The Law Society of Scotland has supported steps taken by the Scottish Government to ensure that the Shetland by-election is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Scottish Government has introduced a remedial order which will permit some prisoners to vote for their MSP in the by-election. It follows court cases challenging the ban on prisoner voting, with the European Court of Human Rights finding that the UK was in breach of the ECHR in 2005.

Charles Mullin, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland Constitutional Law Sub- committee, said: “Prisoner voting may be viewed a contentious issue and it certainly invites serious debate, however it is essential that any parliamentary election is lawful.

"The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are legally obliged under the Scotland Act to be ECHR-compliant and since 2017 have been responsible for ensuring that Scottish elections comply with the Convention.

“We support the steps the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that the Shetland by-election is compliant with the ECHR.

“We are currently considering theScottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill which was introduced in the Scottish Parliament in June. This is designed to ensure that future elections are ECHR compliant. It will be important to ensure the postal voting and proxy procedure have the proper mechanisms in place to allow voting in secret, free from intimidation and to manage spoilt ballots.”

The Scottish Government consulted on allowing certain prisoners to vote from December 2018 to March 2019. It introduced the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill on 20 June 2019.

The Law Society of Scotland consultation response is available to read on its website: Prisoner voting

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