The new Conservative bill on elections passed last year reduces the number of seats overall from 650 to 600. The breakdown is as follows:
Nation Old seats New seats
England 533 502
Scotland 59 52
Wales 40 30
N. Ireland 18 16
Total 650 600
I have estimated the effect on the parties if the last (2010) election had had the new boundaries, by simply assigning the percentages of the 2010 vote according to the way the 2010 constituency was split up:
Scotland: Old New (estd.)
C 1, Lab 41, LD 11, SNP 6 C 0, Lab 38, LD 8, SNP 6
England: Old New (estd.)
C 298, Lab 191, LD 43, G 1 C 291, Lab 183, LD 28, G 0
N. Ireland: Old New
Nationalist 18 Nationalist 16
Wales: Old New
C 8, Lab 26, LD 3, PC3 Available Jan. 2012 (see also my article ”The Taffymander” in Cambria).
The most interesting case is Scotland, where the SNP are the only part not to lose. This recalls my findings in the article “The Taffymander” that would lose less in the new seat distribution for Wales than any other party. I showed that this was due to the geographical distribution of the Welsh language, which is strong in “promontory”-type constituencies, and also in the neighbouring “mainland” regions. When seat numbers are reduced, promontory seats have to be expanded, and this can only be done in the direction of the neighbouring mainland, which only brings in more Welsh-language (i.e. Plaid) votes. The “promontories” involved in Wales are Ynys Mon, the Llyn, and Penfro (which can only expand into Welsh-specaking Arfon. Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthen).
It looks like the same is true in Scotland, where the “promontory” involved is Aberdeenshire (ignoring the Western Isles, which are given special treatment in the new law). Since they cannot expand into the North Sea, as the number of seats decreases, the promontory seats expand into a broad arc from Moray Firth to the Tay which is rich in SNP voters, and so the SNP do not lose.
But this leaves one big question unanswered – why are SNP voters so heavily concentrated in the north-east of the country? In the case of Plaid’s promontory seats, it is because of an underlying social variable – the Welsh-speaking vote. But what is the social variable underlying the SNP vote in North-East Scotland? Not language (Gaelic), nor religion (“Wee Free” Presbytreianism, by analogy with Welsh Nonconformity). Does anybody have any suggestions as to why this sector of Scotland is so strongly Nationalist? I’d like to hear from you.