Boundary dilemma for North East MPs

The new map? Gordon is set to disappear under changes proposed by teh Boundary Commission for Scotland
The new map? Gordon is set to disappear under changes proposed by teh Boundary Commission for Scotland

Liberal Democrat MPs Malcolm Bruce and Sir Robert Smith have been left facing difficult decisions on their political futures, following a report by the Boundary Commission for Scotland which will cut the number of Aberdeenshire MPs from 3 to 2.

The changes, which reduce the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 52, have come about as a result of the Westminster Conservative/Lib Dem agreement to cut the overall number of MPs by 50 across the United Kingdom.

The proposed changes in the North East see the current Gordon seat, which has been around in several guises since 1983, disappear, while Banff and Buchan is expanded.

To accommodate the required changes, the boundaries of Banff and Buchan will be redrawn to incorporate Ellon and District as well as a sizeable part of Mid-Formartine; Aberdeen North will be re-united with Dyce and the Bridge of Don; while Balmedie, Oldmeldrum, Inverurie and Huntly will join a Deeside and Gordon seat, including Braemar, Banchory and Portlethen. Both shire seats will have electorates of just over 80,000.

While the SNP and Labour are likely to be reasonably satisfied with the proposed changes to the North East political maps, it means that Liberal Democrat MPs Malcolm Bruce and Sir Robert Smith face the prospect of having to decide which of them will step aside to allow the other to contest Deeside and Gordon.

Both MPs represent sizeable parts of the redrawn Deeside and Gordon constituency already. However, Liberal Democrat party rules which state that the MP representing the greater number of voters in the new seat is entitled to ‘first refusal’, could leave Mr Bruce out in the cold if his colleague decides to seek nomination ahead of him.

A spokesman for Mr Bruce said: “We have received the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s proposals and we will digest and respond to these at the local inquiry in due course.”

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford also commented on the proposed changes. “It is important that the communities involved in the proposed boundary changes have their say”, she said. “To that end, I would encourage community groups and individuals to make their comments to the Boundary Commission’s consultation which runs until 4 January 2012.”

Mr Bruce and Sir Robert are not alone in seeing significant changes to their current constituencies. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh are set to lose a constituency each, while a redrawn seat including Skye and Inverness presents the prospect of Lib Dem MPs Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander seeking nomination for the same seat. Further south, the sprawling Dunfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale seat of Conservative Scotland Office Minister David Mundell is scattered to the winds, resurrecting the possibility of Scotland once again sending no Conservative MPs to Westminster - a phenomenon which last occurred in the party’s wipe-out in the Labour landslide of 1997 which propelled Tony Blair into 10 Downing Street.

Across Scotland, the only two constituencies exempted from the scope of the Boundary Commission’s review were Orkney and Shetland, and Na h-Eileanan An Iar, or the Western Isles. The only mainland constituency which remains unchanged is East Lothian.

The recommendations of the Boundary Commission will now go out for a twelve week public consultation period, which will run until Wednesday 4 January.

Further information on the Boundary Commission’s initial proposals can be found online by logging on to www.bcomm-scotland.gov.uk/6th_westminster/

The boundaries last changed in 2005 when the number of Scottish MPs reduced from 72 to 59, and in 1997 as part of a general review.