09 January 2010

The Boundaries are A-Changin' Again

While we've all been agog at the Snow Coup and the Iris Stew, the Boundary Commission set out their revised recommendations for the Scottish Parliamentary regions. Like the Constituency plans, the revisions are considerable when compared with the initial plans, but what they effectively mean is that the changes from current boundaries are considerably more limited than the Commission initially envisaged.

The bottom line is this: had the 2007 Election been fought on these boundaries, I believe that the result would have been SNP 46, Labour 44 (so they have most to lose from these changes), Conservative 19, LibDems 17, Greens 2 and of course, Margo on her own. Here's how I get there:

Central Scotland

The initial plans saw this referred to as East Central Scotland and were somewhat messy (no matter how many times you say it, nowhere in Dunbartonshire can be considered 'East Central Scotland'). The revised new region is effectively the old one minus Kilmarnock (with some fraying around the edges), consisting of Labour-held Airdrie & Shotts; Coatbridge & Chryston; Cumbernauld & Kilsyth; East Kilbride; Falkirk East; Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse (formerly Hamilton South), Motherwell & Wishaw and Uddingston & Bellshill (formerly Hamilton North & Bellshill), as well as the SNP's Falkirk West.

The additional seats work out as 5 SNP seats, 1 Tory (a reprieve for Margaret Mitchell, who on the initial plans either had to move Constituency or go up against Annabel Goldie and Jackson Carlaw in the West selection) and 1 LibDem. Overall, then, there's a net loss of one seat for the SNP, which is unsurprising, given that an SNP seat moves out of the region. In effect, this region is no change.


This region wasn't altered by the revisions (no one complained about it), so still consists of the eight Glasgow seats plus Rutherglen. By my reckoning, that makes eight Labour seats and one SNP (Glasgow Southside). The list seats come to 4 SNP, 1 Tory, 1 LibDem and 1 Green, so no change there. Effectively a net Labour loss of one seat, coming about through the dismemberment of Glasgow Baillieston.

Highlands & Islands

Given what I can only imagine was a helluva lot of post on the matter, the Commission has reversed its earlier suggestion call Dumbarton a Highland seat, so again, this seat is now largely as it is, save a couple of minor adjustments around the edges, with four SNP seats (Argyll & Bute, Inverness & Nairn, Moray and Na h-Eileanan an Iar) and four LibDem seats (Caithness, Sutherland & Ross, Orkney Islands, Shetland islands and Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch). The list comes to 3 Labour, 2 SNP and 2 Tory, so status quo.


A westward shift in this region has been averted: Linlithgow rejoins the fold, with East Lothian staying out of the region. That means there'll be three Labour seats (Edinburgh Northern & Leith, Linlithgow and Midlothian North & Musselburgh) three LibDem seats (Edinburgh Central - which is a notional LibDem seat on the new boundaries - Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Western). The SNP hold Almond Valley and Edinburgh Eastern, while the Tories retain Edinburgh Pentlands. Now, the LibDems still have an overhang (which the Scottish system can't correct), and the shift in boundaries sees the SNP stay ahead of Labour, and produces a List result like the current one: 3 SNP, 1 Labour, 1 Tory, 1 Green and Margo. That means a net loss of one for Labour and net gain of one for the LibDems.

If I were in Labour I'd be hopping mad at this one, and would feel cheated at the under-representation. Similarly, if I were a Tory, my eyebrow would be raised at the LibDems having more seats in the region than the Tories despite having (notionally) fewer votes in what is supposed to be a proportional system. Those less charitable to Labour than I would consider this change to be poetic justice, given the over-representation of Labour in the 1999 and 2003 Parliaments given their constituency haul, but two wrongs don't make a right and Labour have good reason to feel aggrieved.

Mid Scotland & Fife

Like Glasgow, this wasn't included in the inquiry, so there are no changes to the first proposals, and the only real change to the region is a chunk of North Tayside (the part in Angus) leaving for North East Scotland and a small bit of Angus (the part of the seat that's in Perth & Kinross Council) coming in. As on the old boundaries, it works out as five SNP seats, two Labour and two LibDem, with three Labour List seats, three Tory and one SNP. No change overall.

North East Scotland

This one wasn't in the inquiry either, so there are still ten constituencies including the new one straddling Angus and Aberdeenshire. It still works out as seven SNP constituencies, two LibDem and one Labour. The List still works out as 3 Tories, 2 Labour, 1 SNP and 1 LibDem, so that's a net gain for the Tories of one seat.

South Scotland

The initial plans envisaged this being the 'baby' region, but that has changed: it retains (Labour-held) East Lothian, along with Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, Clydesdale and Dumfriesshire - the region still loses Cunninghame South. South still gains SNP-held Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley which is joined in the notional SNP column by Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale, the successor seat to Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale. Three Tory seats - Ayr; Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire and Galloway & West Dumfries - complete the line-up.

The List sees the SNP with three seats (down two, but only as a result of there now being two SNP seats in the region, which will make next year's List ranking interesting reading), two LibDems (compensation for the conversion of Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale into an SNP seat), one Labour (as a result of a Labour seat being lost and an SNP one coming in) and one Tory. Overall, that means no change to the seat tally here.

West Scotland

The rather radical initial plans (which saw the constituencies north of the Firth of Clyde being shed) have been dropped, and now the only change to the current line up save some more fraying around the edges is the addition of Labour-held Cunninghame South, making this a ten-seat region. Cunninghame South joins the other Labour seats: Clydebank & Milngavie; Dumbarton; Greenock & Inverclyde; Paisley; Renfrewshire North & West; Renfrewshire South and Strathkelvin & Bearsden. The region is completed by SNP-held Cunninghame North and the altered Eastwood seat, which loses Barrhead and changes from a Labour to a Tory constituency.

The re-drawn region also keeps the List at four SNP seats, two Tories and one LibDem. So all in all, that makes a net gain of one for the Tories.


The winners in this review are the Tories, who gain a List seat in North East Scotland and whose gain of Eastwood isn't punished with the loss of a List seat in the West, along with the LibDems, who gain Edinburgh Central at no expense elsewhere, with the loss of a constituency in the Borders being compensated by an extra List seat in South.

The losers would be Labour, losing a Glasgow constituency and seeing Edinburgh Central change hands with no compensation on the Lothian List, and to a lesser degree the SNP, losing that seat in Central Scotland. However, seeing as that one-seat lead over Labour becomes a two-seat lead (and remember that the initial plans put the two parties neck-and-neck), I don't envisage SNP strategists being too disappointed.

And here's something else to think about: remember last year's Budget, which had to be re-submitted after the first attempt failed? On these boundaries, the SNP, Tories and Margo combined would have had 65 votes (assuming Alex Fergusson would still have been elected Presiding Officer, so costing the Tories a vote), an absolute majority. There would have been no need for a second Budget.


Stephen Glenn said...

Phew! I'm back in Lothian, which makes sense for the people especially in the southern part of the Linlithgow consituency, who had little in common with Central Scotland.

Will said...

I'd say the boundaries are a big improvement on the initial plans: if you think you had it bad being lumped in with places west of Harthill, try being in South Lanarkshire which was going to be split four ways. It's still split three ways, but that's basically status quo...

Strathturret said...

Great work. My heads just sore reading it.