SNP ministers accused of ‘cherry-picking’ in boundary shake-up

Joe Fitzpatrick accused of "conflict of interest"
Joe Fitzpatrick accused of "conflict of interest"
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A Scottish Government minister is facing claims of a "conflict of interest" after blocking proposals to re-draw local council boundaries in his home area.

Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick is now being urged to appear before MSPs to explain his decision less than a year before the 2017 local government elections.

He insisted that he intervened after "significant concerns" were raised locally that changes would break historic ties in the areas affected.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who represents the Dundee West constituency for the SNP, rejected a proposal to increase the number of councillors in the city from 29 to 31. The SNP currently controls the city with a majority of three.

Labour business manager James Kelly said: “There is a potential conflict of interest here, and voters have a right to know how this decision was reached.

“It is vital that councils are as representative as possible of the communities they serve, and a series of independent recommendations were made to the government.

“Mr Fitzpatrick should come before MSPs to explain his decision."

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The Tories claimed that recommendations for boundary changes by the local government boundary commission (LGBC) are usually "entirely accepted."

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Graham Simpson said: “The SNP must come clean – why have some councils had their proposals enacted and others not?

“Voters and councillors will rightly ask why the SNP is cherry-picking boundaries in this way."

Changes were recommended for 30 of Scotland’s local authority areas, and the Scottish Government has accepted all but five.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “In a small number of cases – Argyll and Bute, Dundee City and Scottish Borders - we have listened to local representations and left boundaries as they currently stand, to ensure that strong historic ties in particular areas and communities are maintained.

“Significant concerns were raised about aspects of the Commission’s proposals for those areas, in particular that they would not reflect local communities. While the Commission did try to address these in its final recommendations, it was clear from the responses to those recommendations that many of those concerns remained.

"We therefore decided that the better course would be to keep the status quo for those areas."