Anger as Scottish Labour politicians hop aboard Lords gravy train

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Political opponents in Scotland have reacted with anger at the news that several Scottish Labour….

Political opponents in Scotland have reacted with anger at the news that several Scottish Labour politicians are to be ennobled and become members of the House Of Lords.

Former First Minister Jack McConnell has been joined by Labour colleagues Helen Liddell, John McFall, Tommy McAvoy, John Reid and Des Browne on a list of Scottish Labour politicians being rewarded for party loyalty by the outgoing UK Labour government.  There is also a knighthood for Ian McCartney the Scottish born MP who represents Makerfield.

Jack McConnell said he was “delighted” to have been appointed to the House of Lords.

Mr McConnell added: “My experience and understanding of devolution, coalition government, international development and peace building will prove useful in the House of Lords and I will do what I can there, standing up for Scotland but helping shape Britain too.”

However the announcement of Mr McConnell’s life peerage brought calls for him to stand down as an MSP.

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: “Having been given a non-job by [Gordon] Brown instead of a real job in Malawi, he has finally been rewarded by Labour with a party political peerage.

“Unfortunately, he now has no escape from Lord Foulkes or Labour’s other dual-mandate politicians, Cathy Jamieson and Margaret Curran, who, it seems, will all be spending more time on the green and red benches than working for their Holyrood constituents.”

SNP MP Angus MacNeil called the announcement of the list of new Lords recruits: “business as usual.”

Mr McConnell, who has been an MSP since 1999, said he had no immediate plans to step down.

As members of the unelected chamber the Labour politicians are entitled to claim tax free expenses covering daily living, overnight accommodation and office costs of over £335 per day – this can be supplemented by travel costs.

In 2008 fellow Scottish Labour colleague Baroness Adams of Craiglea, who as Irene Adams represented Paisley North for 15 years until 2005, was the second-most expensive peer in the Lords, claiming £66,896 in allowances including £30,212 for overnight accommodation, despite having spoken in the Upper Chamber only once.  In each of the previous two years she claimed in excess of £60,000.

In the same year George Foulkes, who like Jack McConnell is also an MSP, claimed £54,527 in expenses as a member of the House of Lords.  2008 also saw Lord Watson of Invergowrie, the former Labour minister who was convicted of fire-raising, claimed £42,805 for attending on 129 days.

Members’ expenses accounted for 18% (£19.0m) of the running costs of the House of Lords in the 2008-09 financial year. Overall, the resource costs of the House of Lords were £103.9 million in 2008-09.

The news that Labour politicians are once again set to become unelected peers is sure to cause dismay amongst many Labour supporters given that the party fought the recent election campaign on a promise to replace the House of Lords with a 300-member fully elected second chamber.

The SNP, who refuse to allow party members enter the Lords, has called for the expensive second chamber to be abolished.