Today’s Scottish election is a milestone moment for refugee rights in Scotland. The election is the first in which people with refugee status are eligible to vote, and falls in the 70th anniversary year of the UN Refugee Convention.

A bill granting the right to vote for people with refugee status was passed in the Scottish Parliament in February 2020.

This is a real moment of celebration for everybody involved in the campaign, most importantly for New Scots who will be casting their vote in Scotland for the first time.

Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council said: “The right to vote is a basic human right in a democracy, and is a key part of being a full and valued member of a community.

“This election is a truly historic moment for refugee communities which have experienced long periods of disenfranchisement. No matter the outcome of the election, we ought to pause to celebrate this milestone moment and mark the progress it represents.

“It is also fantastic that the leaders of Scotland’s larger parties have all pledged to stand up for refugee rights. Strong and consistent political leadership plays a crucially important part in creating a more welcoming environment for refugees to rebuild their lives and make contributions to their new homes.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and begin to collectively rebuild, we ask the Scottish Parliament to bring hope, dignity and a firm commitment to the rights and wellbeing of New Scots, and everyone in Scotland, over the next five years.”

For some New Scots who have left oppressive governments and terror, this election is the first time they have been able to participate in a free and fair election.

In Zoom sessions ahead of the election, people said:

“As you know most of us came from non-democratic countries where the elections are a sham, so it’s going to be a good experience and good feeling to know that your vote matters.”

At a time when refugee rights are under threat in the UK, voting rights in Scotland offers people hope and pride:

“I am proud of myself. More than ever during the last few years! I feel confident more than ever before that Scotland has accepted me as a citizen who can influence its future plans.”

We worked with Maryhill Integration Network, VOICES Network and Saheliya to make the below video on voting rights:


Unfortunately, the right to vote was not extended to people with asylum seeker status. The campaign to extend this basic democratic right to people seeking protection in Scotland is ongoing.

All five of the leaders of Scotland’s larger political parties signed Scottish Refugee Council’s Welcome Pledge, promising to use their parliamentary term to make Scotland a safe and welcoming place for people seeking protection.

Our response to the parties’ manifestos can be found here

Laura Delaney
Author: Laura Delaney