Fury at 'gerrymandering' as seven Scottish seats axed at Westminster

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SCOTLAND will lose seven seats at the next Westminster election as a result of the new boundary changes, it has been announced.

The loss of 12 per cent of the 59 seats north of the Border represents the worst case scenario following the passing of the coalition's bill on boundary changes.

The government is reducing the number of seats in parliament from 650 to 600 and while England loses just 31 of its 533 seats, Wales has done even worse than Scotland, losing a quarter of the 40 seats it currently has. Northern Ireland will lose just two seats out of 18.

However, there is fury in Scotland over the announcement and accusations that the government was trying to gerrymander the constituencies in its favour.

The Lib Dem Orkney and Shetland seat is protected along with the SNP-held Western Isles. Meanwhile, the government has agreed that constituencies should not be geographically bigger than Charles Kennedy's Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat, which should protect Lib Dem strongholds in the north.

The biggest losers are likely to be Scotland's cities, with Edinburgh estimated to be losing one or two seats and Glasgow up to three. Aberdeen could become a single-seat city.

Meanwhile, the new rules mean that traditional historic and geographical boundaries can no longer be taken into account, which means that it is possible one seat will be split in half by the Firth of Forth and another by the Clyde.

The controversy over the new seats led to weeks of wrangling in the Lords, where Labour peers attempted to block the bill being passed in time to allow for a referendum on the alternative vote system on 5 May.

However, Labour failed to win significant concessions and the government has managed to get its way that seats should have the average of 76,641 constituents, with 5 per cent leeway allowed.

The Conservatives in particular argued that the previous set-up gave an unfair advantage to Labour and that difference in constituency sizes meant that some votes counted more than others.

But Labour argued that thousands of unregistered voters have effectively been ignored in the process before they can be brought on to the electoral roll.

Labour's shadow Scottish secretary, Ann McKechin, said the result was bad for Scotland.

She added: "This is the worst case scenario. The Lib Dem plan to gerrymander Scotland's voice at Westminster is exposed.

"It is crystal clear that these proposals are motivated solely by party political reasons and not any attempt to improve our democracy."

The SNP constitutional affairs spokesperson, Pete Wishart MP, said: "This reduction seems to be completely arbitrary and will hit Scotland particularly hard.There is no science behind this, just rushed reforms by a Tory government who do not care about the impact this will have on rural areas where MPs are already stretched."

Yesterday the Boundary Commission promised to consult fully on the new constituencies.

Dr Hugh Buchanan, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for Scotland, said: "Consultation remains a central part of the review process."