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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Reid opposes boundary switch
There will be fewer Scottish MPs at Westminster
Westminster will have fewer Scottish MPs
The Northern Ireland Secretary has criticised Boundary Commission plans that could mean the disappearance of his seat in Lanarkshire.

Dr John Reid was the first witness to give evidence at a public inquiry into the proposals to redraw the electoral map in North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire.

Dr Reid, MP for Hamilton North and Bellshill, said towns and communities would be divided needlessly between new and different constituencies, breaking local ties.

"I believe that despite the best efforts of the commission, Lanarkshire as a whole has been ill-served by the proposals," he told the inquiry before a sheriff in Lenzie.

Dr John Reid
Dr Reid: "Lanarkshire ill-served"

The commission is proposing that the two areas be divided up into five new constituencies as part of a wider exercise which will reduce the number of Scottish constituencies from 72 to 59.

Dr Reid's seat is one of several, mainly Labour, seats that would vanish, leaving MPs battling against each other for a smaller number of constituencies.

The Labour Party favours the retention of Dr Reid at the expense of Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell and suggests that her Airdrie and Shotts seat goes instead.

New seat

BBC Scotland's political staff say it is difficult for her to fight back.

As Scottish secretary, she will have to rubber-stamp the new political map and cannot "gerrymander" the process.

In his submission, Dr Reid said: "I am proposing the creation of a new seat, Hamilton and Bellshill, which would have its core in the Hamilton North existing seat but would incorporate the whole of the old town of Hamilton within its boundaries, minus one section of Newarthill.

Ballot box
Five new constituencies are proposed

"That effectively means we avoid the split of Bellshill into three and maximise the amount of Hamilton town incorporated in the constituency."

His proposal, he argued, offered a higher degree of historical "continuity" and produced a constituency which more closely matched the electoral population goal of 69,000 per area.

A written statement on behalf of the Boundary Commission set out the ground rules by which it had been required to draw up its proposals.

At previous reviews, main concerns had generally arisen from the need to take into account population movement with Scotland, said the commission.

Electoral quota

But at this review, it had been required to apply the "electoral quota" for England - the size of the average English constituency - to Scotland.

Deputy Tory leader Annabel Goldie told the inquiry: "A cynic would say self-interest has determined the Scottish Labour Party approach."

She said her party supported the decision to pair East Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire and allocate five constituencies to the area.

The fiveare: Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill; Airdrie and Shotts; Bearsden, Bishopbriggs and Kirkintilloch West; Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East; Motherwell and Wishaw.

See also:

10 May 02 | Scotland
07 Feb 02 | Scotland
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
24 Jan 01 | N Ireland
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