Prof John Curtice: Constituency axe affects almost every Scots MP

David Cameron may have left '¨10 Downing St but his presence is being felt this morning by almost every single Scottish MP.

Professor John Curtice. Picture: Robert Perry
Professor John Curtice. Picture: Robert Perry

In the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal the former prime minister promised to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, while equalising the size of constituencies throughout the UK.

The Liberal Democrats scuppered his plans in the last parliament, but the Boundary Commissions have now set about redrawing the political map once again.

As a result, the number of Scottish seats is to be reduced from 59 to 53.

Despite their small electorates, the two island constituencies, Na h-Eileanan an Iar and Orkney & Shetland, have been spared. However, the mainland is set to lose six seats.

Given that the SNP won all but three of Scotland’s seats in last year’s Westminster election, inevitably they will the biggest losers from the reduction. But they are unlikely to be the only ones.

The Scottish Secretary and Scotland’s only Conservative MP, David Mundell, held on to his seat by just under 800 votes last year. The Commission proposes his seat should lose some relatively fertile Tory territory on its western and eastern fringes, while including the seemingly stonier ground of Carluke and Forth to the north.

The SNP would most likely have taken Mr Mundell’s seat if the new boundaries had been in place 18 months ago.

Meanwhile, the only Labour MP to survive last year’s Nationalist tsunami, Ian Murray, finds his Edinburgh South split into two. Neither of the two new seats into which it is set to be divided look like ones Labour would have won last time.

In short, under the proposed new boundaries neither of the two principal competitors for power at Westminster would have had a single Scottish MP. Only Alistair Carmichael in his Northern Isles lair would have been left to represent the Unionist camp.

Even so, some SNP MPs will inevitably lose out. Indeed, many are likely to find themselves caught up in a game of musical chairs as they search for a new berth.

However, some look more at risk than others. The most high-profile casualty could well be the former SNP deputy leader, Stewart Hosie, whose Dundee East effectively disappears. Another well-known SNP face, Ian Blackford, sees his Highland seat torn apart too.

Alison Thewliss in Glasgow Central, Roger Mullin in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and Marion Fellows in Motherwell and Wishaw also look as though they could find themselves without a berth.

Expect them to be particularly likely to respond to the Commission’s proposals during the consultation period that now ensues.

l John Curtice is professor 
of politics at Strathclyde