Independence for Scotland? Indians will have a say

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Sep 12, 2014 18:39 IST

Indian citizens working and living in Scotland will have as much say as any Scot on the question of independence during the referendum on 18 September, thanks to a legacy of the British empire that gives voting rights to Commonwealth citizens resident here.

The ‘Indian’ component of Scotland’s population, according to the 2011 Census, is small: 32,700 out of a population of 4.4 million. This component comprises earlier Indian immigrants who now have UK citizenship and newly-arrived Indian professionals, their families and students.

In fact, between the 2001 and 2011 census, there has been a 117% increase in the number of people categorised as ‘Indian’. The Indian high commission has a busy consulate in Edinburgh.

Many Indian citizens are among the 4,285,323 people who have registered to vote on 18 September.

While newly-arrived Indian immigrants are overwhelmingly opposed to independence, there are many among the older, settled Indian-origin Scots who support independence - for them, it will be another ‘partition’ of sorts, having moved to Scotland after British India’s partition in 1947.

Glasgow-based Ravindra Veeramalla, an IT professional who arrived here in 2007 from Hyderabad, told HT that most people in the Indian community will vote in the referendum – and most of them will vote ‘No’ to independence.

“When we came here for jobs or business, we came to the UK, not to Scotland. It is the UK economy, pound that attracted us here. We took out mortgages, bought houses and have jobs, but there is lot of uncertainty if the vote goes the other way”, he said.

There is some resentment that about 1 million Commonwealth citizens resident here having the right to vote in UK elections. An analysis by campaign group Migration Watch suggests that their vote will be critical in many constituencies during the May 2015 general elections.

Responding to calls that Commonwealth citizens should not be allowed to vote, a Cabinet Office statement said: “The right to vote in UK elections for Commonwealth citizens who live here reflects our close historical ties with Commonwealth countries”.

It added: “Excluding Commonwealth citizens would be a significant step and would require careful consideration. Parliament has previously taken the view that these rights should not be changed.”

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