Consultation starts on Commission’s revised plans to cut number of MPs

The proposed changes to constituency boundaries in Falkirk
The proposed changes to constituency boundaries in Falkirk

Falkirk’s two existing seats in the House of Commons will disappear if proposals from the Boundary Commission for Scotland are agreed.

Under changes to re-draw the political map of Britain, Falkirk, and Linlithgow and East Falkirk, will cease to exist and be replaced by two new constituencies before the next general election.

The district’s sitting MPs John McNally and Martyn Day have hit out at the plans – which potentially mean they would have to win the support of voters outwith their ‘traditional’ catchment areas if they want to keep their jobs the next time the country goes to the polls.

The shake-up is aimed at cutting the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 53 and the number of UK seats at Westminster from 650 to 600.

Falkirk will become the Falkirk South constituency within the Falkirk council area and include Grangemouth and Bo’ness, while Linlithgow and East Falkirk will make up the new Stirling and Falkirk North constituency covering Falkirk and Stirling council areas with Linlithgow having its own constituency.

Last week, Falkirk’s SNP MP John McNally claimed the planned changes are bad news for local voters.

He said: “My first reaction after looking at the new boundary proposal is that the move will utterly confuse the residents in the area of Denny and Larbert amongst others. Residents will be paying their council taxes to Falkirk Council but voting in another council area. That does not make sense.

“I will be writing to the boundaries commission to seek a face-to-face reply to the questions I will ask regarding a list of the community groups they have consulted on this matter.”

Martyn Day said: “With the unprecedented political uncertainty the country is facing due to the UK Governments determination to implement an extremely hard Brexit, the last thing the Tories should be concerning themselves with is constituency boundary changes, something for which there is clearly no appetite for in the Commons.

“Any decrease in the number of MPs will only result in less scrutiny of proposed legislative changes and serve to weaken Scotland’s voice in Westminster. If Westminster really is on a cost cutting mission the first place they should be looking at is the unelected House of Lords. Currently, there are over 800 Lords compared to the 650 elected MPs in the Commons. Scrapping the House of Lords would far eclipse the proposed savings these changes will result in.”

Mr Day also confirmed: “I have every intention of standing at the next election however, we are a democratic party, and there are procedures in place which need to be followed before a candidate can be selected.”

In theory, Mr McNally, who lives in Stirling, has the choice of fighting for Falkirk South or Stirling and Falkirk North, and Falkirk-born Mr Day, who was a member of West Lothian Council for 16 years, the chance to try and win Linlithgow for the Nats.

The latest boundary proposals published on Tuesday as a result of feedback received on the commission’s initial plans produced last year will lead to another eight week public consultation period which will end on December 11.

The UK government insists a review is necessary “to ensure fair and equal representation for the voting public”.

But there have already been calls from the SNP and Lib Dems to UK ministers to abandon the review of boundaries altogether.

Scottish Labour say they “oppose any proposals to cut the number of Scottish MPs” – but admit they will engage with the process anyway.

Should the boundary commission’s plans be approved in London, Falkirk South will be the smallest constituency in Scotland with an electorate of 71,118 as opposed to the current electorate of Falkirk which stood at 82,379 at the last general election.

Linlithgow and East Falkirk’s electorate was 86,087 this year, but if it becomes Stirling and Falkirk North that number will drop to 71,177.

It is antipated 78,026 people will be entitled to vote in the constituency of Linlithgow, just a few hundred short of the rules which dictate constituencies must be within five per cent of the UK electoral quota of between 71,031 and 78,507.

Only 21 of the 51 mainland constituencies in the revised proposals are having their name and boundaries changed.

Lord Matthews, deputy chair of the commission, said: “After careful consideration of all the comments received during the consultation on the initial proposals, the commission has designed this revised set of constituencies.

“Where the legislation has allowed it, we have tried to respond to the views expressed to us. However, in some areas we have been unable to make changes because of the constraints on constituency design within which we work.

“This is the final opportunity we have to obtain views on our proposals so we can further improve them where the legislation allows us to do so. I hope the people will take the opportunity to contribute, whether for or against what we have proposed.”

The public and interested parties can get further information and submit views on the commission’s interactive portal at www.bcs2018.org.uk. Further information can be found at www.bcomm-scotland.independent.gov.uk/2018_westminster.
The final recommendations will be with Secretary of State David Mundell MP next September.