How to Vote in Scotland as a European Citizen

Public Entrance at the Scottish Complex, Edinburgh. Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament. Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

The next Scottish parliament election is on 6 May 2021 – and the good news is: If you are a European citizen living in Scotland, you can vote as well! Unlike UK parliament elections, you can participate in regional ones. Continue reading to find out how to vote in Scotland as a EU citizen.

Can I vote after Brexit as a European Citizen?

On 20 February 2020, the Scottish government extended the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections. This means, that all those who live in Scotland with leave to remain, can still participate in Scottish elections after Brexit. You are allowed to vote if you have settled, pre-settled or refugee status. Other than that, you have to be 16 or over to vote in the Scottish parliament election.

How to Register to Vote

The first thing you need to do is register to vote. Once you have moved to Scotland and have a permanent address, you will receive a letter from the Joint Valuation Board. The letter will tell you to register online or to send the letter back with your details.

You might not receive the letter straight away. For example, if you are a student and don’t pay council tax, then the valuation board might not be aware of your address. You can simply use the same link to register online or to contact your council’s board.

It’s important that you register to vote by 19 April 2021 to be able to attend the next Scottish parliament election on 6 May 2021.

How to Vote on Election Day

Before the Election Day, you will receive a poll card telling you to which polling station you have to go. If you don’t receive that, you can easily find yours by doing a quick Google search for your council area and where your polling place is.

On the actual election day, you don’t need to bring your poll card, ID, or proof of address. The staff at the polling station will simply ask you for your name and address, and then they’ll give you a ballot paper.

On the ballot, you’ll have to elect your constituency MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) on the lilac paper, and your regional MSP on the peach paper. You can find more information on who you are can vote for on this Scottish parliament website

How to Vote by Post

Given the current Coronavirus situation, you might not want to vote in person on election day but by post. If you have already registered to vote a while ago, then you should have received a letter confirming your address and eventually sending you an application form for the postal vote. If you haven’t received such letter yet, you can download the form on this UK government website.

The deadline for applying for the postal vote for the Scottish parliament election 2021 is 5pm on 6 April. If you miss that deadline, you can still vote in person as long as you register to vote by 19 April.

Who should I vote for?

Well, this is all up to yourself. Currently, there are seven different parties in the Scottish parliament, that are represented by a total of 129 MSPs. One of them doesn’t have a party affiliation. So it’s really seven parties and one independent MSP in the parliament as of now.

If you want to get a feel for which party you should vote for, it’s probably a good time to follow some of the general online newspapers such as The Guardian or The Independent but also your local news. On this page you find more information on all the MSP’s that are currently in the parliament. Since you have to vote for a local MSP as well, you can filter the results by your postcode and gather more information about the MSP’s for your area. Once you start following news about them, you get a better idea of whom you should vote for.

We’ll work on an article summarising all the different Scottish parties, to give you a better overview on what they stand for and what their party programme is. Until then, you can start following local news and register to vote.


European Citizens – Differences between Settled and Pre-Settled Status

Are you a European citizen and living in Scotland or other parts of the UK? If you moved here before 31 December 2020, and want to live here permanently, then you should apply for settlement status. You can do so until 30 June 2021, but it’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible because it can take quite a while.

If you’ve already been through the whole process, you might ask yourself how each settlement status might affect you. At first, they both seem to be quite similar, but there are a few differences

and you should be aware of them. In this article, you’ll find an overview on both statuses and how they affect your rights as a European citizen living in the UK.

What is Settled Status?

If you have been a continuous European resident in the UK for five years or longer, you have the right to apply for settled status. With that, you have “Indefinite Leave to Remain” and don’t have to re-apply for your status anymore. You have the same rights to live, work, healthcare and welfare benefits as a UK citizen.

There are some differences to the actual British citizenship though. You can only leave the UK for a maximum of five years (four, if you are Swiss). You also can’t get British citizenship for your children if they’re born outside the UK. And you don’t get the blue British passport. But to be fair, we probably all don’t want to get stuck in the international queue when we visit our relatives in Continental Europe.

One of the more inconvenient disadvantages of settled status compared to citizenship is that you can’t participate in general elections. However, you can still vote in the regional ones.

What is Pre-Settled Status?

If you’ve lived in the UK for less than five years, you get pre-settled status. That is the theory. In reality, there are quite a few examples of Europeans who lived in the UK for more than five years and are still struggling to get settled status.

One of the most prominent examples is Damian Wawrzyniak. He is a Polish chef who lived in the UK for 15 years and is probably the best European Citizen flagship the home office had to deal with. He had no gaps in his employment, and even cooked for the royal family. However,  his application for settled status was rejected.  

The good news is: Damian appealed and received settled status in the end. If you lived in the UK for more than five years and only received pre-settled status as well, you should double check if this correct. Find more information on how to appeal your pre-settled status.  

How does Pre-Settled Status Affect My Rights?

At first, pre-settled status doesn’t seem to be too different from settled status. You have the same rights to live and healthcare as someone with settled status. Unfortunately, the situation changes when it comes to welfare benefits.

For example, if you lose your job, then you have to show your “right to reside” under the EEA regulations. The irony is, that you can only show your “right to reside” when you have a job. Citizens Advice offers help on how to prove you have a right to reside if you don’t have the right evidence.

Another important aspect of pre-settled status is that you can’t leave the UK for longer than six months within a year. If you do that, your period of “continues residency” resets to zero. If you leave the UK for two years, you will lose your status completely. So if you ever consider a long trip abroad, make sure that you return to the UK in time. Especially during the Covid-19 crisis you should be careful that you don’t lock yourself out of the country in case the borders shut again. Otherwise, you have to start from the bottom again before you can apply for settled status.

See the diagram below from the the3million who summarised the main differences between the statuses.

How do I Move to Settled Status?

You can only apply for settled status after you have been a continuous resident in the UK for five years. Once you reached the time threshold, you have to renew your status and proof your residency period. You can already do that before your status expires. The expiration date on your home office letter is usually the date five years after you have applied. For example, if you moved to the UK in 2018, and applied for pre-settlement status in 2019, then your status will be valid until 2024. That means, you can already apply for settled status in 2023.

Useful links with more information on European Citizens’ Rights:

Long Live The Kale

Long Live The Kale: After the first frost, Northern Germans celebrate the kale with a long walk and a festive meal

When the cool winter wind is blowing around your nose, and the temperatures drop towards freezing point, it’s time for most cultures to spend time in their cozy living rooms.

Well, not exactly so in the Northern part of Germany. The inhabitants of the flat regions above the Harzer highlands get very excited once the kale season starts. In theory, you can grow kale throughout the whole year. However, it can taste very bitter during the summer months. The first frost ensures that the bitter components of kale disappear so that the green leaves are more delicious. Then, it’s time to pack the Bollerwagen and walk through the snowy countryside to celebrate this event.

A Bollerwagen is a wooden vehicle that is particularly popular among fathers and those who eventually want to become one. On Ascension Day, the self-declared Father’s Day in Germany, the male species fill their Bollerwagen with plenty of beer and walks through the fields, bawling songs that you can hear from afar.

The Bollerwagen is also the perfect vehicle to pull the annual Christmas tree behind you, or to go on trips with kindergarden kids. Or to march through the fields at minus 3 degrees to celebrate the cabbage.

Between November and February, there is such a thing called the cabbage walk in Germany. The concept is very simple: You meet up with your friends to walk to an Inn that serves kale. In order to make the walk entertaining, Northern Germans often play Boßeln, a sort of street bowling. The aim of the game is to throw a metal ball over a specified distance with as few throws as possible.

Once the group reaches the inn, it’s time for the traditional Grühnkohlessen. The meal consists of kale, Pinkel (a smooked sausage), and potatoes. As simple as that. The food itself may take a while to get used to, as it’s not the most aesthetic looking dish. But as soon as you get past the sight, it tastes delicious. Especially after walking in the cold for hours. The person who manages to eat the most, is the cabbage king. The traditional cabbage meal also involves a lot of dark beer. The event usually ends up with lots of drunk Germans and can be quite a wild celebration.

The cabbage walk would be a great thing to introduce to the Scottish culture – especially for the looks of other people when you play street bowling. If you mention that you will soon be coronating a cabbage king, Scots will probably not take you seriously anymore. But particularly the relatively hilly roads and the lack of a Bollerwagen, wouldn’t make the cabbage walk feel the same. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t have the dish by itself.

Kale is very healthy and nutritious – and is a seasonal product that doesn’t need to be imported from other countries. It might take some work to convince the Scottish folk to have kale by itself, but there are plenty of recipes out there that make the cabbage tasty and less…kaleish. The original Pinkel sausage might be harder to find here but have a look at an Eastern European shop as they usually have a good choice of Continental sausages.

Here are the two recipes for the traditional way to prepare kale:

German recipe:

English recipe: