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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

Let me surmise that the SNP thought that the best result for Scotland the SNP (perhaps not in that order) was a Tory Government.

You know the arguments - Tory Cuts, English MPs setting a policy for Scotland etc.

Is it really any surprise that one of the outcomes is a Boundary Commission review of constituencies to bring them into a more 'standard' size?

And, too late, it brings a realisation and a press release issued on behalf of our MP.

Does anyone in the Western Isles believe that the current Council boundaries recognise communities in any way shape or form? Lochs and Harris as one ward shows it for the nonsense it is.

The simple fact is that when the Boundary Commission are given a remit, then they have no discretion to modify that remit. If they are told to bring all the Parliamentary Constituencies inside boundaries of a voting population, then they have to do so in a ruthlessly mechanical way.

When the Council boundaries were being draw, we Councillors were presented with two option on how to split Stornoway between different wards. When I suggested making Stornoway one ward, we were told that that was not an option. The process seemed to involved counting voters from a starting point and drawing a line when you reached the requisite number. Hence you start in Tiumpan, Leverburgh, Ness and Uig and draw the first wards, and fill in the blanks from their. Natural communities don't matter; it is simply numbers.

Come the Parliamentary boundaries, the only criteria will be either (a) how many voters per seat, or (b) how many seats in total. Thereafter a simple number crunching exercise will take place to draw the outline seats, and the public will only be able to haggle at the margins. Unless you have a special dispensation like Orkney and Shetland written into the legislation.

As it is, we are on the back foot before the process has even started. There are now only three potential outcomes:
  1. Obtain a dispensation (highly unlikely as the LibDems will be trying to maximise their future seats, and the Tories will be trying to stuff Labour by reducing the number of Scottish seats further)
  2. Lobby for the best new boundaries for the seat (but I really cannot imagine what they would be)
  3. Or, hope for multi-member pan-Highland seats to give us some influence over a number of members
That is also my order of preference at the moment, although I'm finding some merits in option 3 at various moments.

The potential irony is that the SNP have always described Westminster as a burden of Government we don't need, but it looks to me like Westminster might actually be the least intrusive (at least in terms of numbers of Parliamentarians) whilst the SNP Government in Edinburgh presides over a (comparatively) bloated Parliament and Council structure......


Anonymous said...

It's been said before. Float off (figuratively) Lewis and Harris into one mainland seat, and the Uists and Barra into another. In many ways - and not just Sunday openings - they are as alike as chalk and cheese.

Anonymous said...

Orkney and Shetland are only protected in the Scottish parliament. When it comes to Westminster they can be included in whatever the Boundary Comm wishes to do. In simple number crunching terms there currently 7 constituencies in the H&I serving an electorate of less than 400000. If the PM gets his way on 77000 per constituency that number would be reduced to 5 with the W Isles most likely lumped into Charlie Kennedy's area and O&S into Caithness. Various other tweaks around Argyll, Inverness and Moray would see the likely outcome being 2 LibDem safe seats(Ross,Skye and WI & Caithness O&S)2 marginals (Inv & Argyll) and 1 SNP safe seat (Moray with whatever part of Banff and Buchan it gets). The only way to ensure the Western Isles retains a distinct constituency relevance in parliament to do away with the requirement for MPs in Westminster by gaining independence.

Anonymous said...

Re - 9.34

There are other significant differences between Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles.

For instance, there are two separate council structures in the Northern Isles, representing a greater number of inhabited islands. This makes them more complex to deal with than the Western Isles with its single, unitary structure.

Secondly, they are represented by the governing party in Westminster with considerably more leverage to begin with than the SNP - a group whose members like 9.34 feel it's in their kamikaze-like interest for the Western Isles to lose its representation in the more southerly Parliament. After all, it's one more step on the road to independence. (Ha ha, hee hee! Fantasy politics once again!)

Thirdly, they have an able representative in Mr Carmichael. The Western Isles, by contrast, has the man who seems able to conjure up a multi-party task force out of thin air - and a constituency gullible enough to believe him.

Here's to the future - Ross, Cromarty, Skye and the Western Isles!