By Ross Greer MSP
The Boundary Commission for Scotland recently announced their revised proposals for Westminster Constituency boundaries. The task they have been set is to reduce the number of MPs and constituencies in Scotland from 59 to 53, and to ensure that the number of voters in each constituency is within a narrow range. This arises from the coalition agreement in 2010 between the Tories and Lib Dems to reduce the total number of MPs from 650 to 600. Despite constant talk of these plans being abandoned by Theresa May’s government, the commission’s work is still going ahead and plans are still on the table.
Greens have consistently opposed a reduction in the number of MPs. While “fewer politicians please” may be the mantra of much of the right wing media, this attitude ignores the fact that a reduction in the number of MPs means a loss of representation for people. It means that people are less likely to have an MP local to them. It means larger constituencies and MPs are increasingly stretched in order to support their constituents and their communities, and this hits the people most in need of support from an MP- such as those experiencing problems with the immigration or welfare systems- the hardest. It means fewer back-bench MPs, fewer people whose job it is to hold the government to account. Under first past the post, larger constituencies play into the hands of larger parties, which means that our parliament becomes even less proportional than it is at the moment. Finally, particularly when combined with strict rules on size of constituency, it means that it’s harder to have constituencies that reflect a real community.
When I mention a real community, one that springs to mind is Bearsden, which I know well. So I was particularly disappointed to hear that the Boundary Commission have revised their proposal from one which splits Bearsden in half, to one which takes around a quarter of Bearsden (North of the station and west of Drymen Road) and combines it with West Dunbartonshire. Splitting a community in this way makes little sense when so many issues affect a community as a whole. We need MPs who represent recognisable communities that are understood by people who live in them. We need MPs who have strong local links and can advocate on behalf of their constituents. Leaving an even smaller part of Bearsden tagged on to West Dunbartonshire makes even less sense.
The Boundary Commission have been set an impossible task and have done their best to listen to the feedback they have been given. The result shows that the right thing to do is to abandon the whole charade. While some may wish to suggest alternatives, such as splitting other communities in East Dunbartonshire, there is no solution that works for everyone, and there are communities up and down the country who are facing similarly unsolvable problems. I encourage as many constituents as possible to respond to the current consultation and suggest that they raise objections to communities being split. You have until 11th December. I would also encourage you to write to your MP and ask them to support scrapping the idea of reducing the number of MPs. It’s doubtful that the Prime Minister can now get a majority of MPs to support the plans, let’s make sure of it.