South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth is urging the UK government to drop plans to reduce the number of MPs in Scotland and make Parliamentary constituencies even bigger.
The comments came after the Boundary Commission for Scotland set out its latest set of proposals for new UK Parliamentary constituencies following a recent public consultation.
The new plans for Dumfries and Galloway vary from the original controversial proposals which were labelled as “crazy” by Colin Smyth at the time of their publication in October 2016. The original proposals would have had Annandale South Ward in a different constituency from the rest of Annandale and Eskdale with Lochar Ward- which includes Locharbriggs and Heathhall – in a different constituency from the rest of Dumfries.
These two wards have effectively been “flipped” in the revised plan- a move proposed by Colin Smyth in his submission to the Boundary Commission consultation. Mid and Upper Nithsdale Ward with the more rural parts of Lochar Ward also being separated from Locharbriggs and Heathhall, to balance numbers to remain within rigid new rules set by the Conservative Government.
However, the proposed new Dumfriesshire and Lanarkshire South East constituency which stretches as far north as Carluke, will see voters in Gretna share an MP with those living on outskirts of Glasgow in a new constituency of over 78,000 compared to the current constituency of just over 67,000.
Commenting on the revised proposals Colin Smyth said, “I welcome the fact the boundary commission have accepted my suggestion to keep Annandale and Eskdale together and the town of Dumfries together by changing their original proposals. But to have a constituency with the name Dumfriesshire, which historically is the county of Dumfries, that doesn’t actually contain any part of the town of Dumfries is just typical of the type of ill –thought out nonsense you come to expect from the Boundary Commission. Having voters in Gretna share an MP with those on the outskirts of Glasgow is pretty much the death nail of MPs representing a particular local area with clear links. The failure of the commission to even consider linking parts of Galloway with Ayrshire, which have far closer links than Annandale has with Lanarkshire, was also a missed opportunity.
However, the real issue is the fact these proposals to cut the number of MPs in Scotland under new rules brought in by the current Government to favour the Tories, is no more than a desperate bid to save a floundering Conservative Government. It is blatant gerrymandering that will create constituencies where our Westminster MPs are even more remote from their constituents and it will weaken Scotland’s voice, showing once again that the Tories are prepared to put trying risk the UK with their anti-Scottish polices, just to try to save their own skin.”
“Boundary reviews should be about updating Parliamentary constituencies to take account of population changes not fiddle the size of constituencies to suit the party in Government. The last time the Tories tried this with the review before the 2010 election, it was booted out by Parliament and that means the current constituencies are out of date. The Government should do the decent thing and drop these plans before Parliament boots them out as well and carry out a proper, independent review to update current constituencies.”
Initial proposals for the new Scottish constituencies were published in October 2016.
An initial consultation drew 2,000 responses, and revised proposals have now been published today (17 October) and put out for further consideration for 8 weeks until 11 December.
Full details of the boundary review can be found at : http://www.bcomm-scotland.independent.gov.uk/2018_westminster/index.asp