Fury at boundary changes

CHANGES to constituency boundaries could see a future Member of Parliament having to represent the diverse needs of electors from Whithorn in the south to Ayr in the north if sweeping proposals get the go-ahead and the Galloway and Carrick areas are linked.

The Westminster government is proposing to make Galloway and Carrick one constituency for the next election in 2015 to cut down the number of Scottish MPs in parliament.

But those who object to Dumfries and Galloway being split will have to travel to South Lanarkshire to state their case at a public hearing next month.

Dumfries and Galloway’s current MP, Russell Brown, said: “These changes are blatant gerrymandering by the Tory party and they are pushing them through for their own narrow political interest. What makes it even worse is that the Tories are rushing these changes to avoid proper scrutiny. It’s a snub to local people that there is no public hearing in Dumfries and Galloway, with the closest one being held in New Lanark.

“I am used to the Boundary Commission carving up my seat and I really feel for the confusion these changes cause. Last time, in 2005, it took Dumfries away from Annandale and Eskdale and put it in with Galloway, and now it has put them together again and split Dumfries from Galloway.

“Local people want their MPs focused on the issues that matter during these tough times. My priority is jobs and the economy and people don’t want pointless disruption.”

The initial proposals from the Boundary Commission for Scotland aim to reduce the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 52. Overall the aim is to reduce the number of constituencies nationally from 650 to 600. The idea will be discussed by members at next Tuesday’s policy and resources committee of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The proposed boundaries will follow ward boundaries Dumfries and Galloway 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and South Ayrshire 7 and 8, as shown on this map.

The Boundary Commission explains that “apart for two Scottish island constituencies, the remaining 50 must each have between 72,810 and 80,473 electors, and the maximum size of each constituency is 13,000 square kilometres.

The public hearing for the Dumfries and Galloway area will be held at the New Lanark World Heritage Site, on Wednesday. November 16. It will be chaired by Sheriff Principal Lockhart, who will allow representations to be made by any person or organisation the chairman considers to have an interest.

A 12-week public consultation will end on January 4 next year and the plans can be viewed at Sun Street, Stranraer, and Daar Road, Kirkcudbright.

After the consultation, the commission will publish representations received and a record of the public hearings on its website. If it decides to alter the initial proposals, it will publish the revised plans for consultation and invite representations during an eight-week period. It will then decided if further modifications are needed.

Mid Galloway Conservative councillor Graham Nicol said: “A statement from the Scottish Conservative Party will be released next week on this and I will comment after that.”