A BIGGER section of Musselburgh could be removed from East Lothian for future General Elections, as part of revised boundary changes revealed this week.

Updated proposals from the Boundary Commission for Scotland would mean that about 11,200 electors from Musselburgh, including the town centre and Inveresk, could now join an Edinburgh East constituency – an increase from about 8,500 as part of initial proposals announced last autumn.

Changes are being considered to the county’s Westminster constituency – which until now has exactly matched the county boundaries – under proposals being drawn up by the Boundary Commission to take account of changes in population size and distribution.

The initial proposals split Musselburgh between two constituencies, with the boundary following the River Esk. About 8,500 Musselburgh electors living to the west of the river were to be added to an Edinburgh East constituency. The rest of the East Lothian constituency would then have been renamed East Lothian Coast and would have continued to include the part of Musselburgh to the east of the river.

Now, with the revised proposals, the Edinburgh East constituency would include a larger part of Musselburgh, about 11,200 electors, also incorporating the area west of Goose Green, Loretto School and playing grounds, up through The Grove to the A1.

East Lothian Courier: A map showing the boundaries of the revised Edinburgh East constituency, including much of Musselburgh

A map showing the boundaries of the revised Edinburgh East constituency, including much of Musselburgh

The rest of the eastern part of the town – Pinkie, Musselburgh Racecourse, Levenhall, Ravensheugh and West Pans, as well as Whitecraig and Wallyford – would be in a constituency renamed East Lothian and Lammermuirs.

The proposed changes would have no effect to the existing Scottish Parliament constituencies, which see Musselburgh, Wallyford and Whitecraig included as part of the Midlothian North and Musselburgh constituency, and the rest of the county in the East Lothian constituency.

The commission consulted on its initial proposals between October and December 2021 and again between February and March 2022, and received about 60 responses opposing the proposals in Musselburgh and the town being split between two constituencies.

Lord Matthews, deputy chair of the Boundary Commission for Scotland, said: “We have considered all representations very carefully and, where possible, have tried to respond positively to suggestions.

“The legislative requirements of the review do mean we are not always able to incorporate alternatives and sometimes, of course, we receive conflicting views or suggestions with unintended consequences for other parts of Scotland.

“We very much look forward to receiving views on the revised proposals, after which we will finalise our proposals before submitting them to the Speaker of the House of Commons by July 1 next year.”

'Undermine the county'

Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP, said: “I take the view it’s not for politicians to set these boundaries for themselves.

“If the criteria is simply a set number of constituents then it has some logic. It does, though, undermine the county and the communities within it.

“That said, I recall being elected in 2007 for the then Holyrood constituency of Edinburgh East and Musselburgh.”

Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, was not happy with the prospect of splitting the town in two,

He said: “The revised boundaries, in my opinion, make no logical sense.

“Musselburgh and its interests are very much aligned with that of East Lothian. The interests and needs of Musselburgh hold more local connections and similarities to East Lothian than that of Edinburgh.

“I am concerned that by moving these areas to what is the proposed new Edinburgh East constituency, local ties that are currently in place may be strained if not broken – especially in Musselburgh, where the boundary proposes to split Musselburgh in half.

“I see no reason as to why a community needs to be split.

“Currently, Musselburgh is facing issues, for example access to healthcare services at Riverside Medical Practice and ongoing consultation of the Musselburgh Flood Protection Scheme. Both issues I am involved with as the local MSP, but it would indeed make issues such as these more complex to deal with having Musselburgh split between two MPs.”

On the wider proposals, he added: “Overall, the proposed boundary changes will see Scotland lose two MPs. This is simply unacceptable.”

'Adds to confusion'

Councillor Shona McIntosh, Musselburgh ward member, added: “This latest change adds to the confusion around electoral boundaries in Musselburgh, with no continuity between local, Scottish or Westminster boundaries.

“It will not empower voters to feel that their elected representative has a connection to the community and an understanding of their needs.

“It may also lead to voters in Musselburgh feeling more disenfranchised from East Lothian, exacerbating an existing issue in local politics.

“When added to the well-known problems of the first past the post electoral system, these changes present yet another barrier to the thriving democratic culture we should be aiming for.”

The Boundary Commission spokesperson said: “The 2023 review must recommend 57 UK Parliament constituencies in Scotland and each constituency must be within an electorate quota of between 69,724 and 77,062 electors, except for two preserved constituencies (Western Isles, and Orkney and Shetland).

“The existing East Lothian constituency, which follows the East Lothian council area boundary, contains 82,479 electors and is therefore outwith the electorate quota for the 2023 review. This figure is based on the March 2020 electorate data, which the commission must use for the 2023 review.

“The proposed boundary aims to follow an historical UK Parliament constituency boundary in use 1997-2005 and a Scottish Parliament constituency boundary 1999-2011.”

A public consultation is now underway until December 5. Go to the commission’s consultation site at bcs2023review.com to view and comment on the proposals.

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “We understand that, in reviewing UK parliamentary constituencies, there is a desire to equalise the electorate across constituencies.

"Nevertheless we previously wrote to the Boundary Commission highlighting that the proposal splits a long-established community between two constituencies.

"In recent years, the council has undertaken work with groups within Musselburgh to build a sense of place. From an administrative perspective, it would be the preference for the East Lothian constituency to be wholly within the council area and this would also minimise voter confusion.

"If the proposal to move much of Musselburgh to eastern Edinburgh goes ahead, we explained in our letter that its place in that constituency should be reflected in the name.

"We note that these remain proposals and we await the outcome of the process.”