Thursday, 4 October 2012

Currently Without Country!

Nationalism is now a meme, I've been following the debate about Scottish independence (#indyref) on Twitter because I live abroad.

It may have seemed unimportant!
When I started to follow the independence movement, I felt this was about the Scottish people. A race of people who need a homeland. But, as I'm not getting to vote on my nationality, I have started to ask what will happen to me and the Scots who live and work abroad like I do.

Is it a Mandate from the Scottish People?

It seems undemocratic to me that I'm unable to vote while I'm abroad. How has this happened and why is it OK?

The right to vote is based on verification of residency. If you are registered to vote in a the local elections (because you live in Scotland), you can vote in the referendum, regardless of birthplace.

What Happens Next?

If the local people vote "yes," Scotland will be created. The people who are entitled to be Scottish will then be defined by citizenship laws, which need to be written.

I say I'm Scottish because I was born there, but this referendum has made me question that. Ironically, I won't be excluded from other British referendums while I am abroad. I would be given an opportunity to vote in 3 different ways.

It seems that my nationality will be defined for me without my consent and my right to live and work in my country of birth won't be clear until these decisions are made by others.

I don't know whether I will be able to be Scottish, or if the residency rules will be applied because they are easy to administer and I won't be Scottish.

People already believe I'm a foreigner, because I talk funny, but this will affect my life as much, if not more, than the people who live there.

How Does This Affect People on International Assignments?

The visa system governs your right to live and work in a country and it is based on the immigration laws of the country (amended by treaties signed with other countries and international bodies). Does Scotland have immigration law on which to base treaties?

Currently the citizens of EU members have the right to freely move within the EU. Non-EU or non-EEC members require visas. Britain has limited integration with the EU and Scotland's membership is still not clear. Will the English and other ethnic groups resident in Scotland now require a visa? What will happen to the American and Chinese oil workers now working on intra-company transfers valid for the UK? What happens to Scottish-owned companies abroad who operate their foreign subsidiary under UK treaties?

Will Scotland adopt the UK points system for immigration; a system that has inbuilt bias against developing countries? Will Scotland apply for dual nationality for its citizens with other countries? Without consulates or established diplomatic relationships it will be difficult for it to lobby other governments for its citizens and for Scottish companies trading in foreign countries. 

If you are working abroad and you have a baby, the rules for conferring citizenship on your child aren't yet written and in the past have been associated with men only. If you are a Scottish women on an international marriage your children may not get the right to be Scottish and if you choose not to become British, they may not get UK citizenship either. 

What Type of Nationalism?

If Scotland won't recognise the diaspora in an referendum on nationality, how concerned should I be that I can end up without a country? How hurt should I feel about this rejection? Many people leave their homelands because of hostile political systems and want to retain connections or return. In Scotland, I felt the call for independence was based in nationalism, but because I'm not included, I wonder what it is all about? Is this a land grab?

What are the Benefits of Recognising the Diaspora?

I like the American way of recognising heritage. I know that the Brits find this annoying and feel that it is a false sentiment. It is dangerous to think and act like this and it will cause long-term international problems.

Emigrants and global workers remain connected to their homelands in many ways. China has a huge emigrant population that sends money home. Scotland will need foreign direct investment as a country and the most likely people to do this are the diaspora.

Scotland has an opportunity to define itself as an open, inclusive nation and learn from the mistakes of other nations. It's a time for statesmanship and new approaches to recognizing the diaspora. If you don't take this opportunity now it could take another 300 years to get another chance.

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