Edinburgh boundary changes: Calls from across political spectrum to keep Leith in constituency name

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Voices from across Edinburgh’s political spectrum are calling for a rethink on plans to drop the name of Leith from the electoral map of the Capital.

Politicians from all sides have come out against the move which is part of a shake-up of constituencies by Boundaries Scotland for the next Scottish Parliament elections. And the demand to reverse the plan echoes a “Keep Leith” campaign led by the Evening News two decades ago when a similar proposal was made.

Leith's then MSP Malcolm Chisholm with a Keep Leith T-shirt, as part of a protest against proposals in 2002 to drop Leith from the constituency name.Leith's then MSP Malcolm Chisholm with a Keep Leith T-shirt, as part of a protest against proposals in 2002 to drop Leith from the constituency name.
Leith's then MSP Malcolm Chisholm with a Keep Leith T-shirt, as part of a protest against proposals in 2002 to drop Leith from the constituency name.

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Leith is currently part of a seat called Edinburgh Northern & Leith, but under Boundaries Scotland’s plans it would be included in a newly drawn constituency named Edinburgh North Eastern. The proposals are currently out for consultation and comments are invited by May 15. Now the SNP in Leith has launched a petition demanding the Leith name is retained.

Ben Macpherson, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern & Leith, said: “In its current review, Boundaries Scotland’s revised proposals would split my current constituency across two new ones - Edinburgh Northern and Edinburgh North Eastern. Dropping ‘Leith’ as a description is a mistake and it should be added back into the name for the constituency that would include Leith. “Leith’s distinct identity and history matters. I encourage Leithers to help feed this message back to those considering these Scottish Parliament boundary changes. Please support the petition, respond to the consultation, and encourage others to do so too.” 

And Deidre Brock, SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, echoed his comments. "I don't know what Boundary Scotland were thinking, but they will have to think again about wiping Leith from the electoral map at Holyrood,” she said. “Leith has always been a distinct, diverse community with a rich history and heritage of its own - we must make sure this remains the case for future generations. Previous attempts to absorb Leith into Edinburgh have never gone down well. I expect the community will stand together again to protect Leith's unique identity, and I'll be right there with them. I will be making my objections clear and urge others to do the same." 

Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm, who represented Leith first at Westminster and then in the Scottish Parliament, was part of the campaign to stop the previous attempt to ditch the Leith name.

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In 2002, a review of Westminster constituencies proposed new boundaries for Edinburgh seats, which included renaming Edinburgh North & Leith as Edinburgh North East. More than 3,000 people sent in Evening News coupons calling for the constituency name to include a reference to Leith and the planned change was abandoned.

Mr Chisholm said: “In a way this is history repeating itself. We had a strong campaign back then and we got Leith inserted into the name. And I would very much support the current campaign. Everybody in Leith would support retaining the name Leith, there’s no doubt about that. Obviously Leith has always had a separate identity and people feel very strongly that should be preserved and I would totally support that.”

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs has noted Leith’s long history as an identified part of a parliamentary constituency and said the omission of the Leith name was “something that needs to be corrected”.

And Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh Western, has also backed keeping the name in recognition of Leith’s “distinctive identity”. Boundaries Scotland chair Professor Ailsa Henderson urged people to make their views known by writing in. She said: “These are just proposals so if people feel strongly about Leith being in the name of a constituency then I would aabsolutely encourage of them to respond to the consultation while it is open.”

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