The Scottish Government is keen to represent Scotland as an open, inclusive society. It says so twelve times in a position paper, published as part of a series on Building a New Scotland. It could be questioned whether this document has any status at all, because constitutional matters fall wholly outside the legal powers of the Scottish Government, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see what the SG makes of a basic question: in an independent Scotland, who would be its citizens? On one hand, we have a document that is intended to be accessible and welcoming to people from a wide range of nationalities. On the other, there are clearly defined rules which would exclude those people from citizenship.
First, the rules. The document explains on page 1:
Under the Scottish Government’s plans, you would automatically be entitled to Scottish citizenship on the day Scotland becomes independent if you are already a British citizen and you:
• live in Scotland (described in law as ‘habitually resident’)
• were born in Scotland
• have a parent who was a British citizen born in Scotland, or
• previously lived in Scotland for at least ten years, or five years as a child, with a pro rata calculation for young adults.
Note the critical point: this only applies if you are already a British citizen. The point is expanded on page 24:
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.
I think we have different ideas of what an open and inclusive policy looks like. This directly excludes a large number of lawful, long-term residents.
Perhaps, you might think, they don’t really mean that only British citizens can expect to be Scottish as of right. The document makes great play of Scotland’s present willingness to extend rights to outsiders:
Scotland already has an inclusive approach to civic participation and social protection. … Most rights, entitlements and obligations in Scotland are based on residence rather than citizenship. For example … In Scotland, any lawful resident with leave to remain under the current UK immigration system may vote, 30 and any lawful resident settled in Scotland (e.g. with indefinite leave to remain, EU settled status or pre-settled status) may stand for office in the Scottish Parliament or in local government.
The document explains that people who are resident, but not citizens, will be welcome, and they will have a shedload of rights, so it hardly matters if they’re not full citizens (page 10). But the same text goes on, on the same page, to list those rights which will be exclusive to Scottish citizens. Those rights include “the right to live and work without restriction in Scotland and enter and leave the country at will.” Surely they don’t mean to deny such rights to lawful residents? If they don’t, why write this?
There are two apparent contradictions in this policy. One lies in how the document is presented. If we take this rules as they stand, they exclude long term residents of Scotland with a right to reside. If you’re French, or Bulgarian, or Chinese, or Ukrainian, they don’t mean you. Which makes it somewhat puzzling that the Scottish Government has neverthless translated the document summary into those four languages, along with several others.
The other contradiction occurs in a short comment on page 24. After explaining that only British citizens are included, the text continues:
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.
“Some countries” object – but Britain is not one of them. Anyone who is both a UK citizen and the citizen of another country (as I am) will not be affected this way. So why is this sentence here? It seems likely, as so often happens, that this text is the work of more than one hand, and some body in this process has insisted that the text had to be revised so that it only applied to British citizens, and it’s been done clumsily.