Peerages Show How Valuable the Union Is

peer

This month saw the latest batch of appointments to the House of Lords, the unelected second house of British legislature.  The people who were ‘elevated’ to the lords as peers of the realm can now claim attendance fee’s and a raft of allowances as working peers.  Only the England and Wales Green’s Jenny Jones has been put there through a member ballot, all the rest are direct nominees from parties.  The Greens only nominated after some debate, reasoning they can quicker bring about change by having someone on the inside.

Many of those who have been ‘elevated’ are party donors or big business supporters of those who have put them in the Lords.  Ever get the feeling you’re being cheated?  This is an unaccountable level of our democracy which is a relic of our feudal past and has no place in a modern democracy, but it’s ok, because as a modern democracy surely our elected representatives will be looking to reform this system… right?

Nope.  Reform of the House of Lords is off the table again, after the Lib Dems meekly ditched it after their Tory ‘partners’ decided they’d rather not honour the coalition agreement on this issue (something worth remembering when further devolution is waved under our noses by Better Together).  There are no plans for any reform at Westminster, save the Tories desire to redraw electoral boundaries to suit their desires.

Someone mentioned to me on Twitter that this was nothing to do with the independence referendum.  I couldn’t quite believe it.  This is EVERYTHING to do with the referendum.  Unaccountability and underrepresentation is the most valid reason to vote for independence; we can create a fully accountable and representative parliament that people relate to; no more Barons, Lords and Bishops creating, vetoing and meddling with our democracy (unless they stand for election of course).

There is no argument for retaining the House of Lords.  It is useful to have a second chamber to review the work of parliament but as a new nation we could innovate, not hold onto relics like the Lords.  Let’s find new systems that suit Scotland and allow our people to be truly represented and lawmakers to be sufficiently challenged.

I’m genuinely not content to sit back and campaign for independence as a continuation of the way things are.  What’s the point in that?  If we’re getting independence, let’s take the chance to do things differently and show the world what a great wee country we can be.  Put fairness, representation and social democracy back to our heart and we can truly lead where the UK shamefully falls.  This is what we’re fighting for and what the Unionists are protecting.  The abolition of feudal right, privilege and archaic aristocracy.

Labour, Conservatives and the Lib Dems are protecting this system because they currently benefit from it.  This is their career ladder, their birthright and their powerbase.  If we take it away then the elite will be forced to do some soul-searching and our democracy might just be more representative of the people that live here, not the people that rule here.  The MP’s and the Lords currently based in Scotland, will have lost a substantial cash cow.  It is not necessarily your interests they have at heart when they claim we’re Better Together.

After we abolish the peerages we can look at the issue of land reform.  In Scotland, 432 families own half the land in the country.  That’s an astonishing figure.  We need to place large amounts of this land in the hands of the community and out of the reach of the elite.  Only then will we be able to address depopulation in rural communities and the dearth of social housing across the country.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if Scotland has a greater social conscience than the rest of the country; I’ve not been out and asked everyone.  But I have to believe we can do better.  I can only campaign and talk about what I would like to see and why I’m voting for independence.  I want fairness to be put at the heart of this country and for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society to be protect, not the rich and most powerful.

What do you want?

David Officer
National Collective

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There are 20 comments

  1. mel spence

    Post Yes vote, Scottish peers would cease to exist in a political sense, unless whatever constitutional convention that’s set up recreates them. HOL reform would be a step toward land reform, but its not the only impediment

  2. Tony Little

    Independence should be the start of ‘reinventing’ democracy in iScotland. Holyrood is an improvement on Westminster, but it could go further. I want to see a return to more consensual politics, and rid our body politic from tribalism once and for all. A more proportional system would help that. the present ‘top-up’ additional MSP is OK as far as it goes, but there are better PR methods.

    As for a ‘second chamber’, there are scores of countries that don’t have one, so there is no NEED to have one, but in that case there needs to be a clarification of what function a second chamber might have had needs to be addressed. Personally, I think that the Laws need to be scrutinised by experts, and an extension of the committee system may provide the scrutiny required.

    “Expert” committees drawn up for short time frames to consider specific laws, with experts from the ‘real world’ drafted in or attend for advice etc. might be one way. But let’s NOT replicate the politically tribal committee system from Westminster. Maybe these committees should be chaired by an independent expert from academia or science or business etc. and not an MSP?

    Lots of exciting things to resolve after 18 September 2014

    1. mel spence

      There has been a tendency in recent years to farm out tricky decisions to “experts” often with unpleasant results. See the recent proposed changes to the judicial review system, for evidence of just how badly this can go wrong.

          1. David Officer

            i don’t know, same as now. Cross section of society and have someone on hand to explain the legislation. That Jury could then make recommendations which go back to the main chamber.

          2. MurrayMcC

            I thought the Hillsborough Independent Panel found a transparent path through a complex, opaque and highly emotional field. Years of Judicial Reviews were effectively useless – people who cared and knew their subject took control.

            When I think about it, seems most Judicial Reviews, or Public Inquiries, pretty much end up with no clear tangible outcome. You basically have to wait about 30 years, when the dust has settled and those responsible have retired or died, for the Prime minister of the day to stand up an apologise on behalf of the country.

            I think we must do better.

          3. mel spence

            Judicial reviews are not perfect, but, crucially they can overturn a public body’s decision, in a way that bodies like the Hillsborough Panel, (which did an excellent job), can’t.

  3. BP39

    Countries with populations of around 5million do not need a second chamber, though a small second chamber to do administrative work can be useful.
    No Peer should be involved in the Government of an Independent unless elected as a ‘civilian’ official or a politician. Lords etc as the are now have no purpose, the title is meaningless.

  4. Michael Granados

    When did Scottish Independence become a communist revolution? Who decided this was about abolition of peerages? That isn’t what I signed on for. This isn’t 1917 and a Soviet Scotland, executing the elites and nationalising everything should not be on the agenda. Others have tried that route unsuccessfully. Let them keep their titles and property so long as they are out of politics and the property is taxed. We need solutions tailored to today not the tired relics of a bygone era. Privilege and patronage are really only a problem when they are used as in the feudal UK in the service of the elite. Scotland can choose a common sense approach and build a better, fairer, democratic state without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    1. David Officer

      Michael, no one has decided, i’m merely putting forward an argument and I’m certainly not advocating executions!

      I don’t quite follow why you say you don’t want to abolish peerages but then say we don’t need the tired relics of a bygone era. Peerages and titles are the symbols of the elite and have no place in a modern democracy where all should be equal.

      1. Michael Granados

        Hi David, I accept your argument and I’m responding that I think it may be going too far. I think it is important to remember that these peers are just as much the victims of this unhealthy hereditary arrangement as the rest of us. What I am saying is that there are ways; must be ways or redressing this imbalance other than the French or Russian revolutionary ones that failed so miserably. Their actual executions need not be taken up here with metaphorical ones or otherwise. If they want to sit in their little flat in their stately home with their title; let them. That doesn’t hurt anybody. We don”t need them as part of the state; the government. As long as they have no more say than the vote the rest of us have then the rest doesn’t really matter. I’m less concerned about the symbols of the elite than the power they hold. If we the people can get the power then the symbols are merely relics.

        1. David Officer

          oh i’d certainly agree the actual power redistribution is more important than the removal of titles but the titles symbolise something very important which I’d be happy to see broken too. I’d settle for just full democracy though.

          I do disagree that titles don’t do any harm. It fosters the attitude that some are more significant than others and maintains a feudal environment which is really outdated and a little sinister. They can keep their stately home, but no titles.

    2. Jeanne Tomlin

      So are you planning on suggesting a NEW House of Lords for an independent Scotland. And since when does not having a House of Lords equate to communism? The US is communist? Canada? New Zealand? REALLY?

      1. Michael Granados

        not convinced about the merits of a second house for a country the size of Scotland but certainly not a house of lords. I never suggested anything of the like.

    3. mel spence

      I don’t think anyone is talking about expropriating the expropriators, more about strengthening right to buy, abolishing the Crown Estates Commission and returning the land to local control, and dare I mention Land Value taxation, which works really well in places like Australia!

  5. douglas clark

    David,

    Interesting article which I wholeheartedly endorse.

    On your last two paragraphs:

    There was a documentary a few years ago interviewing various scottish folk that suggested that they voted, not so much on what was best for them personally, but for what they perceived as best for their community. I can’t recall much more about it than that but it may be grist to your mill…..

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