Senior Scottish judges have confirmed their opposition to any moves to give the judiciary powers to decide whether prisoners can be allowed to vote.

MSPs have been considering whether to lift the blanket ban on prisoners’  voting rights to enable those convicted of less serious offences to take part in elections.

One option understood to be under consideration is for judges and sheriffs to decide which prisoners should be entitled to vote at the time of sentencing.

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However in a letter to Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, Lord Carloway says there is a consensus among the judiciary that matters related to prisoners’ voting rights should lie with Parliament

He added: “I understand that the committee wish to explore the possibility of the judge, or sheriff, in a particular case deciding whether a prisoner should lose his right to vote in particular elections and for what period.

“I have consulted the senior judiciary [the High Court judges]. All are opposed to such a course of action.

“There is a major problem of principle with the matter being determined by the court. The development of policy in this area is primarily a matter for parliament, which is best placed, after due democratic consultation, to decide where the boundaries should lie.”

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the past against the UK-wide blanket ban on giving convicted prisoners the vote.

Two prisoners, Leslie Moohan and Andrew Gillon, both serving life sentences for murder, challenged the ban at the time of the independence referendum in 2014, but were turned down by the Supreme Court. 

Gillon was jailed in 1998 for killing a friend in Bathgate, West Lothian. Moohan is serving at least 15 years for murdering another man at a hostel in Edinburgh in 2008.

The issue of prisoners’ voting rights was  reserved to Westminster, however new powers mean Holyrood can decide who votes in Scottish elections.

Lord Carloway’s letter says it is “essential” for parliament to legislate on the issue.