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Na h-Eileanan an Iar

2010 Results:
Conservative: 647 (4.4%)
Labour: 4838 (32.87%)
Liberal Democrat: 1097 (7.45%)
SNP: 6723 (45.68%)
Independent: 1412 (9.59%)
Majority: 1885 (12.81%)

2005 Results:
SNP: 6213 (44.9%)
Labour: 4772 (34.5%)
Liberal Democrat: 1096 (7.9%)
Operation Christian Voice: 1048 (7.6%)
Conservative: 610 (4.4%)
SSP: 97 (0.7%)
Majority: 1441 (10.4%)

Boundary changes prior to 2005 election: Name of seat changed from Western Isles.

2001 Result
Conservative: 1250 (9.5%)
Labour: 5924 (45%)
Liberal Democrat: 849 (6.5%)
SNP: 4850 (36.9%)
Other: 286 (2.2%)
Majority: 1074 (8.2%)

1997 Result
Conservative: 1071 (6.6%)
Labour: 8955 (55.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 495 (3.1%)
SNP: 5379 (33.4%)
Referendum: 206 (1.3%)
Majority: 3576 (22.2%)

No Boundary Changes:

Profile: Na h-Eileanan an lar was renamed from the Western Isles in 2005. The seat covers the Outer Hebridies, the further reaches of the archipeligo off the coast of North-Western Scotland, including the islands of Lewis and Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Barra, Benbecula, Scalpay, Great Bernera, Grimsay and the uninhabited St Kilda. The only town on the Outer Hebridies is the fishing port of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, from where ferries sail to the mainland. Stornoway also has an airport with services to the mainland.

The seat is socially as well as geographically somewhat isolated: Gaelic is widely spoken, the Western Isles are the only area in Scotland were over 60% of people speak Gaelic. Sunday Observance is also still widely observed on the Islands, particularly in the Northern islands, with a widespread refusal to trade or travel on the Sabbath, due to the continuing strength of the Free Church and Free Presbyterian Church. In 2006 considerable controversey was caused with the opening of a ferry service to Lewis that operated on Sundays.

Na h-Eileanan an lar has the smallest electorate of any seat in the country with just over 20,000 voters, only a third of the size of most constituencies. Attempts to link the counstituency with others have always foundered on the geographical size of the area and problems of travel and communications for the MP.

Politically the seat has been a marginal between the SNP and Labour since the war. In 2005 it was one of only two seats where the Conservatives lost their deposit, finishing behind the Christian Vote party (see also Blaneau Gwent). In the 1975 referendum on continued membership of the European Union, the Western Isles and Shetland Isles were the only areas to vote no.

portraitCurrent MP: Angus MacNeil(SNP) born 1970. Educated at Nicholson Institute, Stornoway and Strathclyde University. Worked for the BBC and subsequently as a primary school teacher on Barra. A native speaker of Gaelic. Contested Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 2001. First elected for Na h-Eileanan an lar in 2005. MacNeil brough the original complaint that lead to the police investigation into “loans for peerages” (more information at They work for you)

2010 election candidates:
portraitSheena Norquay (Conservative)
portraitDonald John Macsween (Labour) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillor
portraitJean Davis (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Maghull Grammar School. Medical doctor. Occupational health advisor.
portrait Angus MacNeil(SNP) born 1970. Educated at Nicholson Institute, Stornoway and Strathclyde University. Worked for the BBC and subsequently as a primary school teacher on Barra. A native speaker of Gaelic. Contested Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 2001. First elected for Na h-Eileanan an lar in 2005. MacNeil brough the original complaint that lead to the police investigation into “loans for peerages” (more information at They work for you)
portraitMurdo Murray (Independent)

2001 Census Demographics

Total 2001 Population: 26502
Male: 49.4%
Female: 50.6%
Under 18: 22.3%
Over 60: 26%
Born outside UK: 2%
White: 99.4%
Asian: 0.3%
Mixed: 0.2%
Christian: 83.3%
Graduates 16-74: 18.5%
No Qualifications 16-74: 37.6%
Owner-Occupied: 71.9%
Social Housing: 17.3% (Council: 16.4%, Housing Ass.: 0.9%)
Privately Rented: 6.8%
Homes without central heating and/or private bathroom: 9.8%

NB - The constituency guide is now archived and is no longer being updated. The new guide is at http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/2015guide

344 Responses to “Na h-Eileanan an Iar”

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  1. “Half members? Dual roles? Are you people mad?”

    There have been far worse ideas – pre-1832, there were alternating constituencies, such as Buteshire and Caithness, where one seat voted in one general election, and the other in the next. I’ve no idea how they handled a by-election…

    “Combining – as I have suggested before – the Western Isles with Skye, is the least worst option”

    The problem there is that the population would still be very small – the entire population of all the Scottish islands is under 100,000, of which more than 30,000 are in Orkney and Shetland, and around 15,000 down in the Firth of Clyde. Realistically, this is either given special status as a kind of rotten borough, or it needs to be combined with somewhere on the mainland (and quite possibly some of the Inner Hebrides, too).

    The objections will of course be that the mainland and the islands are different in character, and communications are not great – but many constituencies include areas very different in character, and surely communication difficulties can not be insurmountable? Otherwise, the Isles of Scilly would need their own seat…

  2. Western Isles, Skye… and then maybe add the Small Isles and the bits along the “Highland Line” route to Mallaig ? That really would cause an expense claim or two in travel costs….

  3. If this seat were to be combined with, say, the Isle of Skye who would win? Or would it becom an SNP/Liberal Democrat marginal? Would it be any better for the Tories? Would it be bad for Labour?

  4. well i doubt it could be much worse for the tories than on current boundaries!

  5. The Outer Hebridies was once divided between two Scottish Counties.

    Lewis was once part of Ross & Cromarty and the Southern Islands were part of Inverness-Shire.

    Ross & Cromarty and Inverness-shire were twinned as early as 1918 to have this third constituency.

    How about a Hebridies Constituency that also included the Inner Hebridies as well (Skye, Mull, Jura, Islay ect) or what about The Hebridies & Buteshire?

    Bute, Arran and the Cumbraes (all on the Firth of Clyde) once formed the County of Buteshire.

    ‘The Hebridies’ or ‘The Hebridies & Buteshire’ (which would be every Scottish Island appart from Orkney & Shetland) would surely be closely contested by the SNP and the Lib Dems?

  6. The Outer Hebridies was once divided between two Scottish Counties.

    Lewis was once part of Ross & Cromarty and the Southern Islands were part of Inverness-Shire.

    Ross & Cromarty and Inverness-shire were twinned as early as 1918 to have this third constituency.

    How about a Hebridies Constituency that also included the Inner Hebridies as well (Skye, Mull, Jura, Islay ect) or what about The Hebridies & Buteshire?

    Bute, Arran and the Cumbraes (all on the Firth of Clyde) once formed the County of Buteshire.

    ‘The Hebridies’ or ‘The Hebridies & Buteshire’ (which would be every Scottish Island appart from Orkney & Shetland) would surely be very closely contested by the SNP and the Lib Dems?

  7. Looks like any such redrawings are heading for the back burner now:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/scotland_politics/10516046.stm

  8. I was disappointed to find out that this seat will retain its protected status in the forthcoming boundary review. If we are to have constituencies elsewhere drawn up with a pretty rigid quota of 80,000 voters then this seat will have even more of the appearance of a rotten borough than is currently the case. Given that, as has been mentioned above, there is a historical precedent for these islands being included in mainland constituencies what exactly is the problem with doing the same now?

    On a completely different subject, does anyone know if the form of AV being put forward in next year’s referendum will be of a kind where, as in Australia, voters must rank all the candidates, or will voters be able to express a preference for as few candidates as they wish?

  9. Totally agree with you about this seat Kieran it is a travestty that as you say this will be even more over-represented than hitherto.
    On your other point I am certainly not aware of any plans to demand that voters must rank all candidates. I personally think this would be objectionable as voters should be free to make as many or as few preferences as they like. (why should I for example be forced to say that I prefer Labour or the Green party or Respect, for example, when I find all extremely obnoxious, albeit maybe some more than others)

  10. Surely AV is bad enough without being forced to express a preference, even if its last for the bnp.

  11. I agree if there were any element of compulsion it would be particularly objectionable. I did, as it happens, enjoy putting Hazel Blears last in the deputy leadership election, but can’t see any justification for being forced to make certain choices.

  12. The problem with not forcing people to express a preference for more than one candidate is that if lots of people only give a number one preference then the switch from FPTP to AV becomes pretty meaningless. The more people do that the less likely it is that the winning candidate will have the support of a majority of the votes cast, thus negating one of the main arguments cited in favour of a switch to AV.

    The fact that there exists the potential for AV to cease to function properly if voters are not compelled to express more than one preference is to me one of the two clinching arguments for opposing its introduction. The other being the potential of such a system to ensure the anhillation of a nationally unpopular political party that nevertheless enjoys the support of a significant portion of the electorate. Democracy would not have been well served had Labour in 1983 or the Tories in 1997 been reduced to fewer than a hundred MPs, as would have been probable had either election
    been conducted under AV.

    Going back to this seat, I see no reason why someone’s vote should in effect be worth several times more than mine simply because they choose to live on an isolated, treeless, windswept island stuck out in the North Atlantic.

  13. Realistically though, how can you force someone to use all their preferences? You can’t discount a vote if someone doesn’t and it seems a waste of time (as well as objectionable) if your have to show your ballot paper to a polling officer?

  14. They do in Australia. Obviously you wouldn’t have to show your ballot to a polling officer but it would get rejected at the counting stage if that were the requirement for a valid ballot

  15. Do I dare to predict the idiosyncrasies of the Na h-Eileanan an Iar vote? Given the tiny size of the electorate and the number of local issues impacting on the race I don’t feel educated to make a realistic prediction. Any locals have a decent input?
    I reckon the SNP will hold given the 2010 results and that the tories will be within a 1% of keeping their deposit but i may well be totally wrong!

  16. Calum W, I think you are right. Alastair Allan (SNP MSP) will more than likely hold on, probably with an increased majority, and will continue to do so until he retires. He seems to be quite well liked (though I know many who would do anything to see him lose next May!) and he gets things done and is very active in the seat. As for the Conservatives, well their success (or failure!) all depends on wheather the Christian party stand. If they do, then the tories will go no-where. If they don’t then there will likely be an increase in the Tory vote, probably going into third place with c, 1200 votes. Remember, the Tories saved their deposits here, even in 1997, at all elections before 2005. That was when the Christian Party first stood, and then the Tory vote collapsed at that election. Even though in 2010, there was no Christian Party candidate, but there was and Independent, who was VERY Christian leaning, causing the official Christian Party candidate to pull out in order to give him a free run. Look what happened – Tory vote stayed stagnant and an independent took quite a good third place.

  17. This probably didn’t help the Conservative candidate Sheena Norquay;

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/sheena-norquay-18432.html

  18. That’s hilarious. And I see what you mean stornowaytory – the independent polled almost 10%, easily beating both the tories and the Lib Dems. In 2007 the Christians didn’t stand in the constituency and the tories narrowly held their deposit, though the Christian Party took 12.5% on the regional list.

  19. Is this now the safest SNP seat, now that their vote in Banff and Buchan collapsed?

  20. Western Isles 2011

    SNP 42%
    Lab 38%
    LD 5%
    Con 5%
    Others 10%

  21. Going to stick my neck on the line here with 2 possible outcomes.

    1) If the Christian party/Christian affiliated candidate stands:

    SNP – 45%
    Labour – 33%
    Christian – 12%
    Liberal Democrat – 5%
    Conservaitve – 5%

    2) If they do not stand:

    SNP – 47%
    Labour – 33%
    Conservative – 12%
    Liberal Democrat – 8%

  22. This is a very interesting seat. I think the SNP will hold this in 2011, although by a reduced majority. If a Christian candidate stands then I think they will come a solid third place. The tories and libdems will be lucky to keep their deposits. Local issues and personal voting play a large role in voting patterns here. It is the last substantial strong-hold of Gaelic within Scotland, with 59% of the population speaking the language. Religion also plays a large part in the community, particularly in the prebyterian north islands, where sabbath observance is still widely followed.

  23. R.E. Deoch an Doris -

    I think there is no doubt that the SNP will hold on here. I’m guessing you are a fellow islander with a name like that, so do you think that they will dramatically increase their majority? Also do you believe that if the tories and a christian candidate joined forces and put up a joint candidat they would win a good % vote?

  24. Surely a lot will depend on who the Labour candidate is?

  25. Stornowaytory;

    I live in both Stornoway and Inverness. I think the SNP vote may slightly fall due to a labour resurgence across scotland, however im sure the snp they will hold the hollyrood seat. Its an interesting point you raise about a tory/christian candidate. Im not sure what the outcome would be, on paper I would expect them to take a good share of the vote (15-20%), however I think a number of people would turn from the Christian candidate as a result of the involvement of the tories.

  26. R.E. Barney Crockett:

    I don’t think the SNP have anything to worry about. They will hold onto this seat both at Westminster and Holyrood until those members retire at least, then who knows? Remember, this is the one seat more than any other where personality matters more than politics and when it comes to this seat (apart from calum macdonald in 2005), once you’re in you’re in for as long as you want.

  27. Prediction for May 2011 Scottish Parliament election

    SNP – 6000
    Lab – 4500
    LD – 1500
    Con – 1000

  28. Labour will give them a good run for their money, but I think the SNP probably have the seat just about sewn up. I think Allan is a popular enough guy, I’m not sure what the majority consensus on Crichton is, and whether his Free Church ties will work for or against him.

    I’d say the result will be something along the lines of:
    SNP – 6500
    Labour- 5750
    Conservative/Lib Dem- Around 800 each (irrelevances anyway).

  29. Party – Vote % Change
    ——————————
    SNP – 8,496 65.3 +18.7
    Lab – 3,724 28.6 -13
    Con – 563 4.3 -1.2
    Lib – 228 1.8 -4.5

    Man, some night…

  30. This seat is only one out of three seats which are completly unchanged for the forthcoming boundary review. If I was Labour, I would select a candidate right now and try to build some momentum. This may be a safeish SNP seat right now, but if the SNP administration at Holyrood messes everything up, then Labour could well gain this at Westminster.

  31. This constituency covers the whole of the Outer Hebridies.

    Interesting that before 1974 the Northern islands were part of Ross & Cromarty and the Southern Islands (and Skye) were part of Inverness-shire.

    I believe that it could be sensible to have a constituency that combined the Outer Hebridies and the Inner Hebridies (Skye, Mull, Jura, Isla, Colonsey and the minor islands), and perhaps take in Buteshire on the Firth of Clyde (Bute, Cumbrae Major, Cumbrae Minor and Arran).

    Such a constituency would be The Western Isles.

  32. Council 2012 Prediction

    Ind 20 (-5)
    SNP 10 (+6)
    Lab 1 (-1)

  33. Does anyone have any idea of how they planned to link this seat with the mainland in the 1983 boundary review?

  34. Perhaps they planned to split it between seats as it was pre 1918 (in the days when MPs were able to represent such a seat despite not having the fast travel and communications advantage that today’s MPs have and who find it completely impossible to represent a seat on those sort of boundaries).

    Clearly, pairing with the mainland is an option whose time is coming. Especially if Scotland gets Devo Max in the near future. It will then become completely indefensible to have a special case for the Western, Orkney and Shetland isles when the main Scottish business is done in Edinburgh where their status a seperate constituencies is protected.

  35. Anyone have any candidates for the most christian seats in the UK? Is this one a contender at 83.3%?

  36. I think St Helens North night be the highest with 87.1%

  37. Probably very significantly Catholic there id imagine.

  38. Sefton Central 87.2% any advances?

  39. h ttp://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp2004/rp04-001.pdf

    Makerfield is highest in GB; the other nine of the top ten are all in Northern Ireland. Mid Ulster is number one, with 93.6% Christian. Would be interesting to see where has the lowest %age Christian, too.

  40. Presumably somewhere like Bethnal Green or East Ham (without looking)?

  41. Kennsington? Now considered to be the centre of Evangelical Christianity in the UK?

  42. Interesting and surprising that the most atheist constitancies are nearly all Scottish (all the top 9). This includes all 3 Aberdeen constitancies and in Aberdeen North very nearly breaks the 50% barrier.

  43. I’ve noticed this and wonderd if there’s some difference in the way the question was asked in Scotland as there is a big difference between the figures for Scottish seats and otherwise demographically similar seats in England & Wales

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