‘Holyrood needs a House of Lords’ says David Cameron’s guru

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THE man described as “David Cameron’s philosopher king”, who has helped to shape coalition policy, will today call for the Scottish Parliament to have its own version of the House of Lords.

In a keynote speech, Philip Blond, the director of the thinktank ResPublica, who was behind the Big Society and a series of government initiatives, will lay out a vision for reform of the Lords at Westminster, including having one-third elected members who would not be allowed to run for office under a party political ticket.

But he will also question the ability of Holyrood and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies to offer proper legislative scrutiny on major areas, such as health, education and justice, and argue that a new model of the Lords should be replicated in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

The proposal has received qualified support from former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott, who said it needed “serious consideration” because Holyrood was failing to hold the Scottish Government properly to account, particularly since the SNP defied the predictions of the devolution settlement and won a majority last year through a proportional system of voting.

Mr Blond is due to say: “The single chamber model established by the Blair government for the devolved assemblies simply puts too much power in the hands of the dominant party and does not allow for really detailed scrutiny of the legislation.

“This should be corrected, especially if devo-max proceeds. A second chamber is essential to ensure that legislation is not full of unintended consequences, error and omissions.

“A second chamber would also allow Holyrood to tap into the wealth of expertise and talent north of the Border.”

Mr Scott, who before the SNP majority victory was critical of Holyrood’s ability to scrutinise and the weakness of its committee system, said: “This idea certainly deserves serious consideration.”

He pointed out that the Lords has, during this coalition and with previous governments, acted as a strong check and balance to government legislation.

He said: “The Lords have picked the health bill apart in Westminster. The trouble is there is nothing in Holyrood that provides a proper check and balance to the executive, and things are much worse now that there is a single majority party.”

Historically, questions have been raised over the quality of some bills that have passed through Holyrood, including on care for the elderly and the hunting ban.

The SNP opposes the House of Lords, and even Perth MP Pete Wishart, who believes that his party should have members of the Lords, was opposed to the idea of an equivalent chamber in Scotland.

“I can see why it is an attractive idea, but I think that a unicameral does work for Scotland,” Mr Wishart said.

Scottish Labour’s constitutional spokeswoman at Holyrood, Patricia Ferguson, said: “This is an interesting proposal, but the plans for the Scottish Parliament were modelled on a consensus arrived at through the Constitutional Convention.

“I think there is a strong case for empowering the committees of the parliament to ensure they can do that even more effectively.”