Highlands & Islands

Concerns over boundary changes in Highlands

Skye Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption One of the three planned new seats would be called Inverness and Skye

Concerns have been raised about the size and layout of planned new Highlands UK Parliament constituencies.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland is consulting on proposals to create three new constituencies.

Fears raised include difficulties for MPs servicing larger constituencies and the break-up of traditional areas.

The commission, whose consultation runs until 11 January, said it recognised "there may be tensions in some areas" over the planned changes.

UK Parliament boundaries are to be changed under plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

No changes are to be made to the boundary of the Western Isles constituency, Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

The three new Highlands constituencies are to be known as Argyll, Bute and Lochaber; Inverness and Skye; and Highland North.

The seat of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is to be largely absorbed into the new Inverness and Skye. Part of Lochaber would form Argyll, Bute and Lochaber.

'Difficult job'

Highland North would be the UK's largest-ever constituency, covering Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross and Easter Ross.

Highland councillor Audrey Sinclair said it would be difficult for an MP to service such a big area.

She said: "I feel sorry for the constituents because just how often would they see an MP?

"Also, the person who is actually elected would have a very difficult job to make sure that they do cover all the area."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The boundary changes form part of plans to reduce the number of MPs at Westminster

Lyn Kilpatrick, of Kilmallie in Lochaber, said communities and community assets would be lost from the traditional area of Lochaber.

The boundary changes would, for example, see the base of Lochaber Rugby Club inside the new constituency of Inverness and Skye, she said.

She added: "It may seem a marginal issue, but I think it is important. The commission says itself that it tries to retain people's traditional communities and people's sense of who they are and what they belong to for UK parliamentary purposes."

Full reviews of UK Parliament constituencies are carried out every five years and Scottish Parliament boundaries about every 10 years, with interim reviews of selected areas sooner if considered necessary.

Isobel Drummond Murray, of the Boundary Commission, said: "Part of the change is to balance a legislative requirement with coming up with sensible proposals.

"There may be tensions in some areas and Scotland certainly has challenging geography in places and the commission is aware of these challenges."

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