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Border reform puts Scotland at risk of losing six seats in Parliament

Scotland may face losing six of its 59 MPs in the House of Commons, as the Government plans to redraw constituency boundaries.

Proposals from the Boundary Commission for Scotland indicate a radical transformation of Scotland’s political map with only two constituencies – Orkney and Shetland, and the Western Isles – remaining unchanged in the legislation.

The move has come after former Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons from 650 to just 600 in an attempt to make politics less expensive and to create more equal representation in the UK.

However, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said that these changes were “unacceptable” and would weaken Scotland’s voice in the UK Parliament.  Speaking to The Student, he said: “At a time when Scotland already faces a deep and growing democratic deficit, with a Tory Government that we didn’t vote for imposing increasingly right-wing policies against our will, it is vital that the Scottish people have strong elected representation at Westminster to stand up for Scotland’s interests and to hold the UK government to account.”

Angus Robertson, MP for Moray, also disagreed with the former Prime Minister’s assertions that these boundary revisions would help cut the cost of politics in the UK, citing the House of Lords as a large and “undemocratic” expense for the average taxpayer.

In a comment to The Student, Robertson said that it was “outrageous” for the Conservative government to reduce the number of Scottish representatives at Westminster while it continued to “pack the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords with yet more Tory donors and cronies to do the government’s bidding.”

He continued, saying: “Under this Government, the already bloated House of Lords has grown to over 800 members.

“It is now the second largest legislature in the world, costing the Scottish taxpayer millions every year and making a mockery of the Tory claim that reducing the number of Scottish MPs is an attempt to cut the cost of politics.”

The revised boundary lines may also see Labour’s only Scottish MP, Ian Murray, losing his seat as changes propose splitting up the Edinburgh South constituency between the Edinburgh East, West and Central to create a new representative area.

Murray said that the new changes reflected a poor knowledge of Edinburgh’s communities, describing the review as “unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable”.

Speaking to The Student: “This appears to be a map drawn by someone who knows very little about our capital city. The proposals would split communities down the middle, with one seat stretching from Bonaly Country Park in the shadow of the Pentland Hills all the way to the top of Leith Walk in the city centre.”

The Edinburgh South MP was also concerned that the proposals were being conducted on the basis of an  outdated electorate system thereby failing to take millions of new voters into account.

He told The Student: “They are based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register with nearly two million voters across the UK missing.”

Professor Ailsa Henderson, boundary commissioner and Politics lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, told The Student that, despite the name changes, shifting boundaries in some places is “relatively minor” and is being done to “simplify” the political system, “or to better reflect the area it covers”.

Professor Henderson then went on to say that the Boundary Commission encouraged the Scottish electorate to get involved in the procedure so that the new constituencies could best reflect their views.

“We very much would welcome public participation in the process. There will be five public hearings, one of them in Edinburgh, as well as an online portal where people can read about proposals and comment on them,” she told The Student.

“We’re very keen to hear from individuals who have suggestions for improvements that could be made both in terms of where the boundaries are but also the suggested names for constituencies”, she continued, “the more feedback we receive, the more constituency boundaries will reflect local wishes.”

Image: Brad Hammonds

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