THIS month’s by-election in Shetland will see prisoners get the vote for the first time in Scotland.

The Scottish Government said it had no choice but to extend the franchise to ensure compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

But the Tories were furious, saying it would set a precedent. They accused the SNP of “enabling dangerous criminals to vote in future elections”.

A European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in 2005 said the UK Government’s blanket ban on prisoner voting breached human rights legislation.

Successive UK governments have resisted changing the law, but powers over the franchise for Scottish Parliament elections were devolved in 2017, with Holyrood legally obliged to comply with the ECHR.

The ECHR ruling means that prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or less can vote. It is estimated this will add fewer than five people to the electoral register in Shetland.

MSPs were due to discuss prisoner voting later in the year when they debate the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation).

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said “the courts have been crystal clear”.

“Whether people agree with that or oppose it, one thing everyone should agree on is that elections must be compliant with the law.

“And unlike the UK Government who did not rectify this issue for more than a decade, the Scottish Government is legally obliged under the Scotland Act to comply with the ECHR.”

LibDem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “We think it’s important to build civic responsibility among the prison population. This is a fair and progressive change.”

Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “Although there will be little impact on this particular election, this ill-judged move opens the door for prisoner voting more generally.

“It sets the all-important precedent, and means the SNP will be enabling dangerous criminals to vote in future elections. That’s not what the people of Scotland want to see, and not what prisoners deserve.”

The Shetland by-election, due to be held on August 29, has been triggered by the resignation of LibDem MSP Tavish Scott.