Tag Archives: House of Lords

Ye See Yon Birky Ca’d a Lord

It may not be the issue that is most exercising the good people of Perthshire, but Lords Reform is the issue that has dominated the agenda in the House of Commons. Last Tuesday, it even led to the biggest rebellion we have seen since the coalition came to power. Forget double dip recession, rising unemployment, or even the conniving banks, it was the men and women in ermine that we spent the best part of two days debating.

Now, the House of Lords is a uniquely anachronistic institution. It is a blight on our democracy and is stuffed full of political placemen, cronies, donors and almost incredibly Church of England bishops! Somehow this assortment of patronage and privilege has a say on how this country is governed, and it is a democratic disgrace. There are now also almost 800 of these people costing the country millions and millions of pounds in the process. They call themselves Lords and the reek of privilege is something that should appall everyone in this country.

And, of course this should be addressed, and you would think that any democratic person would sign up to that mission- but not a bit of it. This is the House of Commons after all. The UK parties all agreed to address Lords reform in their manifestos and Nick Clegg indeed presented his proposal to the House last Tuesday.

Although Clegg’s proposals were pretty half baked (15 year terms for senators, and the retention of 20% of places for cronies), it was at least progress. But you should have heard the shrieks of protest from Tories rallying to the defence of their friends in ermine. This democracy would undermine our democracy was about the most ludicrous of claims. It would be a challenge to the House of Commons, as if the Commons doesn’t need a bit of a challenge. All of these modest proposals proved too much for 81 of these Tories and they rebelled in full conscience that they were doing the right thing.

Now, hopefully Scotland will be well shot of London Government and this won’t be our concern, but our proposal is just to get rid of the whole shooting match. The UK Parliament can get by perfectly well with one chamber and there are enough MPs to do the work. In Scotland we have demonstrated that with our beefed up committee system, scrutiny can be performed.

The House of Lords is just about everything that is bad about London rule and thank goodness we have a way out.

Scots Independent – June 2012

Do you ever feel you’re living in a parallel universe? Well being an SNP MP at Westminster is sometimes quite like that. You see, Westminster doesn’t like the idea of Scottish independence. In fact it doesn’t like the idea of it a lot. Out of the 650 MPs in the Commons 640 of them are totally hostile to the suggestion. In the House of Lords it’s probably even worse. All 786 members would probably take exception to the notion, apart from Plaid Cymru peer, Dafydd Wigley, and the Liberal, but indy-supporting, Earl of Mar. That’s an awful lot of indy-loathing parliamentarians. In fact, that is about 1,400 unionist MPs or Lords and Ladies determined to let Scotland know how they feel about the whole proposition.

With these sort of numbers, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the debate about Scottish independence is just a little bit different in London than it is in Scotland.

Any cursory look at Scottish Questions will give you a flavour of how they approach the debate. Unionist MP after unionist MP will rise to give Scotland the benefit of the strength of his or her unionist passion. The prospect of an independent Scotland has to be talked down and the wonders and joy of the union repeatedly spelled out – ad nauseam.

In the House of Lords it’s even worse. Now, I know that it should never be recommended, but watching the Lords debate Scottish issues is almost funny. During the passing of the Scotland Bill former Scottish Ministers, both Tory and Labour, would practically be fulminating at the gall of the people to vote for an SNP Government. Such is the surreal quality of the Lords that the ever popular Michael Forsyth is the star turn at these events!

Then there’s the Scottish Affairs Committee, all unionists, who can’t even bring themselves to mention the word “independence”. They are accompanied by the (at least) other 4 Westminster select committees, again all entirely unionist, and all looking at issues to do with “separation”.

Should we care what Westminster thinks about Scottish independence? Should we try and accommodate its view and take on board its concerns? Well, if it’s going to be reasonable, then yes, we should. But if it can’t bring itself to even say the word independence, if it believes that the whole concept of independence is somehow illegitimate, and if it attempts to try and shout down the few of us who take a contrary view in London, then Westminster diminishes its contribution. We want a constructive debate about independence in the next couple of years and Westminster needs to engage constructively and sensibly.