Thursday, June 13, 2024

This is an ARCHIVED article at Information and links may well be out of date.

More stories have appeared in the UK and international media about the "fury" of Scots armed forces personnel who are unable to vote in the historic referendum.

Complaining that "Only those who still have an address in Scotland will be able to take part, affecting troops stationed in England, Cyprus and Germany", a Daily Mail story did concede that forces personnel could "in theory" register at an address where they would be living were they not in the forces, or at a previous address.

report in the New Zealand Herald also mentioned that point.

But other media failed to make it clear that the address in Scotland did not necessarily have to be the address where the voter is living at present.

In fact, the latest version of the service voter registration form (available via this link) now makes it clear that if you cannot supply a current address in the constituency where you wish to register, a service voter can quote an address where they previously lived. For example, you could give the address from where you first joined the forces, even if your parents are no longer at that address.

So although the law on this point has not changed, the latest service voter registration form is an improvement on previous versions for the 2005 and 2010 General Elections.

A fuller explanation of this point was given in a Defence Instruction Notice (DIN) issued by the MoD last December.

The relevant bit of the DIN is quoted at the bottom of this article, or follow this link for the full document:

'Westminster propaganda war to encourage armed forces to vote'?

Now for a concern raised from the "other side" of the referendum debate.

The Herald mentioned the DIN in an earlier story headlined "Westminster propaganda war to encourage armed forces to vote No". The story was mainly about pro-UK information material distributed to government servants, but it mentioned the DIN, and action by Army staff to remind personnel about the referendum.

A glance at the DIN will show that it was certainly not propaganda, nor did it instruct service personnel how they should vote in the Referendum.

Although not directly consulted via a Service Voter Working Group in the way we were prior to the 2010 General Election, BAFF was happy with the DIN's guidance, produced in consultation with the Electoral Commission, and we were therefore happy to make the DIN available on this website.

Back in May 2013 the Scottish Parliament's Referendum Bill Committee, after hearing evidence from Nicola Sturgeon MSP and representatives of the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner's Office, reported that:

"... The Committee is content with the proposed franchise, as provided for in the Bill, in respect of service personnel. What matters now is that there is effective joint working between the Electoral Commission, EROs and the Ministry of Defence in order to provide information to these personnel about the registration options open to them."

That is precisely what the DIN was intended to achieve. The provision of such information is exactly what some of us campaigned for in the 2005 Service Voting Campaign and Silence in the Ranks.

BAFF remains vigilant and there are still problems (not peculiar to the Referendum) with electoral participation by armed forces personnel, especially for those who for one reason or another are unable to appoint a proxy voter to cast their vote on their behalf.

Any service personnel having last-minute problems about voting in the Scottish Independence Referendum are invited to contact BAFF (British Armed Forces Federation) immediately using the site contact form.


From 2013DIN01-242 Scottish Independence Referendum - Guidance for Service personnel

"14. The current rules require a Service voter who is residing at an address in the United Kingdom to give that address on their Service voter declaration (including Service Families Accommodation or Single Living Accommodation (SFA/SLA). In some cases, a Service voter may be able to establish residency at more than one address in the United Kingdom. This situation could arise, for example, if they are stationed and living in barracks in England, Wales or Northern Ireland but have their main family home in Scotland. In these circumstances they could choose to give their address in Scotland on their declaration.

15. If a Service voter is serving overseas they must complete their Service declaration using an address where they would have been living in the United Kingdom but for their Service obligations. This might be the address where they live at when their unit is in the United Kingdom. If a person cannot give an address in the United Kingdom where they are living, or where they would have been living but for their Service obligations, then they may give an address where they have previously lived.

"16. Whether a Service voter can establish residence in Scotland will depend on their individual circumstances and it is for the Electoral Registration Officer to determine whether or not someone is entitled to be registered. Anyone who has any doubts about whether or not they are entitled to be registered should contact their local Electoral Registration Officer for further advice. Contact details for Electoral Registration Officers are available at"