By Mike Robertson
Recently the House of Lords did us all a favour by curbing the excessively powerful Brexiteers who had taken over the British Government. If ever there was an argument for a second chamber to keep an administration of deranged demagogues in check, this was it.
What a pity it has to be populated by an unelected rabble of failed politicians, entitled gentry and English bishops. Would it not be better if it had a democratic mandate by being elected?
Unfortunately, reform of the broken Westminster government is far from the minds of the Etonian schoolboys who currently hold power. After all, any reform worth doing would inevitably remove them from their privileged positions.
The Scottish Parliament’s Committee System
So why isn’t the SNP suggesting we need a ‘Hoose o’ Lairds’ when Scotland gains its independence? The answer may be the highly effective way the committee system in the Scottish Parliament works already. The Holyrood committees were the result of lengthy study (by Labour and the Lib Dems, among others) of the defects of the House of Commons. The committees don’t get a lot of media attention, but week after week, month after month, they scrutinise proposed new laws, interview expert witnesses and campaign groups, and then draft detailed amendments based, where possible, on consensus. The result is that by the time a bill reaches the floor of the Parliament there’s usually not a lot of controversial stuff left in it and the press bench has gone to sleep or is away writing about football.
So maybe the new, self-governing Scotland won’t need a second chamber, to revise and caution excitable MSPs if they get carried away by passing populist enthusiasms for hanging or flogging, or whatever.
But if Scotland ever does decide to have a second chamber or Senate, it will certainly be an elected one. The days when rival politicians could be bought off by promises of ermine, unearned income and preferment is surely over. At least, north of the Border it is. What happens south of it is another matter.
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