Thursday, 14 February 2008

Democracy...?

Haud on tae yer hats! When I moaned about how quiet it is at Holyrood (it's deader than a dodo's great uncle Dod today as well by the way) I'd clean forgotten that the Boundary Commission was to announce their proposals for the Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies for 2011. And - for election geeks like me - its wet-yer-breeks-all-your-Christmases-come-at-once time.

Unless your a member of the Labour party. Or a Tory in Edinburgh Pentlands. Or a sitting MSP. Or a member of the public. But I'll come back to that.

Under the Scotland Act, the seats of Orkney & Shetland will always remain as they are. Similarly protected is the Western Isles - with only its name changing this time round to it's Gaelic translation. Other than those three, and the 2 Falkirk seats - everyone of the 68 remaining seats have been changed in some way, ranging from massive boundary shifts & mergers to subtle changes in how the seat is named. It's all change. Which is good... kind of.

Labour get shafted by it. There's no question. Maybe the Boundary Commission saw some of their perfomances over the past few weeks and decided a few less of them would be better for the Parliament. But certainly the changes mooted for Edinburgh (shifting wards about) and Glasgow (merging Shettleston and Baillieston) - as well as putting East Airdrie with Cumbernauld, and Clydebank & Milngavie together will not help the party. Losing Aberdeen Central (split into two) also leaves them without a seat north of the central belt.

While on the surface a new seat south of Aberdeen looks good for the Nats, the changes are not all their cracked up to be. A hard fought win in Govan last year looks like it might go with the boundaries, new parts into Argyll & Bute will hardly see the SNP singing, and marginals in Stirling, Cunninghame North and even Kilmarnock may be shaky with slight tweaks.

The Tories? Well, they're not going to be happy with Pentlands, that's for sure. I might even have heard Mr McLetchie shouting about it from a few floors down. Also splitting Dumfries won't help, and neither will Tweedale look that promising. A wee bit of cheer from a new marginal in Milngavie, and the potential of the shifting Tory vote from Pentlands to South Edinburgh.

Lib Dems? No luck either. Jeremy Purvis will hardly be delighted with the split in his constituency which aids Christine Grahame slightly, while Mike Rumbles loses half his seat to East Angus & Mearns - a notional SNP gain. Big loser is probably leader Nicol Stephen, whose Aberdeen South seat will become a three-way marginal.

Greens & Margo will be unaffected until it comes to the list element.

I'm yet to find an MSP who is thrilled with the changes - and while I have some sympathy with them, I'm not that happy for other reasons.

I lived for many years in Keith in the North East. Before I was old enough to vote Keith was Gordon in 1997 and Gordon for Scottish Parliament in 1999. But historically Keith had been in Moray and in the 2005 review, it was shifted back to Moray for Westminster. So now its in 2 different constituencies for the different parliaments.

The review will maintain that - I think. And for Keith its not too bad - at least the name of the constituency will remain the same. But I worry for folks in parts of Glasgow or central or south Scotland, whose constituency has changed dramatically in both area and name. I worry that the lessons of the previous election with spoilt ballot papers has not been learnt. I'm not saying the public can't cope with change, nor that they're too stupid to vote.

What I'm saying is this - is it really in their interest to keep making changes to how we elect our representatives? Given both the voter apathy and the general disillusionment with politics, I will be surprised if the next Scottish election makes a 45% turnout - and who knows what the figure will be for the European one - 15%?

I understand the theory - let all representatives be equal, and let them represent equal numbers of people. Fine. But lets think about those who are being represented for a second and ask ourselves this: is it going to make a difference to them?

If it is not - why are we bothering?

1 comments:

Cooncillor Coull 15 February 2008 at 17:30  

My understanding is that Keith goes back in to Moray for SP elections. However the whole of the Moray Council Ward 3 (Buckie) goes in to the new Buchan Coast constutency, along with part of Ward 2 (Keith & Cullen), the Cullen and Portknockie part.

Makes it simple for Keith voters again but the Buckie area will have the same problems Keith presently has.

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