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Controversial boundary change deadline looms

Section:  Annan and Eskdale, Dumfries and West, Lockerbie and Lochmaben, Moffat  | Tags: , , ,

THE CLOCK is ticking for the public to have a say on controversial proposals to change the region’s two Westminster constituencies.

Crown Copyright
Permission of Boundary Commission Scotland

BOUNDARY CHANGES . . . the proposed Dumfries and Galloway Constituency in green, bottom left, and the Clydesdale and Eskdale constituency in purple, right.  Local government boundaries are denoted by black lines

(Crown Copyright map – reproduced by permission Boundary Commission Scotland)

Much of the existing Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale UK constituency could disappear into a new — larger — Clydesdale and Eskdale seat.

And the current Dumfries and Galloway constituency would stretch south east along a coastal corridor taking in Annan and Eastriggs but, significantly, not Gretna.

In effect, Lower Annandale would be split in two and Locharbriggs and Heathhall extracted from Dumfries in time for the next scheduled general election in 2020.

During the initial consultation process concerns were expressed that the proposals did not take into account local geographical, historical, administrative or community circumstances.

There were also warnings that it would further disengage public involvment in the democratic process.

LABOUR . . . Colin Smyth, MSP

LABOUR . . . Colin Smyth, MSP

In his representation, South of Scotland MSP Collin Smyth said the changes broke ‘local ties.’

Mr Smyth states that in a previous boundary review local residents rightly pointed out that Locharbriggs and Heathhall were very much part of the town of Dumfries.

The Labour MSP also noted: “The proposal for Clydesdale and Eskdale Constituency breaks up the established district of Annandale and Eskdale.”

Mr Smyth has challenged the idea that Annan and Eastriggs would have the same MP as someone in Stranraer, but a different one from people in Gretna, who would share an MP with Carluke.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT . . . Lord Wallace

Meanwhile, Annan-born Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, a QC, has also challenged the Dumfriesshire proposals.

In a letter to the Boundary Commission, he states: “Frankly, when told that Gretna would be in a seat with Carnwath, but Eastriggs would be in the same constituency as Stranraer, I greeted the information with disbelief.

“As a former pupil of Annan Academy, I am well aware of the school’s catchment area. I find it incredible that pupils attending a secondary school in a rural area (and living only a handful of miles apart) might have different MPs.

“Moreover, reflecting on the former local government structure for the area, Annandale and Eskdale District Council had a coherence and naturally reflected the communities of the non-Nithsdale part of Dumfriesshire.  Annan, of course, was the main town in the District.”

Lord Wallace concluded: “Separating Annan from the rest of Annandale is not conducive to the creation of a coherent constituency.”

CONSERVATIVE . . . David Mundell

Meanwhile, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell has also expressed disappointment at the proposed changes and urged the public to make representations.

If the blueprint proceeds, he points out, the constituency he has represented for 15 years would be split five ways.

He said: “I remain firmly against the proposals which would see Annandale and Eskdale split up and also see Heathhall and Locharbriggs put in a different constituency from the rest of Dumfries.

“I would urge local people to continue to make their feelings known to the Boundary Commission for Scotland.”

SNP . . . Richard Arkless, MP

Neighbouring  Dumfries and Galloway SNP MP Richard Arkless said: “Personally, I have no real issues with the proposed changes.  They represent an extended privilege to represent more people in this constituency.

“With regard to my constituents, I am concerned that these changes drive a wedge in Dumfries as they split Heathhall and Locharbriggs from the rest of the town.  I’d have thought these proposals would have brought together all of Dumfries, but once again the town faces an 80/20 split.”

On the issue of reducing the number of MPs, Mr Arkless added: “I’m disappointed that there will be more unelected Scottish Peers in the House of Lords than elected Scottish MPs in the Commons.”

The constituency adjustments do not a take into account any increased workload for MPs and MSPs when the UK, as anticipated, withdraws from the European Union and no longer sends MEPs to Brussels.

The current proposals would see the number of MPs at Westminster reduced from 650 to 600 with the tally of MPs from Scotland falling from 59 to 53.

Voters have until March 27 to comment on the changes through a secondary consultation by wriiting to the Boundary Commission for Scotland or by visiting their website at https://www.bcs2018.org.uk/

 

 

* DRAWING an ‘artificial’ constituency boundary line between Eastriggs and Gretna was illogical and would cause unnecessary confusion, a tourism promoter has claimed.

Richard Brodie, founding chairman of Eastriggs and Gretna Heritage, has condemned the Boundary Commission proposal to split Lower Annandale beteen two Westminster seats.

Mr Brodie said: “Eastriggs and Gretna are twin townships built together in World War One. It would be illogical to draw a totally artificial line between them politically, administratively and in people’s minds.”

 

 

NEWSDESK: 01461-202417

 

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