Shuffling the deckchairs

Every few years the political boundaries for elections are redrawn in an effort to ensure the voting pools are mostly equal. This ensures the grid of people you goto vote with is approximately the same size as everyone else.

Political parties dislike it as it will favour one or other opponent. MP’s dislike it because they like the stability. People dislike it because it often comes as an attack to their sense of place.

However much bureaucracy is spent on consistently updating the lines drawn on the ground.

The 2018 reviews of boundaries were ignored.

The 2013 reviews of boundaries were ignored.

It was around 2004 we last bothered to follow them. Amusingly we actually have two quangos, or commissions, who specifically look at Scotland. (Arguably there is a third when you include councils).

The Boundary Commission for Scotland

Scottish Boundary Commission

I am not kidding. There is plenty overlap between the people involved. The websites. The formats. It’s all very similar. One handles Westminster and one handles Holyrood.

However the real star of the boundary show is Allan from BallotBox Scotland who actually makes sense of it and produces wonderful graphics. Sadly his work is not funded by government, so donate if you can.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you, but here is the point. The perceived inequality of variance in population density of each seat is of absolutely no significance compared to the inadequacy of our voting system.

‘Linlithgow and East Falkirk’ is our largest capita constituency at 88,506 and will therefore have the lowest ‘strength per person’ vs ‘Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross’ at 46,924 which is our smallest capita constituency. A full 41,582 difference. The mean difference between all the non protected constituencies is about 12,000 people.

However have you ever heard anyone arguing about the disparity in power of vote? Probably not.

Let’s look though at how many people voted in each constituency but got no Westminster representation.

In Linlithgow and Falkirk East – 32,224 people did not get a representative they voted for despite being the majority of voters.

In Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – 19,752 people did not get a representative they voted for despite being the majority of voters.

Even with the most extreme example of difference in voter attribution between areas. More people, who actually went and voted, are lost – 51,976. Or rather their vote was then useless after the result.

This is remedied in the Scottish Parliament with the Additional Member System equalising out those who voted for parties that did not win a constituency, so that representation is correct.

Now, this blog doesn’t call for the abolition of the boundary commissions, as they carry out essential and good work, even if they could really be one unit.

It does however point out, it is somewhat pointless to do the boundary reviews without considering whether the voting system isn’t actually a bigger elephant in the room when it comes to a fair electoral system. First Past The Post has had its day and needs replaced.

It isn’t a horse race, its democracy.

The myth of ‘strong, stable government’ from FPTP has been busted.

Usefully Allan at BallotBox Scotland has considered replacement in much more depth than I’d ever do.

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