House of Lords an ‘affront to democracy’ says SNP

THE HOUSE of Lords has been described as an “affront to democracy” by the SNP.

Peers pictured leaving the House of Lords, which the SNP has called an 'affront to democracy.' Picture: Getty

Thirty new peers were appointed to the Lords this week, and the Nationalists have pointed out that Scottish voters only elect 4 per cent of the UK Parliament following the expansion. There are 59 Scottish MPs in the House of Commons with a total of 650 MPs and 785 Lords.

Three Scots were given seats in the chamber this week after nominations by party leaders with Former Tory leader Annabel Goldie joining Glasgow businessman Sir William Haughey who has given Labour more than £1 million since 2003, and former Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis.

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The SNP does not nominate members to the House of Lords and the party’s position is that parliamentarians should be elected.

Angus MacNeil, MP for Na H-Eileanan An Iar, said: “Under the Westminster system, we now have the ludicrous situation that there are far more legislators who are appointed than elected - and people in Scotland elect only 4 per cent of the parliamentarians who hold powers over the economy, welfare, defence, our place in Europe, and many other crucial areas of policy.

“The UK parties nominating their own donors to the House of Lords is part and parcel of Westminster’s crony culture - and the Lords is now the second biggest chamber in the world after the Chinese National People’s Congress, which governs a country of 1.3 billion.

“The SNP’s long-standing position is that we believe those making laws should be elected by the people, and therefore we do not nominate members to the House of Lords.”

He added: “A Yes vote for independence means that people in Scotland can get rid of the expensive and unrepresentative Westminster tier - which means better and cheaper government.

“It really is an affront to democracy that, at a time of economic austerity and cuts, this lavish anachronism grows in numbers - despite promise after promise that it will be reformed. Only a Yes vote in 2014 will enable Scotland to be governed 100 per cent by parliamentarians elected 100 per cent by the people of Scotland.”

The Conservative Party has the biggest representation in the House of Lords with 222 peers to Labour’s 221 and the Liberal Democrats’ 99.

Peers are not paid a salary, but they are entitled to a £300 tax-free allowance for every day they attend a parliamentary sitting. On the basis of 137 sitting days last year, the 30 new peers would have cost the taxpayer around £1.2 million, plus travel and other expenses.

Last week, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Steel said that the law needed to be changed to allow peers - who are appointed for life - to retire.

He said: “At the moment the chamber is overcrowded every day at question time. We’ve had to remove the public seats from below the bar and peers can sit there but can’t speak from there and you can’t even hear properly what’s going on.

“The place is overcrowded and we need to get retirement through.

“In the long run, of course, there has to be total reform of the House of Lords.’’