New constituency boundaries in Scotland: the impact on the Lib Dems

by Stephen Tall on October 14, 2011

Last month it was the turn of English MPs to look nervously at the proposals of the Boundary Commission’s re-drawing of constituencies — Scotland’s turn has now come, with its national Boundary Commission yesterday publishing its proposals for public consultation.

The Financial Times has undertaken a quick reccy to work out what it might mean:

… both Coalition parties are likely to lose out, with the only Scottish Tory and three of the 11 current Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs likely to lose their seats as a result of the boundary changes.

Among the Lib Dems, this could provoke a tussle between party grandees Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander, whose adjacent constituencies could be merged into a new “Inverness and Skye” constituency. Alternatively Kennedy, Alexander and John Thurso could all compete for the new seat of “Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty”, which has boundaries cutting across all three MPs’ existing constituencies.

The opposition parties fare little better: Our analysis suggests that Labour will lose three of its current 41 Scottish MPs, and SNP will remain level at six, or, if using a different methodology, possibly lose one new constituency (Dundee East and the Glens).

The paper has also produced an interactive map which illustrates its (self-confessedly crude) projections of the impact of the changes…

The current political map of Scotland (FT.com)

The proposed political map of Scotland (FT.com)

Only one Lib Dem MP’s seat is entirely unaffected by the proposed changes: Alistair Carmichael’s vast Orkney & Shetland was protected in recognition that, though small in numbers, it would be practically impossible to enlarge.

Here’s how our Scottish MPs are affected by the proposals:

  • Robert Smith – current seat: Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine – new seat(s) including current seat: Angus East and Kincardine (projected SNP); Deeside and Gordon (projected Lib Dem).
  • Alan Reid – current seat: Argyll and Bute – new seat(s) including current seat: Argyll, Bute and Lochaber (projected Lib Dem).
  • Malcolm Bruce – current seat: Gordon – new seat(s) including current seat: Deeside and Gordon (projected Lib Dem); Banff and Buchan (projected SNP); Aberdeen North (projected Labour).
  • Charles Kennedy – current seat: Ross, Skye and Lochaber – new seat(s) including current seat: Argyll, Bute and Lochaber (projected Lib Dem); Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty (projected Lib Dem); Inverness and Skye (projected Lib Dem).
  • Menzies Campbell – current seat: Fife North East – new seat(s) including current seat: Cupar and St Andrews (projected Lib Dem); Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes (projected Labour).
  • Jo Swinson – current seat: Dunbartonshire East – new seat(s) including current seat: East Dunbartonshire and Kilsyth (projected Labour); Glasgow North East (projected Labour); West Dunbartonshire and Bearsden (projected Labour).
  • Mike Crockart – current seat: Edinburgh West – new seat(s) including current seat: Edinburgh West (projected Lib Dem); Edinburgh Central and Leith (projected Labour); Edinburgh South West (projected Labour).
  • Danny Alexander – current seat: Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey – new seat(s) including current seat: Inverness and Skye (projected Lib Dem); Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty (projected Lib Dem); Moray and Strathspey (projected SNP.
  • Michael Moore – current seat: Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk – new seat(s) including current seat: Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (projected Lib Dem); Midlothian and Tweeddale (projected Labour).
  • John Thurso – current seat: Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – new seat(s) including current seat: Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty (projected Lib Dem).

The FT projections come with a health warning: ‘[they] redistribute the votes of the 2010 general election according to the proportion of the electorate of each existing constituency that falls within each new constituency. This assumes a uniform geographic distribution of the party support within each current constituency. In reality this will not be the case.’

We also know that much has changed since the 2010 general election, and that the Lib Dem decision to go into coalition at Westminster with the Tories has hit the party’s support hardest in the north, especially Scotland. There are probably few if any ‘safe’ Lib Dem seats any more. That said, most Lib Dem MPs have good potential options under the proposals, notwithstanding the potential Alexander/Kennedy/Thurso tussle, or Jo Swinson’s seat being carved up into three notionally Labour seats.