Cayman's Scots excluded from independence vote

They may chose to live in the sunshine, but Cayman’s Scots fear they are being left out in the cold on one of the most important decisions in the country’s history. 

Scottish expatriates in the Cayman Islands are hoping a legal challenge will allow them to vote in a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. 

Scots will go to the polls in September to vote on the move, which would have significant implications economically and culturally for the country.  

However, regulations stipulate that in order to take part in the referendum, voters must be currently resident in Scotland. 

The move effectively excludes all expatriate Scots, including hundreds in Cayman, from the decision. Even Scots living across the border in England are not allowed to vote.  

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Oddly, British citizens and other foreigners living in Scotland at the time of the ballot do get a vote. 

An estimated 1 million Scots live outside their home country. 

A Scottish lawyer, currently resident in England, is bringing a legal action in an effort to force First Minister Alex Salmond to reverse the decision and allow Scots in England and around the world to vote. 

Alasdair Robertson, a Scot who works for Maples and Calder in Cayman and who previously served in the Scottish division of the British army, said he hopes the legal challenge will be successful. 

“I would very much like to be able to vote. I find it ridiculous, as someone whose family has been Scottish for generations and is by quirk of circumstances living overseas, not entitled to vote on the future of Scotland,” he said. 

In a strange twist, his 16-year-old son, who grew up in Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands, will be able to vote because he is currently at school in Scotland. His brother, who was recently transferred by his employer, Aberdeen Asset Management, to the firm’s London office, will not get to vote. 

In any case, Mr. Robertson said he does not support independence for Scotland. 

“My view is that it would be a bad thing. Scotland is a proud nation which has been part of the U.K. since 1707, I can’t see any sense at this point in us going it alone. From a purely financial perspective, it doesn’t make sense.” 

Alastair Paterson, a former Rotary president in Cayman, believes the policy that keeps expats from voting is a deliberate tactic to prevent “no” votes. 

He added, “It would be an unmitigated disaster for Scotland to leave the U.K. The people that are driving this are doing so for their own egos and they are ignoring the facts. 

“I object as a born Scot, whether I live there or not [to] not being given the right to vote in such an important referendum. I feel very strongly that all Scots should get to vote on this.” 

Ross McDonough, head of litigation at Campbells, agreed that all Scots should get a vote.  

“I would like to have voted. I’m not happy that they are restricting it to residents at the moment,” he said. 

David Carmichael, a Scot who was chef de mission for Cayman’s Winter Olympic party, was less bothered about being allowed to vote. 

He said, “It is hard to have an opinion when you choose to live away from home. I have been away for 15 years. It’s kind of wrong to have an opinion on something that doesn’t affect you; it would only affect others.” 

Anyone over the age of 16 living in Scotland – about 80 percent of the 5.2 million population – has the right to vote on Sept. 18 either for independence or to remain part of the United Kingdom alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

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Scots will go to the polls in September to vote in an independence referendum.
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