Some of the voting arrangements for the referendum are unique. The voting is restricted to people living in Scotland, which means the large number of Scots living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or abroad, will not have a say on the issue of independence.
Similarly, people resident in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may have strong views on the issue, but they cannot influence whether a significant constituent that has been part of their country for 307 years should or should not secede. Another unique aspect is that due to a long-observed legacy of the British empire, citizens of Commonwealth countries with valid leave to remain and living in Scotland are entitled to vote.
India is among Commonwealth countries who do not allow foreign citizens to vote in domestic elections, but thousands of Indian citizens (not long-settled British citizens of Indian origin) will vote on Thursday. Citizens of Ireland and other EU countries resident in Scotland will also be eligible to vote. ‘Indian’ is one of the major categories in UK census exercises. This category comprises three kinds of ‘Indians’: earlier, settled immigrants who may have acquired UK citizenship who declare themselves to be of Indian origin; those who have retained their
Indian citizenship while holding permanent residency status; and recently arrived Indian citizens such as students and professionals taking up jobs in IT, banking medicine, and their families. ‘Indian’ component of Scotland’s population, according to 2011 Census, is small: 32,700 out of a population of 4.4 million. There is resentment that Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK have the right to vote in local, national and EU elections.
An analysis by campaign group Migration Watch suggests their vote will be critical in many constituencies during the 2015 general polls. 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 reflects our close historical ties”.