Sunday, 13 July 2014

Whatever Happened To Kirkintilloch West?

I have been having a look at the Scottish European election results and I just want to note something about the name of Dunbartonshire East constituency - there are some constituencies, such as Ipswich and Poole, which might give the impression that they contain the town in question.

The Ipswich constituency contains 81% of Ipswich itself, while the remainder lies in Suffolk Central & Ipswich North. The Poole constituency contains 64% of Poole, with the remainder split between Bournemouth West and Dorset Mid & Poole North.

Yet, this doesn't get reflected in constituency names - there is no Ipswich South, Bournemouth West & Poole East or Poole South.

Only 45% of the Norwich North constituency lies in Norwich itself, with the remainder split between the Norfolk towns of Hellesdon, Sprowston and Thorpe St Andrew. However, here it would be tricky to come up with an accurate name - you either come up with a long-winded thing like Norwich North, Sprowston, Thorpe St Andrew & Hellesdon, or you rely on a short name which reflects a minority of the constituency.

Every Boundary Commission has a trade-off between accuracy and simplicity when it comes to constituency names.

In Yorkshire it gets interesting. You would not be surprised that Bradford East (Liberal Democrat), Bradford South (Labour) and Bradford West (held since a by-election in March 2012 by Respect - The Unity Coalition) are in Bradford. Yet they only make up 59% of Bradford - with the remainder being in two constituencies, Keighley (Conservative) and Shipley (also Conservative), making Bradford unique among British cities by having MPs for 4 parties representing it.

Next door, only 63% of Leeds lies in constituencies with the city mentioned in their name - Leeds Central, Leeds East, Leeds North East, Leeds North West and Leeds West. However, there are 7 constituencies lying totally in Leeds, with Elmet & Rothwell (Leeds to the east of Leeds East) and Pudsey (Leeds to the west of Leeds West). There is also an eighth constituency - Morley & Outwood - which covers the southern part of Leeds but also parts of Wakefield.

When it comes to the city of Wakefield, only 28% lies in the constituency of that name. The other two Wakefield constituencies - Hemsworth and Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford - both contain more of Wakefield than the Wakefield constituency does!

A major factor is the way local government has developed, with cities such as Bradford, Leeds or Wakefield extending into rural and semi-urban areas, absorbing areas with town names.

There is a constituency containing the name Kirkintilloch East - yet you would look in vain for another constituency with Kirkintilloch in its name. But there nearly was...

Prior to the May 2005 general election, the Boundary Commission for Scotland drew up new constituencies for Scotland, following the Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004 decoupling the Scottish Parliament constituencies from the House of Commons ones.

Prior to that, there had been constituencies such as Clydebank & Milngavie; Coatbridge & Chryston; Cumbernauld & Kilsyth and Strathkelvin & Bearsden.

There is no town or city called "Strathkelvin" - it was the name of a District Council set up by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and then abolished under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, which ensured that all of Scotland was covered by unitary authorities - the anti-devolutionist Conservative government unwittingly doing something that has to be done prior to devolution (to avoid there being three tiers of local/regional government.

Strathkelvin was basically the towns of Bishopbriggs, Chryston and Kirkintilloch and the villages around them (so even the "Strathkelvin & Bearsden" constituency name was inaccurate, as the Chryston area was not in the constituency). Under the 1994 reforms, this area was split between the council areas of East Dunbartonshire (Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch) and North Lanarkshire (Chryston). Clydebank & Milngavie was another constituency split between council areas - the Clydebank area ended up in West Dunbartonshire, while Milngavie joined with Bishopbriggs and Kirkintilloch.

When the Boundary Commission drew up its proposals for 2005 (which are still in force), it suggested a Bishopbriggs, Bearsden & Kirkintilloch West, reflecting the fact that Kirkintilloch would be split across constituencies. The name wasn't totally accurate - convenience strikes again - as there was no mention of Milngavie. But the Commission settled on Dunbartonshire East - again, not totally accurate as it is smaller than the council area.

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