ASYLUM seekers in Scotland should not be excluded from voting by administrative complexities they often experience, the Scottish Greens have said.

The Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill already makes provision to give the vote to people who are granted refugee status, as well as citizens of all countries who are legally resident in Scotland.

The Greens lodged an amendment to the bill to ensure refugees who have had their application to enter or remain in the UK recorded would be deemed as qualifying foreign nationals, allowing them to cast a vote, stand in elections and hold office.

However, Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell told MSPs such a change would be “complicated”, with immigration being reserved to Westminster, and major obstacles to the proposals could not be “wished away”.

He told Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee that concerns had been raised by electoral registration officers, who did not want to hold “immigration-style hearings”.

There also were concerns that people could lose confidence in the “integrity” of the register if it contained people who had left Scotland or who have lost their claim to remain in the country.

On extending the franchise, 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) ... We cannot do everything in a devolved Parliament and that is the issue.”

However, Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who had put forward the amendment, said: “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.

He added: “At a time when Brexit xenophobia has a grip of the UK narrative, it’s important that Scotland doesn’t just welcome people fleeing terror, we also empower them to make a positive contribution to the future of their new home.

“Our democracy must be representative of the people who live here and make Scotland what it is. We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns. It would be very poor if we denied asylum seekers the right to vote because of an administrative reluctance to add them to electoral registers. They are lawfully resident in Scotland and they have legal identification documents and registered addresses.”

Lorna Gledhill, policy officer for the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Granting voting rights to all New Scots – inclusive of people seeking asylum – best reflects Scotland’s reputation for being a welcoming, inclusive country where everyone should be treated equally, no matter where they are from.”