Monday, May 25, 2009

The Boundary Commission tyranny of numbers

As a follow-up to my previous post Malapportionment in the UK? I've noticed that the current boundary review for the Scottish Parliament is proving extremely controversial in the Highlands. Creating seats of equal size is sometimes not as easy as it looks.

The Boundary Commission's specific task there is to create three seats within the Highland council area with approximately equal sizes. "Oh that's simple!" I hear some people cry. But the proposals the Boundary Commission have come up with are proving incredibly controversial, with the latest outrage being proposals to remove Dingwall, the county town of Ross-shire, and the Black Isle and put them not in a Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat but in a Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch seat. Ross-shire Journal: Electoral carve-up of Ross slammed as 'ludicrous' has more details.

Geography and natural ties are often the opponents of numeric exactitude in boundary reviews. One has to give for the other to be achieved. If the country is to have "equal sized seats" overriding everything else then some very arbitrary lines will have to be drawn, totally stamping all over concerns about local ties.

So who wants to volunteer to create three equal sized seats (even the current proposals have a variation of nearly 5000), nominate a set of boundaries and tell the Highlanders what has been imposed on them from afar?

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