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UK government 'u-turn' on boundary changes welcomed by MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

By Ali Morrison

Jamie Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross.
Jamie Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross.

A 'U-TURN' over possible changes to Highland constituency boundaries has been welcomed by a Ross MP.

Jamie Stone, who represents Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, was speaking after the Cabinet Office informed MPs that the Westminster government plans to bring forward legislation which would keep the total number of constituencies the same as now.

There are currently 650 MP seats across the UK and, although the news doesn't confirm that boundaries won't change, Mr Stone believes it makes it "highly unlikely" that it would impact such large geographical areas as those in the far north.

In recent months there had been fears that the Highlands might lose an MP in the event of any boundary shifts, and that Mr Stone's existing constituency might be extended to cover all of Ross-shire.

But, in a letter sent to MPs, the Cabinet Office stated that the new legislation would:

  • make provision for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650, and bring the 2018 Boundary Review to a close without implementation;
  • ensure fair and equal boundaries. The Government is minded to not change the tolerance level of +/- 5%: a constituency's electorate may be up to 5% above or below the average electorate size (the “electoral quota”);
  • not propose any additional protected constituencies;
  • change the rule so that boundary reviews are conducted every eight years (currently every five);
  • bring into effect the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commissions be brought by way of an Order in Council, which would not be subject to parliamentary procedure. The Order in Council would be drafted subsequent to the reports being laid before Parliament by yourself, and your successors.

Commenting on the news, Mr Stone said: “Although only a small issue against the present coronavirus backdrop, I am nevertheless pleased that sense has at last prevailed.

"The proposal to enlarge the Westminster Far North constituency by adding on most of Ross-shire was sheer madness. It would have meant constituents have less access to their elected MP simply because the distances he or she would have to have traveled across the vast new constituency would have verged on the impossible.”

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