Boundary plans are ‘profoundly anti-democratic’

The Boundary Commission for Scotland has published proposed changes to constituencies across the country.
The Boundary Commission for Scotland has published proposed changes to constituencies across the country.

Argyll and Bute MP, Brendan O’Hara, has criticised proposals from the Boundary Commission for Scotland which would see Scotland’s representation at Westminster reduced from 59 to 53 seats, describing the plans as “profoundly anti-democratic”.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland has published its initial proposals for a new map of UK Parliamentary constituencies in Scotland. Part of its 2018 review, the publication marks the start of a 12-week public consultation on the proposals which will run until Wednesday, January 11, 2017.

The UK Parliament has decided to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600.

Under the new proposals, Argyll and Bute, Highland and Moray council areas will contain four constituencies instead of five. Mr O’Hara’s constituency boundary will spread north past Fort William and Mallaig to form what will be known as Argyll, Bute and Lochaber.

Mr O’Hara said: “The proposal from the Boundary Commission to reduce Scotland’s representation at Westminster from 59 to 53 is profoundly anti-democratic, particularly at a time when membership of the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords is expanding year-on-year.

“By reducing the number of Highland and Island seats from five to four, it’s almost certain that there will be more members of the House of Lords resident in the Highlands and islands than there will be elected MPs.

“The least we should expect is that while we remain part of the United Kingdom, Scotland’s voice continues to be heard and Scotland’s rural and island communities continue to be properly represented at Westminster.“

Mr O’Hara continued: “The Boundary Commission proposals are based on a desire to equalise constituencies on the basis of population. It’s a crude numbers game in which lines have been drawn on a map until they get as close to the figure of 80,000 electors they want. In so doing however, the commission have taken no cognisance whatsoever of the history, the geography or the topography of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“If this proposal goes through, excluding the Western Isles, there will be just three Members of Parliament to represent every single person living between the Mull of Kintyre and John O’Groats.

“How can the Boundary Commission expect just three MPs to adequately serve the needs of people in such widespread and diverse communities and provide them with the level of service they would receive if they lived in Glasgow or Edinburgh?

“The proposed new constituency of Argyll, Bute and Lochaber will stretch from Cardross to Mallaig, from Campbeltown to Fort William and from Isle of Gigha to the Isle of Canna. It will cover 10,000 square kilometres and will take in two local authority areas; all of Argyll and Bute and part of Highland Council. According to the AA, to travel from one end of this new constituency to the other by car could take almost seven hours; just slightly less than it would take to fly from Glasgow to New York.

“These proposal are based on numbers, not need. They take no account of our geography, our unique circumstances or the needs of our communities. They are definitely not in the best interests of the people of Argyll and Bute or the people of Lochaber and I urge everyone to make their opinion known during the consultation period and hopefully, together we can maintain the Highlands and islands representations at Westminster.”

>> For further information on the proposals or to register your comments, click here.