Victims of abuse ‘afraid to vote’

Women who fear an abusive ex-partner finding them on the voters’ roll could be deterred from voting in the independence referendum, according to an SNP MP.

Women in the rest of the UK can vote anonymously using a court order, meaning their name and address does not appear on the roll which is available to the public at electoral registration offices and libraries.

SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford complained that people in Scotland face a two-tier system because the most common Scottish civil protection orders cannot be used as evidence of abuse under electoral law.

Scots law differs from UK law, meaning interdicts (the Scottish term for injunctions) do not appear on the list of accepted evidence.

In their absence, victims in Scotland must apply to the chief constable of police or chief social work officer who must “attest” that they have been abused.

Concerns have been raised by Scottish Women’s Aid that the added complication could make women less likely to vote, and potentially add to the risk.

Electoral law is reserved to Westminster so Dr Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan, has written to the Scotland Office calling on the UK Government to change the rules before the independence referendum.

“The UK Government has had six years to revise the rules and make sure all women in Scotland feel able to safely vote. There is no excuse for further delays,” she said.

“If the need for protection has been justified to a Scottish court, then surely this is evidence enough to justify anonymous registration.

“Women should not have to go through further scrutiny, recounting their experiences again to another third party. The route to anonymous voting should be straightforward and stress-free. Voting is a right and it is not in the interests of democracy to make it more difficult.”