Conservatives hit out at rule allowing nearly 600 prisoners to vote in local elections

Some 578 convicted prisoners will be able to vote in the local government elections on May 5, the Scottish Prison Service confirmed, as they meet the criteria by serving sentences of 12 months or less

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The Scottish Conservatives have called for prisoners to be prevented from casting a vote in elections in order to “respect the experiences of victims”.

Some 578 convicted prisoners will be able to vote in the local government elections on May 5, the Scottish Prison Service confirmed, as they meet the criteria by serving sentences of 12 months or less.

But the Tories branded this as “deplorable and disrespectful”, saying that sentences of a year or less can be given to people convicted of attempted murder and sexual assault.

HMP Low Moss prison near Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire. The Scottish Conservatives have called for prisoners to be prevented from casting a vote in elections in order to "respect the experiences of victims".
HMP Low Moss prison near Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire. The Scottish Conservatives have called for prisoners to be prevented from casting a vote in elections in order to "respect the experiences of victims".

Criminal Proceedings in Scotland data for 2019-20 – the latest data available – confirmed 81 people were sentenced to 12 months or less for attempted murder or serious assault, while 24 received a sentence of 12 months or less for sexual assault.

The party’s community safety spokesman suggested people in Scotland would be “appalled” by the rule allowing ballots to be cast and referred to the country’s justice system as “soft touch”.

Conservative MSP Russell Findlay
Conservative MSP Russell Findlay

Russell Findlay said: “Crime victims and many law-abiding Scots will be shocked and appalled at almost 600 prisoners being given a vote by the SNP.

“These offenders are behind bars for good reasons, often having inflicted serious harm on vulnerable people in communities across Scotland.

“A prison sentence is a serious matter. Those who have committed offences worthy of having their liberty restricted by the state should be denied the right to vote while inside.”

Mr Findlay went on: “Only in the SNP’s soft-touch justice system would it be deemed sensible to give prisoners a say in the running of local councils at next month’s election and at the Scottish Parliament election in 2026.

“It is deplorable and disrespectful to victims. That’s why the Scottish Conservatives would ban all convicted prisoners who are still serving a sentence from voting.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The extension of voting rights to some prisoners was introduced to comply with a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that a blanket ban on prisoner voting breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Under the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Act, which was passed with a two thirds majority in February 2020, the franchise was extended to those serving a custodial sentence of 12 months or less.”