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Moray councillors oppose ‘unbelievably stupid’ boundary change proposals

A planning application for the redevelopment and extension of the James Jones sawmill in Mosstodloch is expected to be submitted to Moray Council.

“Bizarre, mind-blowing and unbelievably stupid” is how proposals to carve up the Moray UK parliamentary constituency have been described by councillors.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland is carrying out a review of Westminster seats that includes plans to split Moray in three to make up new constituencies with areas from Aberdeenshire and Highland.

The move has already drawn criticism from MP Douglas Ross and MSP Richard Lochhead and today Moray councillors added their voices to the growing concern that the area will lose its identity if the plans go ahead.

Almost half of members attending the meeting of the full Moray Council today took the opportunity to speak against the boundary changes, including those from all political parties and representatives from independent groups.

‘Mind-blowing’

There was unanimous agreement for the council to send a response to the commission strongly opposing the changes.

Council leader and SNP member for Elgin South Graham Leadbitter called the proposals “mind-blowing”.

He said: “We’re going from one MP covering the region to three, with one area going from Portgordon to Dalwhinnie and the Drumochter Pass. The geography of that is particularly daft.

Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter.

“This will take away the identity of Moray as a parliamentary constituency and diminish the standing of Moray in terms of how it’s viewed.

“Moray’s boundaries are fine as they are.”

Mr Leadbitter also criticised the plan to reduce Scotland’s MPs from 59 to 57 as part of the review, adding it was already one of the most unrepresented countries in Europe.

Councillor for Buckie and leader of the Conservative Tim Eagle group felt the move would be destabilising for the local authority, with smaller communities being lost in larger authorities.

He said: “A common MP might not seem like much but having someone who can speak for the whole area, continuing to drive forward those relationships between towns and partnerships will be crucial.

Moray Council’s Conservative group leader Tim Eagle.

“Opening that up to three MPs where areas such as Spey Bay start linking with areas like Aviemore will force another major shift in thinking which will cause significant issues to the Moray Council.

“Community voice in these areas is vital and at present that voice is louder and stronger as part of Moray.”

Unity breaks out among Moray councillors

Independent councillor for Forres George Alexander described the proposal as “unbelievable stupidity” but was delighted that the whole council was opposed to the move.

Conservative councillor for Fochabers Lhanbryde Mark Macrae highlighted Moray’s unique environmental and  business diversity.

He said: “They need to know were proud Moravians and we’re here to stay.”

Independent councillor for Speyside Glenlivet Derek Ross also objected to the changes.

He said: “It’s totally bizarre and extraordinary what they’ve come up with.

“I’ve lived in Moray for 45 years and there have been some stupid ideas that have been put forward in that time, but this must be the most stupid.

“I know it’s late in the day but unity breaks out in Moray Council.”

SNP councillor for Keith and Cullen Theresa Coull warned of voter apathy as a result of cutting community connections in Moray calling the proposals “absolutely ridiculous” while Conservative member for the ward Donald Gatt said the changes “should not be entertained at all.”

Conservative councillor for Elgin North Frank Brown issued a warning over the future of the local authority saying he though Moray was on course to be merged with Aberdeenshire and Highland councils.

Elgin City North councillor Frank Brown.

The Boundary Commission proposals include putting Buckie and Keith into the Banff and Buchan constituency along with the Aberdeenshire communities of Aberchirder, Fraserburgh, Maud, Mintlaw, Peterhead.

Dallas, Rothes, Aberlour, Dufftown and Tomintoul in Moray could join Ellon, Huntly, Turriff, Insch, Inverurie, Kintore and Old Meldrum to form Gordon and Moray South.

The proposed Highland East and Elgin constituency could be made up of Badenoch and Strathspey, Nairn, Forres and Lossiemouth as well as Elgin.

The consultation on the review of the UK parlimentary constituencies will run until the beginning of December. Comments can be made via www.bcs2023review.com

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