Gordon ‘on the move’ in boundary shake-up

PLANNED cuts in the number of UK Members of Parliament will see the boundaries of Aberdeenshire’s constituencies redrawn, with parts of Ellon and the surrounding district likely to be moved into an enlarged Banff and Buchan seat, according to an expert report published this week.

The report, published by Democratic Audit – a not for profit research organisation based at the University of Liverpool – is an attempt by academics to see how the UK’s Westminster boundaries might look after the planned reduction in the number of UK constituencies to 600 from the present 650.

The reduction is coming as a result of the Westminster Government’s decision to reduce the number of Members of the House of Commons. In Scotland, this will mean a reduction from the present 59 MPs to 52.

However, with the twin island constituencies of Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles being protected in the review, any reductions will have to take place on the mainland.

In drawing up the new seats, Commissioners are looking to ensure that no constituency is larger than 12,000 square kilometres, which is around the size of the current largest constituency of Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

To ensure consistency across the UK, with the exception of the island constituencies protected by law, seats will have no fewer than 72,810 voters and no more than 80,473.

Using the criteria set out by the Boundary Commission, the report anticipates that the Gordon seat will disappear, with its constituent parts being spread around to bring neighbouring seats up to the required number of voters.

According to the report, Ellon could join the Banff and Buchan seat, held currently by the SNP’s Eilidh Whiteford, while Bridge of Don and Dyce could rejoin an enlarged Aberdeen North seat, held currently by Labour’s Frank Doran.

However, the biggest change being forecast is the likely merging of what remains of Gordon into a West Aberdeenshire seat, made up of the Mid Formartine, Inverurie, East Garioch, West Garioch, Huntly, Westhill, Aboyne and Banchory wards.

With parts of Kincardine and the Mearns forecast to twin with northern Angus, this presents the prospect of two sitting Lib Dem MPs in Malcolm Bruce and Sir Robert Smith effectively seeing their two seats merged into one.

Asked for his reaction to the report, Mr Bruce described the study as “thorough and methodical”, but said that it did “not take into account nuances in local geography, culture, history and public services in the way that the Boundary Commission would when actually reviewing parliamentary constituencies”.

He continued “Given the hypothetical nature of the research it is hard to suppose what will happen to the seat that is currently Gordon, and it is not for me to speculate, but in terms of the Liberal Democrat selection, members of the local party within the relevant boundaries will select the candidate for that constituency.”

The official Boundary Commission for Scotland review is to report by October 2013. It is anticipated that the resulting constituencies will be used for the next Westminster General Election, expected in 2015.

Scotland’s Westminster boundaries were last re-drawn for the 2005 UK General Election, when the number of Scottish MPs was reduced from 72 down to the present 59.