Plan to cut number of Scottish MPs ‘can’t see light of day’

Jeremy Corbyn's seat in North London is set to be axed under updated proposals for a shake-up of Westminster constituency boundaries. Picture: Getty
Jeremy Corbyn's seat in North London is set to be axed under updated proposals for a shake-up of Westminster constituency boundaries. Picture: Getty
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MPs in Scotland have hit out at plans to reduce the number of constituencies north of the Border as part of a bid to slim down the size of the House of Commons.

Updated proposals for a shake-up of constituency boundaries sparked cross-party anger, with the government pledging to press ahead despite opposition.

This ridiculous intervention is motivated purely by the desire to create an impression that Scotland is being under-represented

MAURICE GOLDEN

Scotland is set to lose six MPs, taking the number of Scottish constituencies to 53 in a 600-strong House of Commons.

The proposals will mean a battle for the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford to retain his Highlands seat, which is set to be merged with the constituency of a neighbouring SNP MP.

Jeremy Corbyn’s seat in North London is also set to be axed, and Boris Johnson’s majority could be slashed challenged under the proposals.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis’ Haltemprice & Howden seat is among those still on course for abolition after the Boundary Commission released revised constituency boundaries.

Downing Street has insisted that Theresa May remains committed to delivering “more equal and updated” constituency boundaries that all contain a similar number of voters.

However, with opposition to the changes set to come from all parties, it is not clear when a vote on the plans will be scheduled. Number 10 said only that the reforms would be put to MPs “in due course”.

Ministers must secure the backing of Parliament if they want to push the plans through but the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has previously warned the overhaul is unlikely to pass as some Tories, along with Labour, are opposed to the move.

If the plans are approved as proposed, Scotland would lose an MP from the Glasgow area, Lanarkshire, the Highlands, the North-east, Ayrshire and in Dundee.

Scotland’s two island constituencies – Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles – are protected by law and will retain their existing boundaries.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard claimed the changes would reduce the ability of Scotland’s parliamentarians to make their voice heard at Westminster.

“Instead of reducing the number of democratically elected MPs, there should be a reduction of the 791 unelected peers in the bloated House of Lords,” Mr Sheppard said.

“These proposed plans would see Scotland’s representation at Westminster slashed by over 10 per cent, with Scottish MP voices further diminished in a Parliament that looks increasingly like it’s set up to work against those protecting Scotland’s interests. For the mainland Highlands – which has a geographic area one and a half times the size of Wales – to be cut down to just two constituencies, as this report recommends, is ludicrous.

“There is no appetite for these changes at present, and I am confident that these proposals won’t see the light of day.”

The Scottish Conservative chief whip at Holyrood, Maurice Golden hit back saying: “These plans could have suggested quadrupling the number of Scottish MPs and still the SNP would have found a grievance.

“This ridiculous intervention is motivated purely by the desire to create an impression that Scotland is being under-represented, and that’s all big, bad London’s fault.

“In fact, Scotland is extremely well-represented not just in Westminster, but by having one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.”

Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird said plans to reduce the number of MPs was part of a “nakedly partisan agenda”.

“This is about holding on to power at all costs,” Ms Laird said. “For the Tories it’s no longer about marginal gains, but instead about gaining marginals.

“Scotland has an important role to play in shaping post-Brexit Britain yet is being treated as collateral damage in this process. And as powers flow back from Brussels, Parliament’s capacity to examine extra legislation will be seriously diminished.”