Extending the right to stand in elections to all foreign nationals who are permitted to vote could lead to a significant number of costly and disruptive by-elections, the Constitutional Relations Secretary has warned.

Mike Russell said while legislation from the Scottish Government would extend candidacy rights to people from overseas with indefinite leave to remain, there was a “clear risk” in going further than this.

European Union and Commonwealth citizens in Scotland can already take part in Scottish Parliament and local council elections.

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Scottish Government proposals would extend voting and candidacy rights to those from the rest of the world who are living in Scotland, as well as giving some prisoners the right to vote.

Mr Russell said the measures in the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill would give Scotland “one of the most open approaches to voting rights in the world”, making a further 55,000 people eligible to vote.

But he raised concerns following calls from Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee for the legislation to go further.

MSPs on the committee want the Bill to be altered to allow asylum seekers whose application is pending to be added to the voters’ roll, as well as calling for any foreign national who has the right to vote to also be allowed to stand for election.

But Mr Russell said this “does present a clear risk of persons being elected who may lose the right to reside in the country before the end of their term, or even before polling day itself, because although leave to remain can be extended it can also be refused or curtailed”.

He added: “There is a danger, therefore, that we would effectively be building a potentially significant number of unnecessary by-elections into our system, which might be costly and disruptive.”

Mr Russell stressed people who had come to live in Scotland should be able to take part in the country’s election process.

He said: “There is a beneficial effect in ensuring all citizens who have a stake in the future of the country are empowered to exercise their choice about that future.

“If people have chosen to build a life here they should have the right to vote in our elections.”

Scottish Tory MSP Jamie Halcro-Johnston said while the Scottish Government was seeking to extend the right to vote, “few countries around the world allow for such a wide franchise”.

He said in “most other nations” the ability to vote was “quite reasonably” linked to citizenship in one form or another.

“In others, foreign nationals are able to vote but with the requirement that a minimum period of residence in the country has been fulfilled,” he said.

He added: “While the current system is perhaps not perfect, the Bill will extend voting rights to relatively temporary residents.”

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But Labour’s Alex Rowley said it “addresses a long-standing democratic deficit whereby long-term residents in Scotland do not have a say on the areas that matter to them”.

On prisoner voting, the Bill will permit criminals serving a sentence of 12 months of less to vote – with the change being necessary to ensure Scotland complies with European human rights laws.

Inmates would not be allowed out of jail to vote, instead being able to either have a postal ballot or vote by proxy.