SNP ministers have published plans to give some prisoners the vote as part of a £1m reform of the electoral system.

The Scottish Electoral (Franchise and Representation) Bill establishes the principle of prisoner voting to comply with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

However it is expected to have little impact in practice, as it will only apply to those given jail sentences of 12 months or less, and these are effectively being phased out.

The Bill also gives a vote in Scottish Parliament and council elections to around 55,000 non-EU and non-Commonwealth citizens who are currently excluded.

Because the legislation changes the franchise, it will have to be passed by a two-thirds super-majority of MSPs to become law.

The ECHR ruled in 2005 that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoner voting was a breach of human rights.

Following a 2018 consultation, the Bill aims to address that by giving the vote to all prisoners, including those in young offenders institutions, on sentences of less than a year.

There are around 1000 such prisoners on any given day at the moment, one in eight of Scotland’s prison population, but that is due to change dramatically in the coming months.

There is already a presumption in Scotland against custodial sentences of less than three months, and SNP ministers are now in the process of extending it to 12 months.

Minister for Parliamentary Business Graeme Dey said: “We have decided not to extend voting rights to all prisoners. We are confident that restricting prisoner voting to those serving sentences or less than 12 months means we can comply with the Court’s ruling.

“This measure will also support rehabilitation and reintegration back into society in order to reduce reoffending.”

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The Scottish Prison Service said it did not expect there to be any extra cost from the change.

Prisoners would be allowed to vote based on their home address, and only at their prison's address "as a last resort".

Mr Dey added: “Scotland has already led the way by lowering the voting age to 16, and we are building on this progress by extending the right to vote to everyone legally resident here.

“Extending voting rights to all citizens with a legal right to residency demonstrates Scotland’s commitment to equally value everyone who chooses to make our country their home, and is a demonstration of the kind of Scotland we are seeking to build.

“It is only fair that foreign nationals with the permanent right to live here, whether from EU countries or elsewhere, have the right to vote and stand as candidates in devolved elections.

“This is backed by the public consultation we undertook in 2018 which found 92 per cent of organisations and 78% of individuals supported this reform.”

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In its policy memorandum, the Scottish Government admitted the number of prisoners being enfranchised could be very small, given changes to short sentences.

It said: “Clearly, a reduction in the number of prisoners serving sentences under 12 months in duration will be likely to reduce the number of persons enfranchised by the reform.

“But there is no fundamental contradiction between the concept of granting prisoners on short sentences a right to vote and a reduction in the number of prisoners who receive short sentences.

“The Government’s policy on prisoner voting is not to seek to enfranchise a specific number of prisoners.

“It is instead driven by the desire... to strike an appropriate balance between promotion of the rule of law and responsible citizenship, as well as the wider objectives of the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in order to reduce reoffending.”

LibDem MSP Liam McArthur welcomed the U-turn on prisoner voting, which ministers had previously resisted.

He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats have led the campaign for change within Scotland and I hope that the rest of the UK will now follow.

“The current blanket ban flouts international law and no other developed European democracy does it. It isn't fair, progressive or in the interests of rehabilitation. We know that to reduce reoffending we need to make people more aware of their responsibilities as citizens, instead of alienating them.”

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Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Last year Parliament passed a Green amendment calling for refugees and asylum seekers to be given the right to vote, as part of wider reforms we’ve called for to ensure that everyone who lives in Scotland, everyone who is part of our communities, has a say in who represents them.

"This measure will make everybody feel welcomed and valued and I’m pleased that the Scottish Government have made this move.”