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GOVERNMENT DECLARES OPPOSITION TO SCOTTISH CONSTITUENCIES BILL

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Hansard 22 March: Column 1080 ...
Hansard 22 March: Column 1080

A private member's Bill which seeks to accelerate the reduction in the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster and which would allow different consituency boundaries for the Holyrood and Westminster parliaments, was given a second reading in the lords.

This followed convention in the upper house not oppose a Bill at second reading - although Scottish minister and former CoSLA president Lord Sewel signalled the government's opposition, ensuring it will not become law.

Conservative frontbencher Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, who introduced the Bill, said there was no reason for the Boundary Commission to have to wait until after the next general election to reduce the number of Westminster MPs from Scotland to 58 - by raising the electoral quota in Scottish seats from the current 54,000 to the English level of 65,000. When the boundary changes were brought in, the number of MPs in the Scottish parliament would be reduced as a consequence.

He said: 'This coupling of the number of MPs at Westminster and the number of members of the Scottish parliament is totally illogical. I understand the convenience for the first time, but I cannot believe that it makes sense in the long term. I can think of nothing more designed to create bad blood between Holyrood and Westminster than the government's current proposals.

'In a few years time they will say to the Scottish parliament - and more importantly to 21 of the 129 members - 'Sorry, we can dispense with you; We don't need you. The only reason we don't need you is that we've reduced the number of members of parliament at Westminster'

'This small Bill of mine is an appeal for commonsense before the parliament starts work'.

Lord Sewel said the government could not support the breaking of the link between Westminster and Scottish parliamentary constituencies and so fix the size of the Scottish parliament at at least 127 members.

'Common boundaries will make for representation which is easier to access and will help to ensure that MPs and MSPs are well placed to co-ordinate their constituency work'. That should make sure that local interests are properly represented in both places', said the minister.

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