was.

"Those people have actively chosen to be there in a way that I haven't," he said from London.

He acknowledged some mixed feelings about not taking part in the referendum, but accepted that it made sense: "There’s an emotional pull on one side, which says 'This is my country and I want to be part of this'. And then there's a rational side which says 'Well, actually, I have chosen not to make my life there'."

. EDINBURGH, United Kingdom. Reuters/Paul Hackett

Not all Scottish residents want to vote in the referendum, however.

Benjamin Kazoka, pictured above with his four-year-old daughter, is originally from Zambia and moved to Scotland in 1995.

He is abstaining from voting in the referendum as he thinks it is a decision just for Scots.