14 February 2008

Every dog has his breakfast

...and today, Fido's tasty morsels come to him from the Pedigree Boundary Commission range. Delights include Clydebank and North Renfrewshire, which straddles the Firth of Clyde, the decison to replace names of specific areas of Glasgow with compass points - and North Central Glasgow is one of the crappest names for a constituency ever conceived - and the decision to have seats named East Aberdeen and East Aberdeenshire. Indeed, the names will probably get the biggest protests and will go through several revisions until the final proposals come on the table. Good thing us electoral geeks have our wits about us!

Anyway, I've had to spend only the evening digesting the new boundaries, so ASwaS has done most of the hard work already, and it would be idiotic of me not to point you in his direction when most of what I say will be on similar lines.

So instead, let's indulge in some mindless speculation - who'll seek election where?

The North East sees Aberdeen basically swallowed and sicked up again (much like a dog's breakfast, in fact): Goodbye Aberdeen North and Aberdeen Central, hello West Aberdeen and East Aberdeen, both of which ASwaS estimates to be SNP seats, so Lewis Macdonald might be advised either to pick one, start schmoozing the minute the Westminster election finishes and hope for an SNP implosion, or try to displace Marlyn Glen on the List. Brian Adam can go for one Aberdeen seat, but what of Schools Minister Maureen Watt? Will she go for the other, and defend a notional constituency, or will she take aim at South Aberdeen and North Kincardine, and go toe to toe with Nicol Stephen instead? The former would probably be the most sensible. Also, the North East sees the creation of a new seat, with the development of West Angus, and East Angus & Mearns. Both of these are rich pickings for the SNP, and if SNP eleder statesman Andrew Welsh - he's the last member of the First Eleven still to be a member of any parliament - fancies carrying on, EA&M would be tempting for him.

Assuming that Labour forcibly retire Trish Godman, then Wendy Alexander would probably be a cert for the Central Paisley & West Renfrewshire selection, if she is still Leader and wants to stay on. The big question is then, will Annabel Goldie want to keep this as her stomping ground? If so, and if Alexander survives the various bear-traps that seem to be a feature of her Leadership, then we're looking at two major party leaders going head to head on the same ballot paper. Unfortunately for Bella, the presence of any part of Paisley makes it likely that she will come off second best, so she has every reason to decamp. But she might face resistance from fellow West of Scotland Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw, who was the candidate in Eastwood last time, so ought to have first dibs on the new look East Renfrewshire seat, which has a notional Tory lead. Ken McIntosh could try and move to South East Paisley and Barrhead (so he'd keep a few constituents), but Hugh Henry might have something to say about that. The selection battles in Renfrewshire will be a joy to behold.

Edinburgh goes through very few traumas, except that East Edinburgh loses Musselburgh, but gains Gilmerton and Moredun. Otherwise, the Commission's report lists the wards and seems to follow nearly every ward number with '(part)'. I am therefore forced to conclude that a Commissioner's four year old niece took personal charge of the Edinburgh proposals, deploying her favourite red Crayola to put her case together.

The South East is another area with interesting changes - Musselburgh finds itself linked with North Midlothian, but the biggest news is that Christine Grahame could finally do it in 2011: the SNP have a notional lead in in South Midlothian, Tweeddale & Lauderdale. LibDem MSP Jeremy Purvis - who stands to lose his job through this - is already crying foul and demanding changes.

And Central Scotland is the usual free-for-all. Karen Whitefield might find Lanark, Shotts and Whitburn a pleasant home, thus freeing Coatbridge & Central Airdrie for Elaine Smith. This creates a Labour slot in Kirkintilloch, Chryston & Kilsyth which would be just right for Cathie Craigie. Why? Because Cumbernauld & East Airdrie looks like an SNP notional, so Craigie staying in KCK would enable her to be on a ballot and avoid getting beaten by Jamie Hepburn. However, the big news, and perhaps the biggest surprise of this review is the evolution of Milngavie & Bishopbriggs, which could best be described a four-party free-for-all with, and again I cite ASwaS, the Tories squeaking ahead in first place. David Whitton at risk - to a Tory candidate as well? Could he try and chicken run to KCK? Will Cathie Craigie let him?

However. I've saved the most entertaining contest till last: the Glasgow selection battle. At first glance, this looks like a potential row between Frank McAveety and Margaret Curran's Hands, but my guess is that either Bill Butler or Patricia Ferguson will lose out. One of them will be lucky and get West Glasgow. This will make space for Paul Martin to fight North Glasgow, give Margaret Curran's Hands a clear run in East Glasgow and allow Frank McAveety to avoid a direct confrontation with Her With The Aggressive Hand Gestures. Govan seems to schlorp into South Central Glasgow, which will be a big ask. But she must fancy her chances. After all, who would the Labour candidate there actually be?!

While I'm here, a few final notes on those places that stay the same: Orkney and Shetland are protected by law; the Western Isles was not and was considered a possible seat for the chop, but Commissioners deemed it impractical to absorb it into another seat. They have, however, Gaelicised it to Na h-Eileanan an Iar. And the only changes to Falkirk East and Falkirk West is that they become East Falkirk and West Falkirk. Otherwise, they are the only mainland Constituencies not to be amended.


Julie said...

Merging Coatbridge and Airdrie?!! That'll be fun...

Coatbridge and Central Airdrie. So where's the rest of Airdrie going, cos it's a big place?

Julie said...

Ah right, it's been merged in with Cumbernauld. Bit of a specky lot, as David Dickinson would say..

ASwaS said...

I know the Herald said the Falkirks were the only ones not to change, but I could swear North and East Fife/North East Fife is no different either.

I hadn't thought of the Maureen Watt in Aberdeen East scenario - I guess it would make sense. Andrew Welsh will surely stand down at the next election - he's not getting any younger. Suddenly two seats look open.

(I liked the red crayola line by the way.)

Reluctant Hero said...

I think I am finally free!!

Presuming that Bargeddie follows the Chryston route, I will no longer have Elaine Smith as MSP!

At present, this must be one of the safest seats in Scotland which means not really exciting come election day. But has all this changed?

Reluctant Hero said...

I don't believe it!

I'm feel just as gutted as when Scotland lost to Italy in the Euro qualifiers.

If the Electoral Boundary Commission's maps are to be believed, Bargeddie falls within Coatbridge and Central Airdrie.

I'm speechless.....

Will said...

Well, Julie, East Airdrie is very much where it's at: thanks to its attachment to Cumbernauld, this looks like a notional SNP win based on the 2007 results, but it will be a close run thing.

No such luck for Coatbridge and Central Airdrie, however. That looks quite safe Labour territory, so might not get all that much attention on Election Night.

ASwaS, I had been tempted to float the possibility of Andrew Welsh standing down but I wa a bit nervy about retiring the man three years in advance. I was also tempted to wonder out loud if Nigel Don will make a pitch for West Angus. It's close enough to his natural territory, after all.

RH, put in a protest. But just ask if swapping Elaine Smith for Cathie Craigie is worth the hassle before you do!

Andrea said...

"Lewis Macdonald might be advised either to pick one, start schmoozing the minute the Westminster election finishes and hope for an SNP implosion, or try to displace Marlyn Glen on the List"

they may both get in through the list. If Labour lose their last Aberdeen constituency (and assuming they won't win Dundee West back), they may be in contention for a third list seat

Will said...

A fair point, Andrea, and though we don't yet know the configuration of the post-2011 regions, any region involving Aberdeen will have a Labour List presence. Macdonald may have a way through this after all...

Reluctant Hero said...

Not sure Craigie would be guaranteed to win KCK. Would only take a 4% swing from Labour to SNP to see her out the door.

Although amazingly, Craigie seemed to increase her percentage of the vote at the last elections. Probably only one of the few Labour MSP's that did.

Andrea said...

"any region involving Aberdeen will have a Labour List presence. Macdonald may have a way through this after all..."

It will be interesting to see if Labour will take in consideration the idea to let sitting MSPs to contest both constituencies and regional lists.
Another potentially interesting note is that I think Richard Baker is Aberdeen based whilst Glen is from Dundee. If MacDonald goes for the list ranking he can split the Abderdeen vote with Baker whilst Glen is the only one from Dundee.

"Not sure Craigie would be guaranteed to win KCK. Would only take a 4% swing from Labour to SNP to see her out the door."

are you sure? Looking fast through 2007 local results, I think Labour led SNP by more than 6,000 votes in KCK wards

Will said...

Andrea, that's a possibility, but I'm not yet certain that Aberdeen and Dundee will still be in the same region from 2011 - the North East region that would probably include both looks like it would hold ten seats, and while at least one region has to, the Boundary Commission might go a different way.

Add to the fact that the Commission sees nothing wrong with a Constituency straddling the Firth of Clyde, and you realise that a Region strddling the Firth of Tay - Dundee, Fife, part of Perthshire, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, for instance - is a possibility.

If this does happen - and it's just speculation at this stage - that means that Macdonald could get second spot in a new 'North East' region, and Marlyn Glen finds herself fighting John Park, Claire Baker and Richard Simpson for a place on a new ("East of Scotland"?) Regional List.

Andrea said...

"the Boundary Commission might go a different way."

Considering what they've done with some seats, I would not be surprised by any new region..even if they manage to put Dundee and Dumfries in the same one! :-)

Does anyone have an idea on what effecfs the proposals for Fife area have?
I had a problem accessing to local election results on the Fife council website.

Anonymous said...


Two most recent Scots elections:-

From the Elgin South by-election ;- Peter Horton (Liberal Democrats) 53 votes On top of their 17 votes in Kilsyth N stephens must be feeling pretty chipper right now



Will said...

Anon, far be it from me to defend the LibDems (they should be able and willing to do that themselves), but a quick check on Alba will confirm that the LibDems did not even field candidates in these wards in May. Therefore, their total first preference poll has increased from 0 to 65 (Horton only got 48 votes on the first count).

Now of course, that tells its own story (and not a good one, either!), but the fact is that even those awful results are not in themselves evidence of backward momentum.

Anonymous said...

Will -

You seem to know a bit about this. Who are the likely SNP candidates for these new seats?


Will said...

Thanks, Frank, but anything I would say now is pure 100% speculation, and actual names will only filter through in the latter part of 2009, I'd imagine. The Regional List candidacies will probably come out in July 2010, but a late Westminster election might derail... well, everything.

However, with that caveat in place:

Expect Michael Matheson to stand for re-election in West Falkirk and Willie Coffey to seek re-election in Kilmarnock. Linda Fabiani will probably take a tilt at East Kilbride, and Jamie Hepburn would be a safe bet for the Cumbernauld & East Airdrie selection.

Nicola Sturgeon is probably going to go for South Central Glasgow, and Sandra White for North Central Glasgow. Bill Kidd will probably stand in West Glasgow and Bob Doris in North Glasgow.

Alasdair Allan will be on the ballot paper in Na h-Eileanan an Iar; Fergus Ewing will seek re-election in East Highland; Jim Mather will go for re-election in Argyll & Bute and Richard Lochhead for another term in Moray. Dave Thompson might take a shot at West Highland.

Kenny MacAskill will go for re-election in East Edinburgh and Angela Constance will stand again in Livingston, while I assume that Fiona Hyslop will stand in Linlithgow & Bathgate, and Shirley-Anne Somerville will fly the flag in Central Edinburgh.

Tricia Marwick I imagine will stand again in Mid Fife & Glenrothes; Bruce Crawford in Stirling; Keith Brown in Clackmannanshire & Dunblane; Roseanna Cunningham in South Perthshire & Kinross; John Swinney in North Perthshire.

It looks at this early stage like Brian Adam will go for re-election in West Aberdeen, and I rate it as a 60:40 chance that Maureen Watt will be the candidate in East Aberdeen. If not there, then South Aberdeen & North Kincardine. Shona Robison and Joe FitzPatrick will seek another term in East and West Dundee respectively.

I would guess that Aileen Campbell will fancy a stab at Cumnock & Clydesdale and Adam Ingram might get the nod for South Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock, but beyond that I'm not sure who'll go for what in the South.

Kenny Gibson will probably go for re-election in North Cunninghame, Stuart McMillan will seek Greenock & Inverclyde, and I would guess that Bill Wilson will be on the ballot in Central Paisley & West Renfrewshire.

After that, the mists return. And even that's guesswork...

Scottish Toryboy said...

Michael Russell will probably go for Dumfries East as he believes that the Nats can take that over time however under the proposed changes - it looks very much like a notional Tory gain, no?

I'd imagine that Morgan will go for Dumfries West, which under the boundry changes, looks like it may become a 3 way marginal. The Morgan/Fergusson rivalry is quite interesting there - it's rather unlikely that either will want to give the other a free run at the seat.

Isn't one of the perthshire seats quite good looking for the Tories? Is it Roseanna Cunninghams?

You neglect to mention that Edinburgh Pentlands loses Fairmilehead and South Morningside under these proposals whilst gaining Stoughton. With Edinburgh South gaining those two areas that puts a fair bit of pressure on Mr Pringle surely?

paul said...

East Lothian (or Haddington) will be interesting.
Losing Musselburgh and a couple of hard labour areas in Whitecraig and Wallyford will hit Labour's Iain Gray hard.
As he only has a majority of 2500, a swing to the SNP of 2% will get them in.
Well, Andy Sharp carved Labour's majority down from 8000 last time, nearly doubling our vote to the highest ever in the area, so if he doesn't overtake Anne Moffat at the Westminster poll, he should be a shoe in for the Holyrood job.

Anonymous said...

"East Lothian (or Haddington) will be interesting."

2007 locals in Haddington wards:
Lab 10156 SNP 8474 COn 6429 LD 4725 Greens 674 SSP/Sol 68 Others 1263

paul said...

Spot on, anonymous.
Lab majority of 1682 by those figures.
So, a swing of around 800 votes from Lab to SNP makes it ours.
No Iain Gray?
Nice idea.

Will said...

STB - West Dumfriesshire & Galloway is an odd one to call: a Fergusson candidacy may not be viable now he's PO, and if he does stand, how he approaches matters will set the precedent for future Presiding Officers seeking re-election. Also, Alasdair Morgan's not getting any younger, and I saw him getting the DPO post because he had to have some role, and I wonder if it might be a way of decommissioning the man. In that case, you can bank on Mike Russell for West!

However, East will be a very good prospect for the Tories: not necessarily a notional, but damned close. And I don't see Labour turning West into a three-way. Yet.

I would imagine that South Perthshire & Kinross (most likely Cunningham's) is also a viable Tory target, just as her current seat has been.

I would suspect that the Tories are now viable contenders in South, but I wouldn't describe that as 'extra pressure' on Mike Pringle just yet. My estimation would be that Pringle would have a notional hold, and the key contest will be for second place in 2011. This will be a vulnerable seat for the LibDems in 2015, but not sooner.

Paul - sadly, Musselburgh was never in the old East Lothian SP seat, but Edinburgh East & Musselburgh. Having said that, looking at recent progress Haddington does have to be a potential target. The only downside from the SNP perspective is that Iain Gray does not have Anne Moffat's way of approaching things. If he did, SNP activists would have to burn every town in East Lothian to the ground in order to not win the seat! :D

Andrea said...

is there any seat that actually becomes better for Labour (apart already safe seats)? Any Labour MSP smiling at those proposals?

Will said...

Andrea, there is a suggestion that Stirling goes back into the red column, on the notional 2007 figures at least.

And I'd imagine that the probability of Labour losing Central Paisley & West Renfrewshire is far slimmer than the probability of losing the old West Renfrewshire.

Andrea said...

Thanks for Stirling

Re Central Paisley & West Renfrewshire....is there a seat disappearing in that area?

Anonymous said...

Generation i - tales for an accelerated future


paul said...

Hi Will,
Slight misunderstanding here,I was referring to Musselburgh East ward, which is in the SP East Lothian constituency, and it also has Whitecraig and Wallyford (both hard labour conurbations) in it.
So, this will go, and that is where Labour will lose badly if the new boundaries are brought in.
And yes, Andy Sharp gets my vote here as SNP candidate. He's turned it round and Gray is very nervous about him.

Scottish Toryboy said...


When it comes to the two Dumfries seats it all depends what Morgan does. Morgan will want to win GUN again especially if Fergusson doesn't seek reelection but Fergusson probably won't want Morgan getting a free run. It's an interesting one. I hear Elaine Murray is deeply unhappy and deeply worried about the boundary changes.....good.

The new Angus seat is quite interesting for the Tories I think. Andrew Welsh will probably stick to the coastal one and with a wee bit of tinkering the other Angus seat looks interesting indeed.

Guess though there are going to be counter proposals and further proposals after that. Quite interesting though as on a good day the Tories could take 4 first past the posts in the South (Both Dumfries, Ayr and Roxburgh) with the other Ayr seat apparently not being all that bad. Interesting days indeed.

AT said...

Will, do you really think most of these proposals will survive the public enquiry stage? There's a lot of proposed seats that seem to tread roughshod over all established community and geographical boundaries. In many cases, one dog's dinner of a seat is the knock-on effect of another such effort.

For instance, take Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. The former currently has five seats, all slightly oversized. The latter has also currently has five seats, all slightly undersized. An obvious solution would have been to have added a couple of Ayrshire wards (Beith & Kilbirnie and North Coast & Cumbraes) to existing Renfrewshire seats and shuffled the rest of the pack around to even up the numbers. Wouldn't it? Seemingly not. Renfrewshire makes up its shortfall by being linked to West Dunbartonshire via the Erskine Bridge (a monstrosity that's attracted a fair bit of attention already). Ayrshire, meanwhile, loses its 'excess' - namely Cumnock - to a seat that crosses the Lowther hills to include Biggar. Community links between Biggar and Cumnock?! Come on! - this is a constituency made up of the bits that were left over from other seats. Lanark, Shotts & Whitburn is another one that doesn't seem quite right. And that's before we get on to the matter of divided ward boundaries (divided on whose authority, and on what grounds?)

With the exception of the Glasgow and Edinburgh seats (because of their large wards) and the islands seats, it's perfectly possible to create a set of new boundaries that don't cross ward boundaries, respect previous boundaries of one sort or another (parliamentary, county), and where all but a tiny handful of seats have electorates of between 50,000 and 60,000. It would mean having to combine more local authorities than the commission would like, but it might at least lead to constituencies that the electorate might recognize and with which they might identify.

Will said...

AT, I think you're placing more faith in the inquiries and the Commission's revisions than I would. I would expect the city seats to get rejigged - as happened in the Westminster review in Edinburgh - but otherwise I don't see there being many significant departures. Hopefully, the C&NR seat will mysteriously disappear, but the Commission being the Commission, I wouldn't bet my house on it.

Remember: this Boundary Commission created Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. Nuff said.

AT said...

"Remember: this Boundary Commission created Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. Nuff said."

Touche! On the other hand, proposals not dissimilar to those for Milngavie & Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch & Chryston (or whatever it's called), Cumbernauld & Airdrie North and Monklands (i.e. Coatbridge & Airdrie South) were kicked into the long grass in the mid-'90s. In that particular review there were also substantial changes to the original proposals in both the Highlands and Borders/East Lothian/Midlothian. And remember that Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale was part of a brand new 59-seat arrangement, rather than an adjustment to a pre-existing one.

Having said that, you are probably right that most of the monstrosities (including, I fear, C&NR) will survive. Why? Because boundary commissions are like jigsaws; move one bit and the remaining bits have to adjust. Any adjustments will be met with joy by some parties but by dismay with others. Assistant commissioners can make recommendations, but the Commission themselves, faced with a mixture of views, will doubtless opt for the one closest to their own.

For example, for C&NR to disappear, Clydebank would most probably have to be linked with East Dunbartonshire (with whom, incidentally, it has been linked for decades). That would probably mean a Clydebank & Bearsden seat, a Milngavie, Bishopbriggs & Kirkintilloch seat, and modified continuations of the current Cumbernauld & Kilsyth, Coatbridge & Chryston and Airdrie & Shotts divisions. That would ensure that none of these towns are divided, and that there are no cross-river seats. But I suspect only one party (Labour) would probably support it: the Tories and Lib Dems would have an eye on Milngavie & Bishopbriggs; the SNP, as the comments on this blog show, are sizing up Cumbernauld & Airdrie East with relish. All of a sudden the Erskine Bridge seat will be viewed as an unfortunate but necessary hybrid when, in fact, it's nothing of the kind. Ditto Cumnock & Biggar and Lanark, Shotts & bits of west West Lothian.

A cogent counterproposal would have to do three things. Firstly, it would have to argue that, based on long-standing community grounds, certain local authorities should be linked together whereas certain other local authorities shouldn't. (It beggars belief that the two Lanarkshire authorities, which have almost exactly enough electors to make up 9 seats between them, have not been thus twinned.) The question of 'where to twin' is far more important than making nips and tucks to the Commission's current proposals: get that right and everything else will follow.

Secondly, it should stick as closely as possible to ward boundaries. The Commission claim that they take these into account when making their decisions. A counterproposal that has fewer 'part' wards than the Commission's own would look impressive.

Thirdly, a certain level of variation from the average electorate has to be deemed acceptable. Islands seats aside I'd say that anything within 10% either way of the electoral mean is OK (it's certainly an improvement on what the Commission came up with for Westminster). It's surely better to have a few well drawn seats with electorates of 51,000 or 58,000 than a lot of artificial constructions with electorates all within a thousand of the average.

It would be quite amusing, though, if a structural fault were suddenly discovered in the Erskine Bridge, and the MSP for the area had to travel the long way round (through the centre of Glasgow and about four other seats) in order to get from one bit of the seat to the other. I suppose the MSP in question could try swimming instead...

dandydowser said...

Just a few thoughts on the rural Tayside proposals.

All should be reasonable safe SNP holds although East Angus and The Mearns is an intreging one, and probably the tightest, with the addition of a historic Lib/Dem - Tory battleground.

However in my view the size of the mostly SNP voting electorate of Arbroath and Montrose should be too much to overtake. Also looking at the figures from last year's council election and the SNP gained 23% of first preferences in the Mearns seat, actually beating the Tories.

North Perthshire will be pretty safe, not only is it the bulk of John Swinney's current North Tayside constituency it will also have the SNP voting Carse of Gowrie added (my old Regional Council seat infact!)

South Perthshire and Kinross is probably much more safe for Roseanna than the old Perth constituency as again although the Libs have a good presence in Kinross-shire, for the past couple of UK and Scottish elections their vote has tactically gone to the SNP. The SNP also has a sizable vote in Kinross-shire.

West Angus will be pretty safe too containing as it does the SNP voting areas of Forfar, Brechin and Monifieth, and as if that wasn't enough the "Angus Alliance" are making such a mess of running Angus Council they are managing to alienate the electorate from all three Unionist parties.

Anyway will make for an interesting election in rural Tayside in 2011.