Glen­coe woman is barred from ref­er­en­dum vote

The Oban Times - - The Oban Times & West Highland Times - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

A COM­MU­NITY coun­cil­lor who has lived in Glen­coe for half a cen­tury says she is be­ing treated like an alien af­ter find­ing out she is in­el­i­gi­ble to vote on Scot­land’s fu­ture.

Vic­to­ria Suther­land, 72, has a Scot­tish mother and has lived in Glen­coe for 50 years. There, she and her hus­band, Alis­ter, a Scot­tish lawyer and the cur­rent com­mu­nity coun­cil chair­man, brought up three chil­dren as Bri­tish ci­ti­zens, and run a busi­ness, Glen­coe Cot­tages, rent­ing hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion to tourists.

But when only her hus­band’s vot­ing card ar­rived in the post two months ago, Mrs Suther­land was shocked to dis­cover she could not vote in the up­com­ing EU ref­er­en­dum on June 23, be­cause, she said, she is an EU cit­i­zen domi­ciled in Bri­tain.

Ci­ti­zens from EU coun­tries – apart from Ire­land, Malta and Cyprus – will not get a vote. Mrs Suther­land told The Oban

Times: ‘I can’t reg­is­ter. I’m be­ing treated like an alien.’

The Glen­coe and Glen Etive com­mu­nity coun­cil­lor said: ‘I have a Danish fa­ther and a Danish pass­port.

‘I’m a pa­tri­otic Dane, and a Scot, too – I have a Scot­tish mother and a proud Scot­tish an­ces­try. I don’t want to give up my Danish cit­i­zen­ship: the Danes are as keen on their na­tion as the Scots are.

‘Since Septem­ber 21, I have been able to ap­ply for dual na­tion­al­ity, but I didn’t think it was nec­es­sary. I was al­lowed to vote in Scot­land’s in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, so I au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumed I’d be able to vote in the EU ref­er­en­dum.’

She is also able to vote in lo­cal gov­ern­ment and Scot­tish Par­lia­ment elec­tions, she said.

Com­mon­wealth ci­ti­zens from 54 states, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Canada, In­dia, Pak­istan, Nige­ria and Gi­bral­tar, who live in the UK are el­i­gi­ble to vote.

‘It’s in­iq­ui­tous,’ Mrs Suther­land added. ‘It’s very ran­dom: it seems to de­pend on what they had for break­fast.

‘No­body’s pointed out how crazy it is. My Aus­tralian daugh­ter-in-law can vote, but I can’t. Why can she? She has no eco­nomic in­ter­est. It’s not go­ing to af­fect her fu­ture.’

Mrs Suther­land’s hus­band said a vote to leave the Euro­pean Union would cause their tourism busi­ness, and oth­ers in Lochaber, to suffer.

He said: ‘A third of our cus­tomers and 100 per cent of our staff come from the con­ti­nent. We can’t get peo­ple from the West High­lands to do this job, as much as we’d like to.’

Mrs Suther­land added: ‘ The tourist industry would be dec­i­mated if they had to go back, or it was made very dif­fi­cult to stay.’

Ian Black­ford, SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said: ‘It is daft that peo­ple like Mrs Suther­land, who live and work here, who make a full con­tri­bu­tion and who is al­lowed to vote in Scot­tish elec­tions, is not al­lowed to have a say, like the rest of us, on the fu­ture of the Euro­pean Union.’

Disen­fran­chised – Vic­to­ria Suther­land has lived in Glen­coe with her hus­band Alis­ter for 50 years.

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