UK election trivia-1

One of the main stories of this election was the near-wipeout of all “national” parties from Scotland. Of the 59 parliamentary seats there, the local party won 56 with the Tories, Labour and Lib-Dems winning one each. (Sounds a bit like the 67/70 in Delhi not so long ago, though it would be difficult to identify the analogues of Mr Kejriwal and Ms Bedi here).

The three seats which defied the trend were:

Edinburgh South: Labour

Dumfriesshire…: Conservative

Orkney and Shetland: Liberal-Democrat

The constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedsdale is of some interest to those familiar with the history of disasters. It includes Lockerbie (site of the worst aviation disaster in the UK) while a few miles away is the old railway installation of Quintinshill, which was the site of the UK’s worst rail disaster in 1915:

However, we turn our attention the the constituency of Orkney and Shetland, which is the second smallest constituency in the UK. It has an electorate of about 33,000 while most others have around 60,000 all over the UK. In case you are wondering, the smallest constituency is the one corresponding to the Outer Hebrides islands to the west of the Scottish mainland.

The system in India has somewhat more distortion as there are many small states and union territories which have one seat with electorates considerably lower than that of constituencies in most of India. A few examples would be Lakshadweep, the Andamans, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Sikkim and Mizoram. This allows for freak results. India’s smallest constituency

did return an NCP member in 2014, though the party did badly in most of India. It now has only 6 Lok Sabha MPs. The Lib-Dem victory seems to follow a similar pattern.

Coming back to the Orkney and Shetland islands. They are the most isolated part of the UK with the Shetland islands being a bit closer to Norway than the British mainland.

I have traveled a bit in Scotland but have not been to that area. However, there is an interesting sidelight which I heard from my father. He had moved to Britain in late 1947 in the course of higher education. He spent most of his time in London, but sometimes did travel to out-of-the-way places.

In those days there were a fair number of South Asians in the UK, though much less than in the present. And they were more concentrated in London and a few major cities. It is understandable that the Orkney Islanders of c.1948 would not be familiar with the Sikh community.

My father somehow ended up on one of the ferries running between various islands of the Orkneys. On the boat he met a Sikh gentleman (complete with turban and beard) who was a traveling pedlar. Nearby there a couple of young Scottish boys aged around 10 who were watching the Sikh intently. Naturally the Sikh was glad to meet someone who was from (roughly) his part of the world and he was even more glad to see that my father could speak Hindi fluently. I suppose his English was not too good, as he could not understand what one young Scot whispered to the other:

“Look, Harry! It speaks!”