February 4, 2004
Boundary changes "will stifle Scottish
By Jason Beattie and Andrew Denholm
LABOUR and the Tories were yesterday accused
of trying to stifle the smaller parties in the Scottish Parliament
after backing proposals to cut the number of MSPs elected by the
In a report yesterday, the Labour-dominated Commons Scottish
affairs committee came out in favour of keeping the size of the
parliament at 129, but also called for the retention of so-called
co- terminus boundaries, where MPs and MSPs share the same
If the recommendations are accepted, it would mean two MSPs for
each of the 59 Westminster constituencies, with the remaining 11
being elected from the list. The proposals, backed by Labour and
Conservative MPs on the committee, provoked a furious reaction
from smaller parties in Scotland, who said any reduction in the 56
list MPs would undermine the parliamentĺ─˘s democratic mandate.
In a further snub to the Holyrood institution, the MPs recommended
that the final decision on all such constitutional issues should
be made in Westminster by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and
not in Edinburgh.
The Green Party claimed the report showed the old-style parties
were panicking in the face of democracy breaking out in Scotland.
Mark Ballard MSP, the Green spokesman on parliamentary business,
said the Scottish people would see through this attempt at
Bruce Crawford, an SNP MSP, said the proposals flew in the face of
all democratic principles. "The only body with the democratic
legitimacy to decide on reform is the Scottish Parliament
itself," he said.
Meanwhile, in the Scottish Parliament, Andy Kerr, the finance
minister, denied plans to change the voting system for local
councils in Scotland was a political fix cooked up by Labour and
the Liberal Democrats after the last election.
Mr Kerr, a Labour MSP, and his deputy, Tavish Scott, a Liberal
Democrat, were questioned by Holyroodĺ─˘s local government
The committee is scrutinising the Scottish Executiveĺ─˘s Local
Governance Bill, which seeks to introduce the single transferable
vote method of proportional representation for council elections.
Labour back-benchers and councillors have voiced opposition to the