AN unelected Tory is attempting to rig the result of a second Scottish independence referendum by introducing a bill proposing a voter threshold reminiscent of the one used in the devolution vote of 1979.

Lord Patrick Cormack tabled a private members’ bill – the Referendums Criteria Bill – in the House of Lords last week. It is now waiting for a second reading, and although it is unlikely to become law, it does show how some Tories are thinking.

Cormack proposes that before any referendum is held in the UK, each House of Parliament must pass a motion agreeing to it and, in the event of a division, the majority of MPs and Lords in favour must be at least two thirds of those who vote.

If a referendum clears that hurdle, the number of people who vote in it must be equal to or greater than 55% of those on the electoral register.

However, for it to be accepted, the number who vote in favour must be at least 60% of those who vote in the referendum.

The restrictions are similar to those in the devolution referendum of 1979, where the House of Commons accepted an amendment to the Scotland Act 1978 from a Fife-born Labour MP in London, the late George Cunningham.

READ MORE: Labour plan to ‘wreck’ indyref2 compared to notorious 40 percent rule

This said majority support for a devolved assembly would have to be at least 40% of Scotland’s electorate.

In the event, the Yes vote on that occasion was only 32.9% and the move failed.

Constitutional expert John Drummond, founder of the Constitutional Commission, said he would be astonished if Cormack’s bill actually went anywhere.

He told The National: “That means dead people will vote. They’ll have a zombie electorate, the non-walking dead will decide the outcome.

“That’s what happened in the first failed devolution referendum – people who were not alive were deemed to have voted no. What people said about the 40% rule was that people who were dead effectively were voting against it.”

Drummond said the bill made “a nonsense out of democracy and was “morally reprehensible”.

However, it was also dangerous: “The UK constitution can be summed up in one sentence – whatever the government of the day with a working majority says it is.

“On that basis literally, Boris Johnson can amend, change, dispose of the constitution and any and all constitutional safeguards that may presently exist.

“The reality is we are in a very, very serious position because the old arrangements that used to pertain – ‘we’re good chaps and we won’t do anything that might alter the broad constitutional understandings upon which the UK is based, because if I do something naughty and I lose power and you obtain power, you might be tempted to behave likewise’ – don’t anymore. We are no longer governed by good chaps, we’re governed by people for whom democracy is not something they are deeply wedded to.

“The UK constitution doesn’t really exist unless Boris Johnson says it does. You only get these conditions in a banana republic, where the person at the top can unilaterally change the constitution.

“For over 100 years we’ve been in this position and only now has it become evident to a very large number of people – now that we know about it perhaps there’s a better chance of dealing with it.”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said: “It’s pretty rich for members of the House of Lords to try to rewrite the rules and meddle with democracy when so many have either failed at the ballot box or have never seen one in their career as lawmakers.

“Desperate measures to gerrymander a referendum are exactly what we would expect from the Westminster establishment, showing just how clearly they know that they are losing the argument on Scottish independence.

“The SNP won more than 80% of the seats in Scotland at the election, and Scotland’s future must be for Scotland to decide – not politicians in Westminster or anywhere else.”

Drummond added that some people had said the constitution was up for grabs, which was a view we could take in Scotland.

He said: “Why don’t we set down our constitution and say, ‘this is how your rights will be protected in an independent Scotland’ and take the fact that they have failed so abysmally to preserve their own constitution in the UK?

“It gives us this wonderful opportunity to create something quite different, empowering and enabling, and perhaps providing a vehicle to reach out to other parties and say this is something that’s going to be of value to us all in the event that we have an independent Scotland, and turn the whole negative atmosphere round into a positive.”

Cormack has been approached for comment.