House of Commons - Explanatory Note
House of Commons
Session 2003-04
Publications on the internet
Other Bills before Parliament
Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Bill







1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 27 November 2003. They have been provided by the Scotland Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.     The purpose of the Bill is to remove the present link between the constituencies for the Scottish Parliament and those for the House of Commons. The Bill provides that the existing constituencies are to be retained for the Scottish Parliament notwithstanding any changes to these for the purposes of United Kingdom parliamentary elections. It also provides for the Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions to be reviewed by the Electoral Commission, separately from any review of Scottish Westminster constituencies.


4.     The Scotland Act 1998 provides for the constituencies of the Scottish Parliament to be the same as those for the United Kingdom Parliament, except that Orkney and Shetland are separate constituencies. There are currently 73 constituency Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and 56 regional list MSPs. The Act also provides that the Boundary Commission for Scotland when reviewing the Westminster constituencies should use the same (larger) electoral quota as used in England. This is likely to reduce the number of Scottish constituencies from 72 to 59.

[Bill 4—EN]     53/3

This in turn would result in a reduction in the number of Scottish Parliament constituencies and, because of the requirement in the Scotland Act for proportionality between constituency and regional seats, a pro rata reduction in the number of regional members.

5.     As a consequence of this linkage in the Scotland Act there would therefore be an automatic reduction in the size of the Scottish Parliament when the number of MPs at Westminster representing Scottish constituencies is reduced following the review currently being carried out by the Boundary Commission for Scotland.

6.     The Scotland Act also requires that, following their review of Parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, the Boundary Commission must consider the boundaries of the regions which return additional members to the Scottish Parliament when they make recommendations which affect constituency boundaries.

7.     In December 2001 the then Secretary of State for Scotland launched a public consultation seeking views on the case for retaining or ending the linking of Westminster and Holyrood constituency boundaries as provided in the Scotland Act, in the light of the experience gained from the operation of the Scottish Parliament. The majority of respondents supported retaining the present size of the Parliament.

8.     Following this consultation, the Secretary of State announced in a statement in the House of Commons on 18 December 2002 (Hansard, Columns 859-60) that legislation would be brought forward to retain the existing number of MSPs.


Clause 1:

9.     Subsection (1) replaces Schedule 1 of the Scotland Act, which makes provision for constituencies, regions and regional members in relation to the Scottish Parliament, with a new Schedule which retains the number of constituencies in the Scottish Parliament at 73, with the 8 regions continuing to return 7 regional list members, thereby preserving the size of the Parliament at 129 Members.

10.     Subsections (2) and (3) introduce Schedule 2, which makes provision to deal, if necessary, with the period before the functions of the Boundary Commission for Scotland are transferred to the Electoral Commission.

11.     Subsection (4) provides that the first review of the Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions will not commence until after the next general election to the Scottish Parliament in 2007.

12.     Subsection (5) is a consequential amendment. Schedule 1 of the Scotland Act has been substantially amended (prospectively) by paragraphs 17 to 24 of Schedule 3 to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. These provisions, concerning the transfer of functions from the Boundary Commission for Scotland to the Electoral Commission, are superseded by the provisions in this Bill.

Clause 2:

13.     This clause gives effect to the provisions in Schedule 3 concerning the current statutory review of Westminster constituencies and Scottish Parliament regions which is being carried out by the Boundary Commission for Scotland. The Boundary Commission are required to submit to the Secretary of State for Scotland, by December 2006, a report on Scottish Westminster constituencies, which must also include recommendations for consequential alterations to the regions for purposes of Scottish Parliament elections. This latter report will not be relevant once the Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions have been decoupled from the Westminster constituencies and any report on these regional boundaries needs to be disapplied.

Schedule 1:

14.     This Schedule is linked to sections 1 to12 in the Scotland Act 1998 concerning elections. It replaces the present Schedule 1 to the Scotland Act, specifies the constituencies and regions for purposes of the Scottish Parliament, provides for the Electoral Commission to review the boundaries of the constituencies and regions, and provides for the holding of local inquiries following any objections in relation to proposed changes.

15.     Paragraphs 1 and 2 preserve the existing constituencies and regions, and the arrangements for election of regional members of the Parliament - 73 MSPs within the existing constituencies, and 56 list MSPs in 8 regions, with 7 members per region.

16.     The provisions in this Schedule largely replicate the provisions for the review of Westminster constituencies set out in the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 and existing provisions regarding the regions in Schedule 1 of the Scotland Act.

17.     Paragraphs 3 and 4 provide for the regular review by the Electoral Commission of the boundaries of the constituencies and regions. Paragraph 3, sub-paragraph (4) requires the first review to be completed and reported on not later than 30 June 2010, and thus some time in advance of the general election to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011. The Electoral Commission are required at the same time as they submit their report to the Secretary of State to lay the report before the Scottish Parliament. The Parliament has no power to reject or to effect changes to the report, although it could debate it. The Secretary of State, as soon as practicable after the Electoral Commission have submitted their report to him, is required to lay that report before Parliament, along with a draft Order in Council for giving effect to the recommendations in the report.

18.     Paragraph 5 sets out the procedures to be followed by the Boundary Committee for Scotland and the Electoral Commission in reviewing and making recommendations on the constituency and regional boundaries for the Scottish Parliament.

19.     Paragraph 6 makes provision for the implementation of the Electoral Commission's recommendations by Order in Council, which must be approved in draft by each House of Parliament.

20.     Paragraphs 7 and 8 require the Electoral Commission and the Boundary Committee for Scotland to give notice of their intention to consider making a report and of any proposed recommendations.

21.     Paragraphs 9 to 11 give the Boundary Committee power to hold local inquiries and to compel witnesses.

22.     Paragraphs 12 and 13 set out the rules for the conduct of constituency and regional reviews. These rules define how the electorate is to be established for each constituency and region and require the electorates to be similar respectively in each of the constituencies and regions, with the proviso that regard must be had to local authority boundaries, and geography and local ties may be taken into consideration. A constituency must fall wholly within a region.

     Schedule 2:

23.     This Schedule makes transitional provisions to deal, if necessary, with the position before the Electoral Commission takes over the functions of the Boundary Commission for Scotland. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 provides that the Electoral Commission will in due course take on responsibility for determining Parliamentary electoral boundaries. It will establish four Boundary Committees, one for each part of the United Kingdom - the Scottish Committee will take over the present functions of the Boundary Commission for Scotland. That Commission will cease to exist when the Secretary of State for Scotland directs by order that he is satisfied that the Commission has no further functions to perform. The Government has indicated that the functions of the present Boundary Commissions will not transfer until after they have completed their current reviews.

     Schedule 3:

24.     The provisions of this Schedule (see also Clause 2) ensure that any recommendations on changes to the regional boundaries included in the report of the Boundary Commission following their current review will not be acted upon.


25.     The provisions which introduce a regular review of the boundaries of the Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions will place an additional requirement on the Electoral Commission and the Boundary Committee for Scotland, from time to time. It is estimated that these periodic reviews will cost in the region of up to £300,000 per annum when active.


26.     The provisions in the Bill that provide for the review of the constituencies of the Scottish Parliament by the Electoral Commission may require a few additional staff to carry out these new functions.


27.     No Regulatory Impact Assessment is needed for this Bill as there will be no direct or indirect regulatory burdens on business charities or the voluntary sector.


28.     The Bill has no commencement provision. The effect is that the Bill will be brought into force on receiving Royal Assent.


29.     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House to make a statement before Second Reading on the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The Secretary of State for Scotland has made the following statement under section 19(1)(a):

"In my view the provisions of the Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Bill are compatible with the Convention rights."

House of Commons home page Houses of Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared: 27 November 2003