This article appeared in the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine
At first I wasn’t all that bothered. When it was decreed back in 2012 that anyone living in Scotland would be allowed to vote in this month’s referendum on independence from the rest of Britain – and that Scots living outside of Scotland would not – the whole business seemed a tad unreal. On a pragmatic level, it gave me an excuse (being in the latter camp) not to have to muster an opinion whenever anyone in Hong Kong picked up on my accent. Don’t ask me, mate; my opinion doesn’t count.
It should count, though. I can’t think of any ballot in my voting lifespan where my vote made a fart of a difference to anything much. But this time it’s different. Not only does it look like being a close-run thing, there’s actually quite a lot at stake – like, you know, possibly disbanding a 307-year-old nation state. It feels a bit like the family are squabbling over whether to sell up the ancestral home, but in the meantime they’ve thrown out all your stuff and sent the dog to live in kennels. Or something.
Ex-pats can vote in normal elections in the UK for 15 years after they leave. Including the 800,000 Scots living in parts of the UK other than Scotland, however, in this instance some 1.15 million people have been wiped off the franchise.
The suspicion among many ex-pats is that the Scottish nationalists have engineered it this way because they think we’d all vote “no”. Well, maybe. But the reality is that Scots have always gone abroad, and will continue to do so even after independence. Many of them go back. Right now, they’re being made to feel a bit less welcome.