Brendan O’Hara MP vows to vote against Boundary Commission plan

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Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara has pledged to vote against the Boundary Commission proposal to cut Scotland’s elected representatives at Westminster from 59 to 53, should it come before parliament.

The plan, released earlier this week, cuts the number of Highlands and Islands MPs from four to three and extends the current Argyll and Bute boundary north to take in Fort William, increasing the size of an already massive constituency by almost a third.

The proposed new constituency of Argyll, Bute and South West Highlands will cover 9,917 sq km of the west of Scotland and will stretch from Campbeltown in the south to Fort William in the north, and from Cardross in the east to Tiree in the west. It will also include a huge number of communities of varying sizes, including 23 islands.

The proposed Argyll and Bute and South West Highlands constituency.
The proposed Argyll and Bute and South West Highlands constituency.

Mr O’Hara said: ‘This appears to be nothing more than a crude numbers game for the Boundary Commission. In their desire to try to equalise the size of each UK constituency by population, they seem to have taken no notice of the history, geography or topography of this part of Scotland. And I am very disappointed in this proposal.

‘The people of Argyll, Bute and South West Highlands deserve better than this.

‘The three largest constituencies [Highland North, Argyll Bute and South West Highlands and Highland Central] would cover a landmass of 33,282 sq km – equivalent to 42.5 per cent of the whole of Scotland. This is equivalent to a landmass larger than Belgium.

‘But there are no plans to reduce the number of UK Government ministers, meaning elected members will have even less ability to hold them to account.

‘For an area covering almost half of Scotland to be represented by only three MPs is a democratic outrage – especially at a time when the unelected chamber of the House of Lords continues to increase and is currently numbering around 800.

‘For the mainland Highlands area, a geography one and a half times the size of Wales to be cut to just two constituencies is astonishing.

‘South of the border, the largest proposed geographic constituency is Brecon, Radnor and Mongomery in Wales, a mere 3,624 sq km. That’s one third of the geography of the proposed boundary of Argyll, Bute and South West Highlands.

‘The UK Government is in chaos as we continue to weather the unwelcome storm of Brexit. There is no appetite for these proposals. If there is a genuine desire to reduce the cost of politics at UK level, the priority must be to abolish the unelected, undemocratic House of Lords, which has zero accountability to voters.’