A MOVE to give refugees and asylum seekers the right to vote and stand in elections in Scotland has been put forward by the Scottish Greens.

But MSPs were told such a change would be "complicated", as immigration is a reserved matter for the UK Government.

Major obstacles to the Greens' proposed electoral reforms cannot be "wished away", Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell added.

Speaking at Holyrood's Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on Thursday, Russell outlined the concerns raised by electoral registration officers.

He said UK immigration rules say asylum registration cards are not a form of ID, therefore there would be difficulties around identifying refugees as they would have no acceptable form of ID.

Secondly, he said, there is an issue of residence, with registration officers not knowing how long a person will be resident at the address where they are seeking to register.

Russell also explained registration officers do not want to hold "immigration-style hearings", while there are also concerns that the public could lose confidence in the "integrity" of the register if it contains people who have left Scotland or who have lost their claim to remain in the country.

He said including legally resident foreign nationals as planned in the Scottish Elections Bill is a "really big step", and officials believe that would need to be bedded in before looking at extending the right to vote further.

Speaking about extending the franchise to refugees and asylum seekers, Russell said: "I've indicated repeatedly I'm not unsympathetic to the idea, in fact I'm very sympathetic to the idea.

"But I have to say, you cannot wish away somebody else's immigration rules and systems, you have to actually remove them legally.

"And the major obstacle to this is that the immigration rules and systems are not set by ourselves (the Scottish Government).

"If they were set by ourselves, then I would be very happy to see those changed and adapted to see if we could do this, but they are not set by ourselves.

"We cannot do everything in a devolved Parliament and that is the issue.

"This cannot be done easily or even without enormous complications and difficulties for electoral registration offices."

Under the Bill, the franchise will be extended to citizens of all countries who are legally resident in Scotland.

A Scottish Greens amendment was lodged in a bid to ensure refugees who have had their application to enter or remain in the UK recorded would be deemed as qualifying foreign nationals.

It would allow them to cast a vote, stand in elections and hold office.

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who had put forward the amendment, said: "We're talking about administrative reasons why asylum seekers cannot be enfranchised.

"Are we really going to let paperwork hold up the rights of the citizens in Scotland?

"That's what we're down to. This isn't about immigration status, this isn't about devolved and reserved powers or wider questions over the constitution.

"This is about paperwork, it's about administration. I'm not going to let paperwork stand in the way of the rights of citizens who are part of my community."

Ahead of the committee meeting, a Scottish Government spokeswoman outlined some of the practical concerns raised by electoral registration officers in extending the franchise to those with a pending asylum claim.

She said: "The Bill, as introduced, enables foreign nationals to vote for the first time, giving them a voice on matters which affect them.

"The Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill already makes provision to give the vote to all those granted refugee status.

"We have examined proposals to expand the franchise for those with a pending asylum claim but electoral registration officers have highlighted practical concerns over obtaining residency information and in ensuring that those whose claim is refused, or who leave Scotland, can be removed from the electoral register."