‘Independent Scotland would donate peers to UK as parting gift,’ SNP MP jokes

An independent Scotland would “donate” Scottish members of the House of Lords to the rest of the UK as a “parting gift”, an SNP MP has suggested.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart made the irreverent suggestion as MPs debated reform of Westminster’s upper house.

Mr Wishart told the Westminster Hall debate: “I have always wondered, it is a quandary for me, what does an independent Scotland do with the existing peers who have Scottish titles or who are from a Scottish part of the world?

“It struck me that what we could do just to show generosity and good spirit is perhaps we could donate all these Scottish lords to the rest of the United Kingdom and they can have them as a parting gift. Does he think that is a good idea?”

SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North), who opened the debate, replied that during the Scottish independence referendum peers had “dwelt on this for some considerable time and it was a matter of great concern to them”, but added the lords believed they “would all be safe” in holding their lifetime appointments should Scotland leave the Union.

Mr Grady also quoted Buzz Lightyear from the Disney-Pixar animated film Toy Story, as he questioned the Conservative party’s appetite for appointing new peers.

He told MPs: “The minister who is in his place today told me on December 8 at Cabinet Office questions that ‘the Government do not have a view on the upper limit of the House of Lords’.

“So there you go, it is quite remarkable: ‘To infinity and beyond’. The House of Lords filled with Tory donors and cronies and time servers.”

Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart suggested the SNP’s decision to abstain from appointing peers denied people in Scotland a voice in the Lords.

He added: “I would like to see more people from more parts of the United Kingdom represented there and would that it were not so, a lot of people vote for them, and it would be good if there were expertise up there to seek to influence legislation which will have a bearing on those people, on people in Scotland.”

The minister also warned about the unforeseen consequences of reforming the UK’s constitutional settlement, telling MPs: “I can guarantee that … in the event that we have a fully elected upper house it will start to use its mandate against the mandate of the Commons, day one.

“We will have voters who are in a position that they will not know how long the mandate in one House will last over the other.

“The truth is we would find ourselves very likely in a constant cycle of elections rather than being in a position where one party or a coalition of parties can be elected for a term and deliver based on their mandate.”

The SNP-led debate also saw Labour MPs clash over the party leadership’s plans to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected chamber if it is successful at the next general election.

Labour former minister Graham Stringer said: “If you reform the House of Lords, you effectively reform the House of Commons.

“He is suggesting direct democracy for the House of Lords, does he agree with me that that would diminish the powers of the House of Commons necessarily by putting another House in opposition to our House, and that would be a bad thing?”

Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders replied: “I don’t think that that is where the argument does need to take us. I think that actually those kind of arguments are often put forward by people who want to stifle change and reform and I can’t believe anyone would think the current arrangements are satisfactory.

“We have in effect a halfway house between the medieval institution that it once was and the modern democracy that we, or certainly I, would wish to see.”