By Bob Duncan
Plans to create at least 80 new life peers will mean that the Scottish public will be responsible for electing fewer than 4% of Westminster parliamentarians.
Despite the election manifestos of the three largest Westminster parties pledging reform of the House of Lords, the proposals are expected to take membership of the unelected chamber from the current 760 to at least 840, meaning that the Scottish electorate will be responsible for electing just 3.95% of decision makers at Westminster, or less than one in every 25.
There are already 110 more unelected Lords than there are MPs and 701 more unelected Lords than there are MPs from Scottish constituencies.
Assuming there is no reform before the end of this parliament, any further lists – which traditionally get drawn up before and after a general election – could easily take the total over 1,000.
This is particularly embarrassing for the Lib Dems, who championed reform of the House of Lords within the coalition. Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott, a former member of the joint committee of both houses on Lords reform, said:
“Stuffing the Lords up to 900 now would be a disgrace to democracy, utterly against our principles, and make a mockery of our campaign to clean up and reform British politics.
“How can we possibly excoriate personal patronage and a bloated house of Lords, then cynically U-turn and do just what we’ve been condemning just a few weeks earlier? Trust in politicians is already hanging by a thread – this would sicken Liberal Democrats and reformers in all parties and none.”
Another Lib Dem peer and reform campaigner, Lord Anthony Greaves, said further appointments would even anger existing peers because there were already so many members of the house that they could not easily find seats.
The SNP does not take seats in the House of Lords because of the system’s undemocratic and anachronistic nature. The only other country in the world with an unelected second chamber is Lesotho.
Describing the plans as “ludicrous” SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said they “will make a bad situation even more farcical”.
Ms Fabiani added:
“It is completely unjustifiable for Westminster to still be operating an unelected and undemocratic second chamber in this day and age.
“A situation where people in Scotland are only able to elect fewer than 4% of the parliamentarians at Westminster is an insult to democracy.
“It is hugely embarrassing for the three biggest Westminster parties as they are all set to abandon their manifesto commitments on Lords reform and instead make Westminster even more undemocratic.
“How on earth can they square their previous statements with plans to create a swathe of new unelected Lords?
“Decisions affecting Scotland should be made by people 100% elected in Scotland and these moves make completely clear that this will only be achieved with a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in 2014.”