When I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Inverclyde, I was only the 3rd person to have that title, as the current border definition was only created prior to the 2005 general election. Prior to that we had Greenock and Inverclyde which had been created prior to the 1997 general election and excluded Port Glasgow and Kilmacolm. Prior to that we had Greenock and Port Glasgow which was created prior to the 1974 general election and before that it was just called Greenock.
Therefore, given its history of shape shifting it should come as no surprise to anyone that the proposal is to, once again, redraw the constituency boundaries. This time some bright spark has created, Inverclyde and Largs. This latest creation encompasses the existing constituency of Inverclyde, that consists of Kilmacolm, Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, Inverkip and Wemyss Bay and continues south as far West Kilbride. It also includes the Isle of Cumbrae. This is, of course, all part of the process to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. Scotland will lose 6 seats and some, amongst the remaining 53, will be made bigger. There are a number of political issues here but putting politics aside, the logistics of covering an area that has doubled in size presents a number of problems. Currently my office is in Greenock. Geographically it is at the heart of the constituency. It is also in the biggest town and it is close to transport links. Is it fair and reasonable that people from North Ayrshire should have to travel to Greenock to meet their MP? If I am to cover an area then the larger that area the more time I spend traveling and the less time there is to spend with constituents. I shall admit that up until now, compared to some, I have been spoiled. Inverclyde is a good size and can be covered easily. I only have to work with one council and that makes life easier too. Many of my fellow MPs are not so lucky. Dr Paul Monaghan represents Caithness, Sutherland and Eastern Ross. His constituency is currently the same size as Belgium! And the plan is to increase it. An inner city Glasgow seat can be twenty one square kilometres, Dr Monaghan’s will be over twelve thousand square kilometres. Brendan O’Hara represents Argyll and Bute which includes 23 islands and that is also going to get bigger.
The role of an MP is to represent their constituents. We should be making that easier not more difficult. I rotate my surgeries to cover the six towns. If I have to cover down to West Kilbride then I have to add at least three more surgeries to the rota but more importantly my team of four will be expected to manage the expectations of an extra 20,000 people from one central office.
In summary, it doesn’t suit anyone and doesn’t improve representation for anyone. At a time when people are demanding better representation and the citizens of Scotland are more engaged than ever with the parliamentary process, we should not be taking actions that potentially weaken their voices.