Saturday, 3 December 2016

My alternative constituencies: Northern Ireland (briefing on Scotland)

I would at this point have started off with alternative constituency proposals for Scotland to end my series on alternative constituencies for the 2018 review.

However, the Boundary Commission for Scotland's site ( does not give me the option to select polling districts which is necessary for modifying constituencies I believe to be unacceptable, and this is essential in Scotland since due to its use of STV for local government elections, every ward must have 3 or 4 members and every ward therefore must have large numbers of electors to maintain both proportionality and fairness. Therefore, I will have to move to Northern Ireland in terms of alternative constituencies, and briefly say that the rule allowing constituencies of between 12,000 and 13,000 sq km in area to have an electorate under the minimum quota should be applied, in order to have undersized but geographically large constituencies in the Highland area (the only council area in the whole of the United Kingdom where this rule has any effect, being the only one larger than 12,000 sq km). These should be Caithness, Sutherland & Ross and Skye, Lochaber & Oban, with the other Highland constituency being Inverness. As I only included 49 constituencies in my alternative proposals across the 'Yorkshire & The Humber' region (partly caused by separating Selby from North Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire from East Yorkshire), I needed to include 54 constituencies in Scotland (52 if you discount the protected Na h-Eilanan an lar and Orkney & Shetland island constituencies) to make sure that there would be 600 constituencies in total.

Therefore, I will focus on Northern Ireland, also known as the six counties of Ulster that remain part of the UK (Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan are part of the Republic of Ireland). It has undergone major local governmental reform in the last few years, culminating with the creation of many super councils that have no respect for traditional county borders which are much more important here. However, this reform has at the same time recognised how far the Northern Irish capital of Belfast now extends in reality. Northern Ireland is also subject to a less restrictive minimum electorate limit: 69,401 instead of 71,507. It would be more helpful if the rest of the UK could benefit from that lower limit.

It has been suggested that Mid-Ulster be abolished (given that it contains parts of both Londonderry and Tyrone) but unfortunately I have not been able to find a constructive way of achieving this, given that Armagh should be separate from Londonderry and Tyrone for constituency purposes, and should simply be divided into Newry & Armagh and Craigavon (Upper Bann minus the County Down parts) so that they are both within County Armagh as much as possible. I have therefore decided to merely extend Mid Ulster and rename it Glenshane, and at the same time perform minimum change with Fermanagh & South Tyrone and West Tyrone (and no real change at all in Foyle's case). The growth of coastal towns in Antrim not too far from Belfast (e.g. Carrickfergus) necessitates significant change there, as does separating the city of Lisburn (currently the dominant part of the Lagan Valley constituency) from the hinterlands of County Down as the Boundary Commission has wisely recommended.

My alternative constituencies for Northern Ireland therefore look like this:

Belfast South is abolished.
Lagan Valley is abolished, its Antrim and Down parts returning to whence they came.
Belfast North West succeeds Belfast North.
Belfast South West succeeds Belfast West.
Craigavon succeeds Upper Bann; this time it is (almost) entirely in County Armagh.
Mid Antrim succeeds North Antrim in practice.
East Londonderry & Ballymoney succeeds East Londonderry, stretching along the Causeway Coast.
Glenshane succeeds Mid-Ulster, taking in more of County Londonderry. It is named for the Glenshane Pass that lies within the constituency.
West Down is a new seat.

I will note that when I say a constituency succeeds another 'in practice', it means that the old constituency has been substantially changed even though enough of it remains to be a predecessor of a successor constituency This generally means that the old constituency makes up only 50-65% of the electorate of a successor constituency, and often adds electors from two or more other constituencies.

There is still time to submit constituency proposals online to the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, depending on where you live within the United Kingdom. The deadline is 5th December, so not delay if your proposals are ready.


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