THE Labour party has again proposed to scrap the House of Lords. This raises the question of what form a replacement House should take, not just in Westminster but also in a potentially independent Scotland.

The obvious answer is some form of democratically elected forum, as indeed Labour suggests. The Lords itself is unrepresentative and not a model to follow. But “democratically elected” systems also have problems. Not least is that most seats in any election do not change party, so most of the individuals “elected” are actually chosen by a small clique of the incumbent party’s faithful. In other words, they are jobs for the boys rather than being democratically responsive in any meaningful way.

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A further issue is that the sort of people who put themselves forward as candidates may have laudable ambitions, but are not necessarily the sort of person you and I would actually prefer to be in charge. Clearly not every political hopeful is a self-seeking egomaniac, but the very fact that they are putting themselves forward will always raise a suspicion – just think Boris Johnson (but not for too long).

So how do you get normal, reasonable people into the legislature? Well, by the same method we already use in the jury system, ie by random selection. Your initial response might be: how could “know-nothings” run the country? But in reality most people are not “know-nothings”, and most are at least reasonable human beings. That is why the jury system works and we have such pride in it. In fact, there would be an appropriate sprinkling not just of wise

heads, but also of each sex, all adult age groups, every belief system etc. And it would be possible to give them access to proper information about each issue, rather than just the clap-trap that so much of our news media churn out.

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A less obvious advantage would be that each member would represent their own cross-section of the public by simply saying what they themselves think, rather than what they believe other people want them to say. After all, they wouldn’t have to curry favour with electors, or to toady to lobbyists offering to fund future campaigns. And, if they formed the “second house”, they would provide a built-in informed opinion poll on any and every issue under debate. In summary, it would be a counter-balance to an elected “first house” rather than more of the same thing in slightly different clothes.

Clearly there would be a cost from paying compensation to enough people for long enough to make a scheme like this work, but nothing that could not be overcome. And if you started with a big enough selection they could sit in relays of, say, 50 at a time, so that they could each continue to manage their own home life, while only requiring a relatively small formal meeting space. They could also be replaced so many at a time on a rolling basis, thus avoiding problems of continuity.

Would this really overturn the world as we know it, or is it an idea whose time has come?

Andrew Carruthers
via email

THE National wasted ink by reporting that Douglas Ross stated that Scotland is “the most powerful devolved nation in the world”. Rubbish!

Just a few miles offshore he will find the Isle of Man, with far greater power over its governance than Scotland. Again just nearby Jersey, Guernsey and the Channel Islands rule with much greater powers, as do Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. How about the Cayman Islands, BVI, Bermuda, all of whom are devolved?

Ross offers the hegemony of the British Unionist state and calls Scotland a major devolved nation. Utter nonsense!

Thom Cross