SNP MP’s report calls for House of Lords to be abolished

Scotland’s peers in the House of Lords “fail at every level” to represent the needs of the country, an SNP MP has said.

A report produced by Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard makes the case for the abolition of the UK Parliament’s second chamber.

Peers scrutinise government policy, however membership is not selected by the public through election.

The report, titled Their Scottish Lordships, identified 78 members who could be regarded as Scotland’s peers, either those who have spent most of their active life in Scotland or who have been given a Scottish title.

King Charles III coronation
Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard (Steve Welsh/PA)

Mr Sheppard argues the system does not represent the majority of Scotland as most of the Scottish peers are “privately educated men over the age of 65”.

He also said they are opposed to Scottish independence.

Just 22% of the peers are women and 68% are aged 65 and over, with just former Scottish Tory leader Baroness Ruth Davidson under the age of 45, the report said.

Mr Sheppard also said the House of Lords does not accurately represent the make-up of Scottish seats at Westminster, where the SNP has 81% of the available 59 seats but the party has no peers.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives account for 31% of Scotland’s peers but hold 10% of the country’s seats in Westminster, according to the report.

The Liberal Democrats, the report says, has 10% of Scotland’s peers compared with 7% of Westminster seats, while Labour has 2% of seats and 32% of peers.

The report also says there are 17 hereditary peers – where a title is inherited – among the 78 Scottish peers.

Mr Sheppard said the total expenses bill amounted to £2,342,142 between September 2021 and 2022, with seven peers together claiming £78,907 for attending the Lords despite not speaking in the chamber or asking any written questions.

He said: “This report makes grim reading for advocates of democracy. It provides further evidence that the House of Lords fails at every level to give any semblance of representation or respect the views, character and aspirations of the Scottish people.

“Over £2.3 million was claimed in expenses and allowances by Scotland’s peers, despite some doing nothing in a year. The fact that this happened during a cost-of-living crisis shows just how dire the situation has become.

“It’s unquestionably clear that efforts towards reform have failed, and with both Labour and the Tories committed to preserving the institution, the only realistic opportunity to dismantle the undemocratic Lords lies in wholesale change. It’s a core component of this broken Westminster system and ought to be abolished.

“Of course, the smarter answer would be to set up a new country to do it better. With the full powers of independence, we can draw up a modern constitution which inspires and represents our citizens. And in doing that, we use the House of Lords as a temple for what to avoid.”

A House of Lords spokesperson said: “Unlike MPs, members of the House of Lords are not paid a salary. Apart from reimbursing travel costs the daily allowance is the only financial support they receive for costs associated with attending the House, for members who live in Scotland this will include paying for overnight accommodation.

“MPs who live outside of London can claim financial support for accommodation on top of their salary.

“The House of Lords is a busy and effective revising Chamber. The allowances system is designed to ensure members from all parts of the UK, and a range of personal financial circumstances, can make an important contribution to improving legislation and holding the Government to account.

“Members of the Lords who live in Scotland may have higher travel costs than those living closer to London and it is important that they are not prevented from contributing their knowledge and experience to the important work of the House of Lords.”