Constituency boundary change plans should be dropped, Labour and Lib Dems say

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Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for plans to redraw the political map of Scotland to be dropped.

The review of Scotland’s Westminster constituencies was branded a waste of public funds as fresh proposals for change were published.

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.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland has released a revised set of proposals after a consultation on the original plans attracted more than 2,000 responses.

The fresh proposals would still see a reduction in the number of Highland seats from three to two, with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat and SNP business spokesman Drew Hendry’s Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey seat mostly merged into a new Highland South constituency.

In Dundee, the Dundee East seat of former SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie has been largely absorbed into the proposed Angus South and Dundee East constituency.

In the capital, the Edinburgh South constituency held by Labour MP Ian Murray would be split in half, with the expansion of the new Edinburgh East constituency .

He could face a choice of standing in the newly-redrawn Edinburgh Southside constituency or taking on current Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard.

In Glasgow, the number of seats will reduce from seven to six.

As in the initial proposals, only three constituencies – East Lothian and the protected islands constituencies of the Western Isles and Orkney and Shetland – would remain unchanged.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael MP, who represents Orkney and Shetland, said the review was a “dead duck” as it was unlikely to win the support of either the DUP or Tory backbenchers.

” The government should stop wasting public funds and bow to the inevitable,” he said.

“If by some miracle it does go through, the Liberal Democrats will fight and win seats on these boundaries, in considerably stronger numbers than we managed last time.

“We will be making representations in the final eight-week consultation for retaining strong community ties just as we have done at every stage of the review.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “This is the start of a consultation process that Labour will engage with, however at a time of significant constitutional upheaval it makes no sense to cut the number of MPs there to hold the government to account and represent the interest of their constituencies.

“Scottish Labour opposes any proposals to cut the number of Scottish MPs.”

Lord Matthews, deputy chair of the Boundary Commission for Scotland, said: “After careful consideration of all of the comments received during the consultations 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.”

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.

A fresh eight-week consultation will now get under way with final proposals due to be submitted for UK Parliament approval in September 2018.

Chris Skidmore, minister for the constitution, said: “These revised proposals from the independent and impartial Boundary Commission will now be subject to further consultation and careful consideration.

“A boundary review is needed to ensure fair and equal representation for the voting public across the United Kingdom by the next general election.

“Without any boundary reforms, constituencies would be based on data that is over 20 years old. This would disregard significant changes in demographics, house building and migration.”

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP’s spokesman on the House of Lords, Scotland and Cabinet Offices, said: ” If the UK Government is looking to reduce the cost of politics, the first priority must be abolishing the unelected, undemocratic House of Lords, which has zero accountability to voters despite having a ludicrously bloated chamber of over 800 taxpayer-funded peers.

“There is now no majority in the House of Commons for reducing the size of the chamber – for the Tory Government to continue to task the commission to look at reducing seats is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

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