Scottish Labour MP Faces Battle Amid Constituencies Shake-Up

20 October 2016, 06:11 | Updated: 20 October 2016, 06:35

Seats held by Labour's only Scottish MP Ian Murray and former SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie are among those facing the axe as part of wide-ranging changes to Scotland's Westminster constituencies.

The number of MPs in Scotland is being cut from 59 to 53 as part of a plan to reduce the total number of Westminster seats from 650 to 600 ahead of the 2020 general election.

Initial proposals published by the Boundary Commission for Scotland reveal only three seats north of the border remain completely unchanged - the two protected islands constituencies and East Lothian.

A further 16 have retained their names but will see changes to a greater or lesser extent.

The abolition of the remaining 40 seats will see a scramble by MPs for the 34 new ones which replace them.

Under the plans, Mr Murray sees his Edinburgh South constituency disappear, absorbed into the new expanded Edinburgh East and Edinburgh South West & Central seats.

He could face a battle against current Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard or Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry in 2020.

Mr Hosie, who stood down as Nicola Sturgeon's deputy earlier this year over allegations about his private life, faces a similar problem in Dundee, with his Dundee East seat largely absorbed into the new Angus Glens & Dundee East constituency.

He faces challenging Dundee West MP Chris Law for the newly-created Dundee seat or battling Mike Weir, whose current Angus seat covers much of the new Angus Glens and Dundee East seat.

In Glasgow, the number of seats is reduced from seven to six. SNP education spokeswoman Carol Monaghan sees her Glasgow North West seat substantially merged into SNP MP Patrick McGrady's Glasgow North seat, which retains its name.

The Central Ayrshire seat of SNP health spokeswoman Philippa Whitford is squeezed by the new Ayr & Carrick, Kilmarnock, Cumnock & Doon Valley and Cunninghame West constituencies.

In Fife, Roger Mullin is threatened as his Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath constituency is absorbed into the new Kinross-shire & Cowdenbeath and Glenrothes & Kirkcaldy seats.

The Highland region reduces from three seats to two, with Ian Blackford's Ross, Skye & Lochaber seat and SNP transport spokesman Drew Hendry's Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey seat largely absorbed into the new Inverness and Skye constituency.

The Conservatives' hold on their only seat north of the border will be challenged by the abolition of David Mundell's Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale constituency, and its replacement by the new Clydesdale & Eskdale, and Midlothian & Peebles seats.

Clydesdale and Eskdale takes in a chunk of the current Hamilton & Lanark East constituency comfortably won by the SNP at the 2015 election while Midlothian & Peebles similarly includes the current Midlothian seat also comfortably won by the SNP in that poll.

Under new rules, constituencies should be within 5% of the UK electoral average or "quota'' of 74,769, with exceptions made when the constituency is larger than 12,000 square kilometres.

Consultation on the initial proposals runs until January 11, with final proposals due to be submitted for UK Parliament approval in September 2018.

The Westminster constituencies review has no direct implications for Scottish Parliament constituencies, which will be the subject of a separate review by the Scotland Boundary Commission due to start in 2018.

Mr Murray said the "Tory proposals to redraw constituency boundaries are unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable''.

"They are based on an out-of-date version of the electoral register with nearly two million voters across the UK missing,'' he said.

"While the Tories say this is to reduce the cost of politics, they are cutting directly elected representatives and stuffing the House of Lords with their own supporters.

"In the past, ministers have argued that cutting the number of MPs will save the taxpayer £12 million, but David Cameron created scores of extra unelected peers in the House of Lords, costing £34 million. Labour has proposed abolishing the House of Lords, replacing it with an elected Senate of the nations and regions.''

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "The proposals to cut the number of elected representatives in Scotland are unacceptable.

"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.

"Furthermore, it is outrageous and undemocratic that the UK Government is planning to cut the number of Scottish MPs while it continues to pack the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords with yet more Tory donors and cronies to do the Government's bidding.''

Constitution minister Chris Skidmore said: "Our democracy and parliamentary system need to represent everyone equally. That's why the independent Boundary Commission for Scotland is proposing measures to achieve equal-sized constituencies that will ensure an equal say for each voter.

"At the same time it's important to take this opportunity to cut the cost of politics, saving #66 million over the course of a Parliament by reducing the number of MPs.

"The case for these reforms was agreed by the last Parliament. The initial proposals published by the Boundary Commission will be subject to consultation, with final recommendations submitted in autumn 2018. These will be subsequently scrutinised and debated by Parliament.

"We are committed to ensuring fair and equal representation for the voting public across the UK is in place by the next general election.''