A crude bound­ary num­bers game

The Oban Times - - Letters -

Sir, 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 un­ac­count- able House of Lords is ex­pand­ing year on year.

By re­duc­ing the num­ber of High­lands and Is­lands 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.

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 has taken no cog­ni­sance what­so­ever of the his­tory, 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 ad­e­quately to 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 Camp­bel­town to Mal­laig. 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.

Bren­dan O’Hara, MP for Ar­gyll and Bute.

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