Anger at '˜Tory power grab' as Fife boundaries redrawn

The Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes seats look set to be merged.The Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes seats look set to be merged.
The Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes seats look set to be merged.
A controversial plan to split Kirkcaldy's Westminster constituency in half has been met with anger, with the Lang Toun being merged with Glenrothes in a new seat.

Burntisland and Kinghorn would be grouped together in a separate seat which stretches as far as Inverkeithing, and renamed Fife South.

Leven, Methil, and Buckhaven would be moved to become part of North East Fife, while Fife South would go from Kinghorn as far north as Kelty.

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The recommendation from the Boundary Commission For Scotland will see a radical shake-up of the country’s constituencies, with an aim of reducing the number of seats in Scotland by six.

The commission made the recommendation this week, which has already seen several political parties raise concerns.

Both Labour and the SNP have expressed anger at the plans, accusing the Tories of trying to use the boundary changes to keep hold of power.

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Labour MP Lesley Laird said: “It is frankly astonishing that in the midst of their chaotic Brexit negotiations the Tories are still even contemplating pushing this nakedly partisan agenda.

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“In elite sport performance coaches look for marginal gains, the tiny improvement which will give them the edge over rivals.

“But in the race for power, the Conservatives have abandoned all pretence about aiming higher.

“This is about holding on to power at all costs.

“For the Tories it’s no longer about marginal gains, but instead about gaining marginals.

“Scotland has an important role to play in shaping post-Brexit Britain yet is being treated as collateral damage in this process. And as powers flow back from Brussels, Parliament’s capacity to examine extra legislation will be seriously diminished while its ability to challenge the Government is weakened.

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“This is not good for the people, not good for democracy and the Boundary Commission must be allowed to take into account significant changes to the electoral roll, and the post-Brexit landscape. This proposal must be rejected.”

SNP MP for Glenrothes Peter Grant said: “The proposals do nothing to improve democracy or to help MPs do the job of representing our constituents.

“At a time when Brexit and welfare changes are causing a big increase in the number of people looking for help from their MP it makes no sense to be cutting the number of MPs in Fife and in Scotland generally.

“Inevitably there will be speculation about which sitting MPs might or might not benefit from the changes.

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“But this is not about MPs’ job prospects, it’s about reducing the size of the elected chamber in the British Parliament at the same time as the Government is creating more and more unelected members of the house of lords.

“The Commission needs to obey the legislation that was forced through two parliaments ago by the Tories and Lib Dems .

“It’s a mark of the ridiculous rules of Westminster that despite being now opposed by a majority of MPs there’s no way for parliament to reverse that decision.

“The constant chopping and changing of boundaries means communities don’t have time to build up a relationship with their local MP.

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“Even if all four sitting MPs in Fife choose to stand for re-election, all of us will be looking for votes from thousands of people we’ve never represented before because they were in a different constituency.

“And thousands of Fifers will be forced to choose a different MP even if they are perfectly happy with the one they already have.

“This might suit the Prime Minister’s agenda of trying to silence Scotland’s voice at Westminster but it’s against Scotland’s interests and I hope every MP in Scotland will oppose it.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats said that regardless of the changes, they intend to focus on North East Fife: “Throughout this process, Liberal Democrats have stood up for the principle that community ties should be maintained and that any changes should not allow political parties to slice up communities for electoral advantage. North East Fife is the most marginal seat in the country and we are confident that whether these boundaries are eventually implemented or not, our candidate Wendy Chamberlain will be challenging the SNP at the next election.”

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A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The commission is independent and it is now for parliament to consider the findings.”

Notes attached to the paper published by the Boundary Commission for Scotland this week show that the Conservatives supported the proposed boundary changes.

The issue now needs to get the approval of MPs in Parliament ... many of whom may now be facing a scramble to to find a new seat!