Thursday, May 14, 2015

Has the time come for the SNP to hold their noses and take up seats in the Lords?

Now I know what the vociferous reaction of 95% of you will be to that question, but at least hear me out.  Here are a few points that may not have been given sufficient consideration yet...

1) Before the election, we assumed that any government that emerged would be vulnerable to ambush because of its arithmetical position in the Commons, where we knew the SNP would be strong.  But the outcome last Thursday has turned expectations on their heads.  While there will still be opportunities for the SNP to help put together an anti-government majority in the Commons on issues which provoke a Tory rebellion (possibly including repeal of the Human Rights Act), on other issues the heart of the action is more likely to be in the Lords, where the government has just lost its commanding position due to the Tories and Lib Dems parting ways.  If the SNP are not even represented in the Lords, they could find themselves sidelined as Labour and a born-again left-wing Lib Dem group under Tim Farron inflict repeated defeats on the Tories.  The Lib Dems in particular are now obscenely over-represented in the upper chamber.

2) The only opportunities to get 'hostile amendments' to the Smith proposals passed will probably be in the Lords.  If the SNP aren't even in the chamber to table the amendments they want, a huge potential tactical advantage will be squandered.  It's true that we have hopes of the government accepting amendments in the Commons, but if that happens it'll probably be because Cameron does it voluntarily, and not because he's forced to.

3) The Lords will be the best chance of preventing EVEL from unfairly disadvantaging Scotland.  An SNP group would be able to make common cause with Labour, who still have a vested interest in stopping the Tories becoming stronger via England-only votes.

4) Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly stressed that we don't want Scotland to be part of the Westminster system, but that for as long as it is, it's vital that Scotland's voice is heard.  The Tory win last week takes Lords reform off the agenda, so as things stand, the voice of 50% of the Scottish population will go totally unheard in one of the two chambers of parliament.

5) This is no longer a debate about symbolism or tokenism.  If the SNP were willing to take up seats in the Lords, they wouldn't just be getting one or two - with 9% of the seats in the Commons, and 5% of the Britain-wide popular vote, it's hard to see how Cameron could deny them a decent number of peerages.  That might be enough to hold the balance in a lot of votes.

6) There is a semi-precedent - a few years ago, Plaid Cymru allowed their former leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas to take up a seat in the Lords.

114 comments:

  1. Let's not see the SNP go down that road. No matter where we stand on the road to independence, I will cease voting for them, and cut up my membership, if they so much as think about going into the lords. They will at a stroke become as hypocritical as Labour.

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    1. Hmmm. There are Sinn Fein supporters who say the same thing about taking up their seats in the Commons. We're working within a rotten system, and the bottom line is getting the best deal for Scotland.

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    2. But it is necessary that the SNP gets the best deal for Scotland while NOT being subsumed/consumed by the system. This is what happened to Labour. It could happen to the SNP as well.

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    3. Does the realpolitik allow it?

      No, 'fraid not. It's the optics of the affair that would rob the SNP of it's most prized possession - its credibility.

      Ran it a few times and the cost/benefit analyses say: no, no, and again, no.

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    4. James you are ignoring two glaring precedents:

      1. Being granted peerages was how Westminster suborned the Clan Chiefs and turned them into Lairds and so enabled the Clearances and the huge Highland Estates.

      2. Labour who have now become so intricately tied into the Establishment that they are useless for their original purpose.

      I could add the LibDems, in the Highlands supposedly the party of the crofters rather than the Lairds, their peers sit in the Lords with the Lairds.

      My two points are . . .

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  2. No
    That would be exactly liek Labour. They are not there to get absorbed by the system. They are there to prove the system does not work for Scotland. If they have to join the Lords they are joining the system. They need to bide their time till the Tories screw up and that won't be long then a second referendum should be held which we will win

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  3. If a single SNP MP "does a Prescott" I'm afraid myself and many other members/voters will leave - simple as that. It would reek of hypocrisy to accept membership given that the party position is to seek its abolition. There is a big difference in representation at WM and actively becoming embedded as part of the system we all despise!

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    1. Anon : What exactly is that difference? It would be helpful to get some rationality into this debate - why is active membership of the Lords an "embedding" when active membership of the Commons is not?

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    2. At a guess, because an MP who goes native can be voted out, but a Lord can't, no matter what his expenses claims look like.

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    3. An MP is there on the sufferance of the electorate, and is therefore required to make at least some overtures to serving them. Peers are accountable to no one, and therefore have no reason to serve anyone but themselves.

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  4. I can understand why you raise the possibility but it would set the SNP right back. Labour/Tories would crow and bray endlessly. Anyone taking one for the team would have to forgo the appearance money and all the other trappings. Just not workable.

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  5. No it's a red line ,same as Trident. Principles sometimes are more important than opportunism!

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    1. Securing fair representation for 50% of the electorate in both chambers of parliament is scarcely "opportunism".

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    2. How does someone who is unaccountable to the electorate "represent" them?

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    3. Securing fair representation for 50% of the electorate in both chambers of parliament is scarcely "opportunism".

      Perhaps not but NOT being part of the lords is a far more powerful position to take. We all have to accept that like the rest of the UK and then some more, we are going to have to take a Tory kicking for a few years. Fight it loudly yes but don' t do anything that can be construed as Westminstering. Highlight any obstructing and fan the flames of Scottish indignation to build the independence majority. We have the absolute Scottish democratic mandate not to be ignored, solets use it as the lever to break away.

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  6. SNP should take seats, and then have members vote on who gets them. You want an elected second chamber, you got it.

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    1. That would make them accountable not to the electorate but to the party. And not even really that - once they're in, there's no mechanism for the party to remove them.

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    2. Lords are now able to resign (Lord Ashcroft did just before the election). You could oblige someone to resign if they fail to win re-election.

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  7. I'm against the idea. The SNP need to take the long view. The fact that labour couldn't hold on to the working class in Engkand has given us this Tory majority. The Tories might make headway in the early years but hopefully they will lose some seats as the parliament progresses and there will be room for opposition to work. I don't believe it is helpful to abandon principle.

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  8. Nevvah, nevvah, nevvah, as someone once said.

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  9. James

    I think that you are totally wrong on this one, let me explain my reasoning. The first like many here is that it would be totally hipocritical of the SNP to now join the "vermin in ermine"

    The main reason that I would say no is long term. There is a distinct political bias against Scotland at Westminster some numerical, but also procedural, the number of questions at Scottish questions, six to one Labour MP and one to fifty six SNP mps being a prime example.

    The more that the Westminster system works against us the better the long term advantage. We gave the SNP a landslide and we got a Tory government, we have voted Labour for years and got Tory governments. There will come a tipping point when all but the most die hard unionist will start to say enough is enough.

    If we elect a few SNP peers they will have no influence and virtually no voice so there is no point in them being their, apart from allowing the three unionist parties to say "it did not take long for the SNP to forget their principles" We are getting enough crap thrown at us by the right wing London press without giving them even more ammunition.

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    1. James

      Since I posted this I have just read that a former adviser to Thatcher, Andrew Dunlop, who was an adviser to Cameron during the referendum, has been elected to the HOL so he can be junior minister in the Scottish office.

      If this is not another sign that we should have nothing to do with this totally undemocratic system, I do not know what is.

      It also looks like another FU to Scotland from Cameron, good keep them comming Dave, it can only continue to help us long term.

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  10. I don't think it's a good idea. Your case has merit, however any gain would be undone by the loss of integrity. Lots of folks have voted snp, many for the first time because they are tired of a corrupted system and have belief in the integrity of the party. Taking seats in the Lords (however initially well meaning) would be an unforgivable betrayal.

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  11. I would be totally opposed, firstly on principle-----which the SNP can raise at any PMQ's when it wants to embarrass the Tories.
    Secondly, they would only get token representation. I seem to remember UKIP making a fuss about a promise made to them about the Lords which was broken. The SNP would be treated exactly the same.

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  12. I never even read the article, James.
    Straight to comment.
    No. Not ever could i vote for a party that took up British 'honours'.

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    1. I didn't even read your comment, Juteman. I could sense it was going to fall well short of your normal high standard.

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    2. Well, he hasn't mentioned MI5 or government conspiracies yet, so it's a step up.

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    3. No, wait, I hadn't kept reading down the comments list. I retract my statement. Sigh.

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  13. I agree James, its too important not to be in there, tell whoever goes in to donate the wages to charity. Simple.

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  14. Absolutely not. You might as well argue that SNP MPs should join the Conservative Party to better influence the government.

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    1. That's an absurd argument. I'm suggesting the SNP should oppose the Tory government in both chambers of parliament, not just one. That's rather different from joining the Conservative party.

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  15. No. Consistency and integrity far more important in the long run.

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  16. Firstly, the government has a small majority, which won't last. The coalition regularly got defeated on big issues, so will this government be.

    Secondly, taking seats in the Lords compromises the SNP's stance that the Lords be abolished. The SNP does not believe the Commons should be abolished, so that is a false analogy. Simply trying to make the Westminster system work a little better also hinders the drive for independence in the long run (for all the good that getting a few SNP Lords will do).

    Lords reform is more likely to happen if there is a strong voice in the Commons refusing to take seats on principle. Otherwise it gets kicked into the long grass, again, because all parties judge they can make the Lords work in the short term.

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  17. Just a thought. Jim Sillars has said that he thinks MI5/6? will have placed folk into the SNP as sleepers.
    If we see someone from the SNP accepting a seat in that house, he will have been proved correct.
    It would kill the SNP as a party of principle.

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    1. I think Jim Sillars is right, though I have no idea who these people might be. I was told the same thing many years ago by someone else who was once high up in the Labour party and subsequently left and joined the SNP.

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    2. They are doing a great job.

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    3. @Rolfe, there was a story ages ago (at least 10 years ago, maybe more) in the MSM that Wendy Wood was a British intelligence agent. I have no idea if that is true or not.

      In addition, I would view those in the SNLA and SNG with great distrust (or were if that is the case now). That is a textbook intelligence ploy against an independence movement; create or encourage extremists to discredit the mainstream political party demanding independence, obviously in Scotland's case it is the SNP.

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    4. Wendy Wood was well before my time so I'm not in a position to have an opinion on that. I think it's quite clear that the SNLA etc. are at the very least facilitated and encouraged by the spooks. They have known form on that, after all.

      My concern is people who may be lurking quite high up in the party, not making any obvious waves, but in a position to apply the odd nudge here and there. I also wonder about Yes Scotland. The SNP were recruiting for that during 2012. Why on earth would MI5 not try to get some of their own people in place?

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  18. For me, the fact we arent in there influencing things that undoubtedly affect us is backward. Helping people should be the priority, i hate the notion of the hol, but I also understand that joe bloggs thinks the hol does nothing, which couldnt be farther from the truth, or own stubborness holds us back. The hol affects us all, as James points out, the unionists have unlimited scope to mess us about and we do nothing to stop them because we hate the idea of privilege and entitlement. Its a battle for a different day I am afraid. Only with indy can we leave it all behind and only by being inside it can we push them.

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    1. And once an SNP member joins the Lords, what control do "we" exercise over them?

      "Helping people should be the priority". Indeed. And once someone's a peer for life, what incentive have they got to help people? Niceness?

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    2. Put someone in that hates it but understands the strategy and put it on rotation.Which would work so that you have different people in there every 5 years. That way it isnt as sickly to those taking part. Donate the wages to charity.

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  19. I think constitutionally there should be some counterweight to them being able to meddle in our legislation when we have no representation there but no way should the SNP take up seats in the Lords. Perhaps something like a Scottish Grand Committee could do the revising.

    I get where you a coming from - constitutional balance - but politically it's lethally toxic, so another way has to be found to restore constitutional balance.

    For one thing who would ever elevate SNP peers?

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  20. Am I right in thinking that there are some Lords who are unaligned? Are any of them Scottish or have Scottish connections? Couldthey be persuaded to represent Scotland in the interim?

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  21. By the way, It's Dafydd Wigley who's the PC peer, isn't it?

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    1. Dafydd Wigley is the PC peer, put in after a certain amount of heart-searching for the sorts of reasons discussed above; the other ex-leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas got to the Lords under his own steam, as a safeish member of the Establishment, without the party's input or request.

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  22. I follow the argument, but the very idea makes my skin crawl. It's not worth it, and I don't think it would advance the cause of independence anyway.

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    1. Correct. I don't have a problem with the SNP being pragmatic on certain issues. I did not like it, but I would not quit wanting independence because I disagreed with the corporation tax issue. Same with campaigning for devolution (I agreed with this one), but technically it would have offended the purists in the SNP.

      However, there are red lines. One is independence, another is getting rid of Trident, and also that the SNP's representatives refuse to serve in the House of Lords is a third. James is being a naughty boy here...

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  23. The SNP should refuse to enter the House of Lords, exempt if it was made into an elected second chamber. If they did so they would soon become part of the British establishment,and it would eventually lead to Labour style dilution of values and principles. In short NO!

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  24. Step 1 for Nicola: Meet with all the Lords who have Scottish titles, whether hereditary or not, and invite them to,put Scotland first.

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  25. How much did MI5 pay you- or have you lost your mind?

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  26. As much as I dislike the idea I do think that in order to maximise their effect at Westminster the SNP should appoint to the house of Lords .Cameron with 14% of the vote in Scotland has already started appointing his Scottish Tory hasbeens and neverweres to the upper chamber in order to support the dismal Mundane .Lets face it the Tories are not going to be moved by rational debate but by a strong and visible Scottish presence .

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    1. Sorry Bill, I really do not think even No voters were swayed by what Scottish unionist representatives of the Lords said on independence. The SNP would never get enough representation to make a real difference anyway. Even if they did I would still be completely against it, and that is putting it mildly. It would be a serious sell out of the SNP core principles, and I believe would seriously imperil, if not completely derail the chances of achieving independence. It would be a massive recruiting sergeant for the Scottish Greens and the SSP.

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    2. I am not comfortable with the SNP view on the monarchy. They want to keep them. I often think this a way of not frightening the horses or getting posh folk to vote Snp. Personally I think if they declared republicanism like Patrick Harvie few folk would care. House Of Lords is active involvement in the honours and class system. It's just not right for this party of modernisation and reform.

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    3. I am not comfortable with the SNP view on the monarchy. They want to keep them. I often think this a way of not frightening the horses or getting posh folk to vote Snp. Personally I think if they declared republicanism like Patrick Harvie few folk would care. House Of Lords is active involvement in the honours and class system. It's just not right for this party of modernisation and reform.

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    4. The monarchy is in a similar category to NATO, corporation tax etc for me in that without independence, we will not get a chance to get rid of them anyway. There is no way that the British state is ever going to get rid of the royal family, they are very much part of the establishment in London. Some people in Scotland think that electorate here are majority republic. Going by the opinion polls that is not the case. But we have certainly have a much better chance of getting a republic after independence, than we do if we stay as part of the British state.

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  27. I propose the SNP do take up seats in the Lords . . . as long as the SNP Lords agree to donate every penny of their £300 a day attendance allowance and all other monies provided for parliamentary expenses directly to feeding and housing Scottish families in need. If they did that they wouldn't need to hold their noses at all. They'd be national heroes (and heroines).

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    1. And once one of them decides they'd rather keep the money, what then?

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    2. keaton - the chances of any of them agreeing to my condition is less than David Cameron endorsing Scottish independence. That's the point. It's not menat aas a serious possibility that would be subject to the sort of complication you are suggesting. Irony doesn't work very well on the internet.

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  28. The internet spooks are out in force today!

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  29. Sorry James, there are certain boundaries that need to be respected, otherwise we end up just like the red tories (ends justify the means eh?). We would end up with "New SNP" just like New Labour. There is a massive principle here - if the SNP ever sold out on this they would lose a huge number of their supporters. Unprincipled, unnecessary and far too risky. The SNP contigent at WM should do what they can, when they can. No one is expecting miracles - they just need to bide their time and watch the tories implode over Europe.

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  30. Never, once you decide on a principled stance - STICK TO IT

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  31. James,

    I don't know whether it was a selection requirement for PPCs for the SNP to swear on a stack of Bibles that they would never accept a Lordship. If it wasn't, it should have been.

    However, it is entirely possible for Cameron to tap up senior civic nationalists and offer them £300 per day. You have big enough ego's out there who would use the arguement you have just made to justify their acceptance of the offer.

    We do not need to give them the ammunition, better together, or whatever it's morphed into, have - probably - already thought on this.

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  32. While I have for some time argued as you have argued that the SNP not having peers in the Lords is a tactical error, as you see from the comments there is such a visceral feeling on the topic that it is simply not going to happen and to do anything about it would provoke a split which would make the disagreement over NATO a friendly discussion.
    Even though the hereditary element has been reduced to a rump of some 90 members the fact is that the rest are place men, with the suspicion that some have bought their way in through party donations.
    I had thought of some way in which it could happen, Conference electing people who would be nominated by the leadership being one of them. However whenever if float an idea I get told that it is not on. Given that there seems to be a need for a second chamber in the UK way of doing things it is only with a complete revision of the upper chamber that there can be any progress. Until then we simply have to grin and bear it. Perhaps that is the best way for the party to maintain its integrity, for otherwise we have to remember "“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

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    1. NATO was bad enough, personally I am against NATO, but saw the realpolitik involved in overturning the policy before the referendum. However, this is a non-negotiable issue for me, as well as getting rid of Trident from Scotland, and independence itself.

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  33. No. Not to put to fine a point on it, fuck off with that shite. I didn't spend a quarter of a century fighting for the chickens just to see them becoming foxes.

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  34. No, a parliamentary party holding 56 seats and those being of the 59 they stood in makes a massive impact even beyond its size.

    A party of this size and importance which refuses to participate, especially when it's at its most successful, is making a huge point to parliament and the Lords as well as the wider public. This should continue to levy discomfort to the government pressuring them to address the issue. This pressure is also on the opposition to raise and deal with matters.

    Whilst SNP refuses to take seats in the Lords their lack of accountability and lack of democracy is the large and uncomfortable elephant in the room for the other parties. Should the SNP decide to participate and become Lords and Ladies they have both psychologically and actually capitulated to the system they are trying to change.

    There is everything to be lost and nothing to be gained.

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  35. As the good book says, touch pitch and ye will be defiled.

    NO WAY.

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  36. I appreciate your arguments, James, even if I disagree with the idea. It's worthwhile looking into things more deeply, even from a Devil's Advocate viewpoint.

    Most of the points you put forward are indeed valid in and of themselves, but are they worth sacrificing one of the most important things that distinguishes the SNP from the Westminster parties? Even the opportunity to table amendments, protect from EVEL, and get into every level of the Westminster system would be a step too far, I think.

    1. This works to our advantage, as it proves the point that the Lords are in desperate need of reform, and having the Lib Dems so profoundly over-represented makes the case against reform untenable. That the Tories have a slim, meager majority does not mean reform is off the table even in this government.

    2. I frankly don't think we'll get much done in the Lords: considering how despised, hated and opposed the SNP are in the Commons, that would be magnified tenfold. The SNP just want Scotland to leave the UK, but they want to abolish the House of Lords. The other lords face an existential crisis the ministers simply don't face.

    3. "An SNP group would be able to make common cause with Labour" - as we've seen in the referendum and the 2015 election, when given the choice between allying with the SNP or letting the Tories win, Labour will go with the latter every time. Especially when we have the likes of Tam Dallyel, Michael Kelly and George Foulkes in there.

    4. I think the difference between taking up an elected position with a limited term, and appointment to a position with no democratic mandate or accountability, is simply too great.

    5. Again, it's about whether the political advantage is worth sacrificing their principles. It would be like the SNP abandoning the cause of independence for Devomax: arguably expedient politically, but a betrayal of their cause.

    6. PC don't have 95% of Wales' seats, control of the Welsh Assembly, and the third largest party in the UK.

    Personally, I think it might be worthwhile having a debate within the party about whether members could join: now that they're the third largest party, have 95% of Scottish seats, and half the entire Scottish electorate's implicit support, it could be argued that circumstances have indeed changed.

    Nonetheless, I feel the SNP have it right. Political expediency and advantage are not worth sacrificing principles for: it would make them no better than Labour.

    Good post, I enjoyed it.

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    1. Very comprehensive response. I generally agree with all your points.

      I am not a member of the snp but they got my vote in order to further the independence cause, by strongly representing us whilst highlighting the inadequacies of the Westminster system.
      Winnie Ewing' s words should always be at the forefront of these representatives minds - 'going down to settle up, not settle in'.

      Another reference which, to me, is appropriate is in 'Animal Farm' - think of the result of the pigs getting comfortable in the farmers house ;)


      Gillian_Ruglonian

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  37. I'm afraid this is a red line issue for me. The answer's no.
    Natasha
    (I selected the 'Anonymous' option as I can't get my Wordpress username to work, but I've put my name at the end of the post as I don't approve of anonymous posting).

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  38. James has opened up an interesting debate.

    My thoughts are that the strategic objective, the red line, is the abolishment of the house of lords. It is a bulwark for the privileged against the democratic wishes of the citizen, as well as acting as a buffer between the masses and the Windsors.

    In my mind there are three possible tactics to achieve this aim. The first is storming the defenses and overrunning the edifice. In a lot of ways we're doing this already,
    and the reality is, we are throwing very small pebbles against a extremely big wall.

    That being futile, two tactics remain.

    The first is a siege, cutting of what is essential to their existence, until they admit defeat. This is long term endeavor, and apart from power what is essential to them and how do we cut it off.

    The second, as James suggested, was infiltration, starting the end from within. Biologically speaking, this is a common and successful tactic.

    I, and I think, James are not recommending any of these paths, but we are certainly advocating a debate. If the red line is the end of the house of lords, we should be open to how this achieved.

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    1. The second, as James suggested, was infiltration, starting the end from within. Biologically speaking, this is a common and successful tactic.

      I could be wrong but was that not both a Labour and LibDem justification for agreeing elevation to the house of the walking dead?

      Joining that undemocratic chamber would be the death knell of the SNP as it can only be eradicated from the outside like any virus isolation is the best remedy.

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    2. You are quite right to highlight the risks.

      There is a big risk of assimilation with this tactic, it would need people with strong belief to resist.

      The Libdem and Labour belief was self aggrandisement and status, not the end of the HOL.

      It may well be that the risk is to great, but then we have to have another plan, as throwing small pebbles will not work.

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  39. The SNP have principles and strong leadership and the answer should be a firm no to unelected representatives.

    Plaid Cymru only lifted the ban on taking the seats in the House of Lords to give former leaders a retirement plan like the rest of the British left and get more representation in Westminster because they can’t get more than 3 MP’s elected, they are a joke of party that needs to be put out of its misery.

    This is what a sympathetic academic to welsh independence wrote about the party after last week’s election

    ‘What then of Plaid Cymru? Within the context of the Scottish revolutions, the result can only be regarded as an abject failure. To come in behind Ukip in the popular vote is a humiliation. As an ideology, Welsh nationalism has become weak. Local successes, such as increasing the vote in Arfon, Rhondda and Cardiff West, are a tribute to the commitment of local campaigners, not a harbinger of national advance.

    Plaid Cymru’s political narrative lies far to the left of the centre ground of Welsh politics. While the SNP appeals across the board, from the far Left to the centre right (it even had a former Tory elected as an MP), Plaid Cymru seems set on becoming a Welsh version of the Green Party. The party is uncritical of the British Left outside the Labour Party, and fawns on the words of metropolitan commentators in a way unimaginable in successful leftist national movements like Sinn Féin, or the abertzale parties of the Basque Country. Leanne Wood is hugely appealing as a personality, but her politics mean that Plaid Cymru will struggle more at the ballot box than needs to be the case.

    http://www.planetmagazine.org.uk/planet_extra/alt-ctr-del/the-british-left-destroyed/

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    1. Heaven only knows what your problem is with Plaid Cymru. Your initial complaint seems to be that they're too small 'c' conservative, but then you quote a hysterical claim that they're on the far left. The reference to Tasmina in that article is particularly silly. Yes, she's a former Tory, but so what? John Reid is a former communist, but the emphasis is very much on the word 'former'.

      Plaid had a creditable performance last week - their vote was up 1%.

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  40. No, an emphatic no, not now not eve, NO!

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  41. Yeah and maybe we should throw a welcome party for the nuclear submarines on th Clyde too. In other words, um no.

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  42. James, I can only assume your 'Yes' (11.30pm) is a joke. You've seen how viscerally almost all of us reject the notion, and why, and can see the damage it would cause.

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    1. I have to say I'm quite disappointed by that reaction, Justin. You seem to be telling me that I should abandon my opinions simply because people don't like them. The day I accept a demand like that is the day I give up on politics (and possibly the day I give up on life).

      I haven't had a chance to respond to every point that's been made, because I was out enjoying the sunshine in the late afternoon, and then I went to the cinema. But please don't mistake my silence for assent. Some of the objections that people have raised have been based on rather silly misconceptions - for example, there seems to be a widely-held notion that we're talking about rogue SNP members who might be tempted by a bauble. SNP representation in the Lords simply would not be possible unless signed off by the party leadership.

      Keaton made variations on the same point several times, and it struck me that he was casting around for technical excuses for us not to do anything at all to ameliorate a bad situation. We could just as easily argue that the SNP shouldn't take seats in the Commons, because doing so legitimises a system in which 37% of the country can dictate to the other 63%. We're supposed to support proportional representation, after all. Where does this demand for purity end?

      The reality we have to deal with here is that we're stuck with an unelected upper house for the next five years (unless we get lucky and Scotland becomes independent before then). Keaton clearly doesn't trust any potential SNP peer not to go native, but that's the wrong question. The right question is whether he trusts the current members of the House of Lords more than he trusts SNP members?

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    2. Is it now my turn to be disappointed? (Of course not, but by that I mean I don't think you needed to be either!)

      I, of course, didn't mean you should abandon a point of principle because others hold a different point of view.

      I meant I would be surprised your wanting to pursue a point of tactics (SNP taking seats in the 'Lords') if that led to a huge revulsion of SNP voters against the SNP, as seemed to be happening before your very eyes.

      I take it that for you this is an issue of tactics rather than principle, but if it's an issue of principle (that you think SNP members should be in the 'Lords') then I withdraw my surprise that you were not changing your view in light of the evidence unfolding in response to your post.

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    3. Where you're going wrong here is that you seem to think the people who leave comments on a pro-independence blog are in some way representative of the 50% of the whole country that voted SNP. They're not. I have absolutely no idea how SNP voters would feel about the party taking seats in the Lords - neither do you, and neither does anyone else. That poll hasn't been done yet.

      In any case, what "evidence" was unfolding before my eyes? I anticipated at the start of the blogpost that 95% of reactions would be negative - as it turned out that was an overestimate, not an underestimate. If anything, I should be feeling modestly encouraged.

      And tactics rather than principle? I'm not sure I even understand the distinction in this instance. I support an elected upper chamber, but then I also support a lower chamber in which the seats are allocated in line with the proportion of votes cast. We don't boycott the Commons simply because it falls woefully short of our ideal.

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    4. I'm sure Nick Clegg saw changing his position on tuition fees as a sound move in the circumstances. Their party never recovered from such a clear reversal of a position they had emphasised so strongly they it appeared to be a point of principle to their voters.

      Where you draw the line between points of principle and tactical issues is a matter of judgement - the former arousing questikns of integrity, the latter questions of intelligence.

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    5. . . . but actually, who knows? If Clegg had secured PR (even the paltry AV version) then his willingness to reverse his stand on tuition fees might by now be being seen as a sensible tactic to secure a greater end.

      The fact he failed in the larger purpose, means the tuition fees issue looks like a fundamental betrayal.

      If that's right then it's a matter of judgement for te SNP. If joining the Lords would enable them to secure independence within this Parliament it might be very sensible. If it doesn't then it will severy damage them in 2020 (and if done before next May, then also in 2016).

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  43. Of course they should. They're a political party with an objective to achieve, not a sect of holy men and women who must remain pure.

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  44. Dont usually comment, love your polling blogs, but on this occasion NO Never, they promised the people who elected them No. They keep their promise to the people. The people will then keep their faith in the SNP to represent them!

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  45. James,

    You used the word "trust" in your last post......and that is what this question boils down to.

    The SNP, of which I am a member, has an absolutely categorical position on the HoL - they want it abolished, no ifs, buts or maybes. They want it gone yesterday, they consider it an illegitimate abomination in our method of governance.

    As a matter of trust in my Party,it would be completely and utterly inconceivable for them to now turn all that on its head and send representatives there.

    I would find it completely unacceptable for that to happen....and my trust in the SNP would be severely tested - as would the trust of a huge number of our 130,000 members.

    So, the answer to your question has got to be a resounding NO.

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  46. Any short term advantage which might appear to be just possibly attainable by such a U turn would be offset to an exponentially greater degree by the damage to what is above all a progressive democratic movement currently represented by the SNP. HoL already is on its last legs - let's not perpetuate its life. And destroy the SNP's integrity in the process. Nah. Good to have the position cleared up though, James.

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    1. Where is the slightest evidence that the House of Lords is on its last legs? Labour MIGHT have reformed it, but the prospects of Labour holding power at any point over the next decade now look pretty remote.

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  47. Just to clarify on my one worder last night (it was late). I've weighed up the pros and cons on this a good few times. The bulk of these have been put forward by James and in the debate on here in comments.

    I'm a firm no. I don't see any real benefit to giving up on the current principle.

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  48. There's only one circumstance in which the SNP should take seats in the lords and that is as part of a govt that is abolishing it. Then appointing a large number of elected SNP councillors to the lords to overwhelm the opposition there to abolition is acceptable.
    Otherwise no - we're far too outnumbered to make a difference.

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  49. From comments on Question Time the other night, the tories seem not to be averse to the idea of major constitutional change being decided using a referendum. Why don't SNP in Westminster put forward a bill to have one on abolishing the Lords? I'm sure they'd get a lot of support in the rUK from people who regretted not being able to vote SNP and it would distract others from the question of the timing of another independence referendum.

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    1. Because you need a majority in the Commons to pass a bill. Who has that majority?
      Then the Lords can kick it into the long grass for up to a year, stack all sort of amendments and essentially force the Commons to vote for it at least twice more to succeed. Lords reform just isn't going to happen unless a government commands a majority large enough to survive this delaying process - as Blair had in his first term.

      I'm absolutely against the concept of SNP peers - it would expend a great deal of the trust placed in the SNP by their electorate for very little relative gain. There are already 779 sitting lords, with another 49 on leaves of absence(or disqualified). To match the ratio the Commons currently has would require 70 SNP Lords. Absurd and destructive to the cause of an independent Scotland.

      What we should be discussing is what the voters could do with their regional vote at Holyrood next year. Based on how the Holyrood AMS seats are allocated, if the SNP sweeps most of the constituencies, an average 50% regional vote only nets them an additional 5 to 10 MSPs for an increased majority of ~75, with the unionist bloc roughly ~50. If large chunks of this 50% vote were to be transferred to the Greens, SSP and/or STUC, it would slash the unionist bloc in half, as well as reducing the SNP majority to 68 and create up to three more parliamentary parties with clout and free of head office orders from London.

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    2. Alan, we HAVE been discussing that, ad nauseam. Tactical voting on the list does not work, and carries a very significant risk of backfiring.

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    3. Alan, I disagree with James on this (he and I outline our positions in comments to his May 12th post: 'I was playing with numbers, and I didn't know what it meant') but I want to apologise to James if this has led to him feeling nauseas!

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    4. Not at all - Braco is the commenter I've had the most endless discussions with on this topic.

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    5. Fair enough, but I think it'd be wrong to call it tactical voting as that tends to refer to choosing from the two frontrunners. Is strategic voting a thing?

      I'm not entirely convinced that there wasn't some kind of Yes Alliance support which contributed to the SNP's success in the recent election primarily on the understanding that the FPTP system cripples multi-party movements. Just as Labour's explosion outshone the Lib Dem collapse, it may be that the SNP landslide is concealing possible gains to be made by parties that are effectively non-existent at the moment. We'll see...

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    6. "Is strategic voting a thing?"

      Maybe, but if it is, that wouldn't work on the list either. It's fine in single-member constituency elections where the two leading candidates are clearly established, but on the list element of AMS it's completely hopeless. There are just too many variables to consider.

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    7. I'm slightly puzzled about all this. I get that voting tactically may be impossible, but in my view it's really my constituency vote that is tactical. Of the parties with policies I support, only the SNP is likely to win so they'll get my vote. If I want the Greens or the Socialists to have a voice at Holyrood, shouldn't I give them my list vote? Also, does it make a difference if some of those parties don't stand in constituencies, a la Margo.

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    8. Absolutely, if that's your priority. But the point I'm making is that SNP supporters can't vote Green or SSP on the list as a 'free hit' - there's a severe risk that it will harm the SNP, and indeed reduce the overall number of pro-independence MSPs.

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    9. But you think it's still a risk for me? Do you think it makes a difference if the likes of the Greens don't stand in constituencies and focus only on the second vote?

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  50. That how it always start - the slide from principle, morals and ethics.

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  51. if you don't mind could you tell me whether this is what you actually think or is it an attempt to gauge opinion?

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    1. Of course it's what I actually think. I stated at the outset that I fully expected 95% of readers to disagree with me - as it turned out that was overly pessimistic.

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  52. I was considering a similar scenario early last Thursday evening in a conversation I had in London with the cross-bencher Baroness Richardson of Calow. She asked me why I considered it a possibility and I replied that with the almost assured potential for influence in the Commons of the SNP it might become expedient to have one foot in the Lords as well. She then asked if I thought this to be a likely outcome and I admitted that it was probably just me simply thinking out loud because too many would find it unacceptable. However I do consider that since the election of the 56 we need to look at new strategies to handle the levers of power.

    The SNP's insistence of having no truck with the Lords is a principled stance but sometimes it seems like accepting to be a boxer with one hand tied behind the back. I am not for one moment suggesting that the SNP should roll over and become as any and every establishment party as that sticks in my craw too, but a strategic attitude to using the Lords as a means to an end might not be the very worst idea ever. The project would have to be sold to the voters and members properly though.

    I could think of a dozen individuals with intimate senior experience at the heart of the SNP who might be able to do a valuable job under such altered circumstances. This is all complete speculation of course.

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  53. I see Simon Hughes has rejected a peerage offer from the LDs on a point of principled opposition to the Lords.

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  54. Putting the Lords on a returning Mediterranean boat would serve several purposes, such as reducing the shocking waste of boats returning empty to Africa as well as free up 779 places in the UK to people who will potentially make a contribution to the UK economy.

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  55. There is a massive proportion of Scottish voters who want Independence and Labour has lost that completely.
    By 2020 the 16-18 year olds should be voting in every election and they came to Independence and the SNP.
    The more Labour has pushed the stories that SNP betrayed Scotland with Thatcher the more the real story comes out. Their laziness in helping, or not helping, Scotland with the industrial shutdown, is becoming more obvious.
    The Referendum and this election has woken many up to the real history of Scotland since WW2. In many ways its not good for Labour, once one looks past the setting up of the NHS.

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