People are sick and tired of this referendum. It seems all I hear about this is how miserable this campaign has been; how terrible both sides have been; how they don’t want to be on the “same side” as people they despise and abhor. Plenty of people who campaigned for independence, for elections, talk about their complete lack of excitement and enthusiasm for this.
I don’t feel that way. Perhaps it’s because I’m still relatively new to open campaigning, at least compared to local veterans who’ve campaigned for decades. Perhaps I’m so used to the spin and the bias and the lies that I’m just not as affected by either campaign. Or perhaps I’m just weird. But despite the received wisdom of the media, I’m still going to vote, I’m still going to stand outside polling stations with a rosette affixed to my jacket, and I’m still going to dare to hope for the best whatever the outcome.
So this is my last message to those who are undecided on how to vote in this referendum: if you cannot vote for yourself, vote for those who cannot vote at all.
Forget the dog-whistles about immigration, xenophobia, sovereignty, union, control, sharing, bureaucracy, and bigotry. Forget the associations with Cameron, Farage, Osborne, Galloway, Goldman Sachs, Murdoch, and everyone else people despise regardless of their stance.
Put aside the politicians, the newspapers, the businesses, the academics, the celebrity endorsements, the personalities, the hyperbole, the misrepresentations, the white noise. Forget the mechanics of whether this will provide a trigger for indyref2, or what the UK or EU will do in the aftermath of the vote, or how the losing side will react. Forget, even, the question on the ballot paper. Think about who is allowed to vote in this referendum.
People born in the United Kingdom who are over the age of 18 can vote, of course. So too can citizens of the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, as well as anyone currently living in Gibraltar and the Crown Dependencies. Even if you haven’t lived in the UK for 15 years, if you have been registered to vote in the UK during those 15 years, you are as entitled to vote as a resident. Even members of the House of Lords, who normally do not get to vote, can vote in this referendum. Tomorrow, 46,475,420 people are eligible to vote in the UK. The equivalent for the UK General Election was 46,354,197. What happened to 121,223 voters in the space of just over a year?
EU citizens residing in the UK – arguably the people who will be most affected by this referendum – are not allowed to vote. Even people who have lived & worked here all their lives, who’ve married, raised families, integrated into their new home, are prevented from having a say in this vote. The only way someone born in an EU country can vote is if they abandon their citizenship – a choice no-one should be forced to make to safeguard their home.
People who haven’t lived in the UK for 15 years are granted a vote, while people who live her right now are being denied a vote.
People like London Swenglish, a Swede who’s lived in London for 20 years:
I moved to London back in 1993 as a 19 year old. I had saved up enough money to last me for a year,but I found work, I found love and ended up staying. The relationship failed 9 years ago ,but before then we had a daughter who is born and raised in London. When she was born the law was different,so even though she has a British father,she had to assume my Swedish nationality as we were not married. So on paper she is Swedish,although she has only visited Sweden once a year and cannot speak the language. Thankfully since last year,a change in the law that I just only found out about when calling immigration last week to enquire about our rights to remain in the UK in the event that Great Britain will leave the EU, will enable her to simply register as a British citizen without me having to pay an extortionate amount for her to go through the whole application process of becoming a British citizen through naturalisation.
But for me, it’s a whole different ballgame. I could apply for naturalisation and for dual citizenship,but apart from it being a very lengthy process,it is also a very costly one. Instead I will opt for applying for a UK residence card, which will help me prove my right to remain in this country as I have indefinite leave to remain after having lived here for over 5 years. But this UK residence card would be a must for me in the event that the British voters vote to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum. Especially when travelling as otherwise it may not be a piece of cake for me to go through the passport controls when returning to the UK, as it is at the moment.
People like Christian Allard, who could make laws in Scotland as an MSP and vote for Scotland’s independence, but cannot vote in this referendum:
When a young 20 year old living in his home town of Dijon in Burgundy, France, decided to travel the world, he never realised that his first stage, Scotland, would be his final destination. I came to Scotland to open an office in Glasgow for a European seafood logistic group in the 80s. I met my wife and moved 20 years ago from Glasgow to the North East of Scotland in Aberdeenshire with our 3 young daughters.
I’m proud to call Scotland my home, it’s a wonderfully welcoming country with such a huge potential. I exported Scottish seafood for many years, promoting the best that we have at home and abroad.
With my experience in the fishing industry, I became involved in my community and in local politics, then I joined the Scottish National Party, where, again, I was warmly welcomed. As someone who was not born here, it is sometimes easier to see the huge opportunities that we have here at our doorstep.
In 1997, I voted for the Scottish Parliament to be, or more accurately to be reconvened after a 300 years interruption. I voted in every Scottish, local and European elections thereafter. In 2011, I decided to demonstrate how modern and inclusive democracy Scotland really is. I put my name forward to become a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the North East of Scotland.
As a Frenchman living in Scotland, to be elected to sit in the Scottish Parliament was very humbling. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of the North East of Scotland as a regional MSP from 2013 to May 2016.
We are living in the 21st century, our world has changed for the better, people are now travelling and setting up across the globe like never before. Our history shows that generations of Scottish people have migrated away from Scotland, this is why it is easier for us to now welcome those who are choosing to live here. It is time to open up our home, our nation, our democracy and allow everyone who lives here to contribute to society.
Let’s remember the words of the late Bashir Ahmed, the Scottish Parliament’s first Muslim MSP who migrated from Pakistan: “It’s not where we came from that’s important, it’s where we’re going together.”
People like those using the #IamanEUmigrant hashtag on Twitter to make their voices heard:
I’m voting Remain not just because I think it’s right, or because it was promised to the people of Scotland who voted in the independence referendum, or even because of the possibility of indyref2: I’m voting because I champion democracy, and don’t like to see it denied to people who deserve to participate. For London Swenglish, Christian, Tanja, Liz, Kris’ wife, Nina, Ellen, Ilona, Pablo, Rick, Ben, Sol, Eva, Ntina, Borghert, Nerea, Alex, Milena, Anne-Grethe, Charlotte, Orjan, Carla, Jennie, Sjoerd, Liesbeth, Samuele, Yanis, Claudia, Fabrizio, David, Miguel, Ann-Marie, Dariusz, Rita, Elin, Heidi, Samuele, Frank, Josefine, Gosia, and all the others who call the United Kingdom their home, yet cannot make this decision with the rest of us.
For all those who desperately want to vote tomorrow, my vote will be for you.