MANY column inches have been expended on the question of whether the SNP should sit in the Lords. I am clear we should not.

Quite apart from anything else, the loss of face would be hard to bear. For years colleagues have railed against the place as if it was the devil incarnate. (It isn’t but it is a very flawed institution.)

You cannot attack the place in the Commons, on the conference floor and on Twitter/X and then trick in there yourself without looking like a monumental hypocrite.

Can you imagine the optics of former SNP MPs, who have declined to put themselves up for re-election or been rejected by the electorate, donning the ermine, and partaking in all the other flummery? It does not bear thinking about.

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“In Scotland, the people have the sovereign right to self-determination and to choose freely the form in which their State is to be constituted and how they are to be governed. All State power and authority accordingly derives from, and is subject to, the sovereign will of the people, and those exercising State power and authority are accountable for it to the people.”

The opening clauses of the draft interim constitution for an independent Scotland make it plain that in Scotland those exercising state power and authority are accountable to the people. The biggest problem with the House of Lords is that it is unaccountable.

I firmly believe that an independent Scotland should have a second or revising chamber for its Parliament, but it must be one which is accountable to the sovereign people of Scotland through an electoral process, such as happens in other countries.

Sadly, too much Scottish Parliament legislation is passed without adequate scrutiny or revision and this, as we have seen, can lead to badly flawed legislation.

Westminster is not a model to be held up as a good example, but the highly detailed work that is done to tidy up and improve legislation that goes on in the House of Lords can make a significant difference, albeit that their work often ends up being binned when the bill comes back to the Commons.

I do not wish to rubbish thoughtful contributions from the likes of Stephen Noon but in my view and the view of many Yessers the question of whether to have SNP representatives in the unelected House of Lords is not a thorny one.

It’s barely something that merits discussion, so it has been very odd to see the kite flying that’s been going on in recent weeks. Analysis by the SNP after the 2015 General Election, showed the House of Lords was a “dumping ground for party cronies”, perhaps that’s what some people have in mind.

Not uncommonly when this issue is discussed the first counter argument is that our sister party Plaid Cymru nominate people to the House of Lords. It is worth pointing out that Plaid Cymru have, like the SNP, opposed the unelected House of Lords for decades. Devolution to Wales has been slow and uneven.

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In 1998 the Welsh Assembly, now the Senedd, did not have full law-making powers. Later, the Government of Wales Act 2006 enabled the Assembly to legislate in certain areas via Legislative Competency Orders, subject to approval from the Secretary of State for Wales and both Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

As legislation coming from the Senedd needed to be approved in the Commons and the House of Lords (before further devolution in 2011), Plaid Cymru started to nominate peers from 2007 onwards.

Speaking to Radio Cymru in 2022 about his intention to retire Plaid peer Lord Dafydd Wigley said “Plaid Cymru were then blocked from entering the House of Lords by the previous Labour UK Government. According to what Labour members said to me then, Gordon Brown had said ‘over my dead body does any nationalist go into that chamber’.

“And so, from 2007 until 2010 we were blocked, they refused to fulfil the promise.”

Plaid were given the impression that after the 2010 General Election three new Plaid peers would be created to equal the number of MPs they had in the Commons.

In the end however only Wigley was made a peer. Speaking about his potential successor, Dafydd went on to say: “Trying to run a one-person party in a 700-member chamber, with the whole range of policies, much of it relevant to Wales, is next to impossible, and the workload is going to be significant. There is a limit to how much one person can try to row such a boat.”

A lone SNP lord would be in a similar position. The mechanism for getting any peers in there in the first place is manifestly unfair and controlled by the government of the day so the SNP would not have anything like the representation to which we should be entitled.

So, there being little to no benefit in practice, we next must ask what would be the political signal which would be given. In short it would be a complete and abject capitulation of our aims.

We are not at Westminster to try to revolutionise the internal workings of the UK and thank goodness because I can tell you that would be a more difficult task than achieving our independence. There is absolutely no appetite in England to radically alter the UK parliament.

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Yes, some liberal and intelligent Unionist voices lamented the fact that there was no SNP lord to speak up for devolution during the various bits of Brexit legislation that hobbled Scotland’s parliament. But experienced senior members of the Lords, including retired Scottish judges, put forward amendments on Scotland’s behalf and were ignored.

Ignored in the same way that the SNP was ignored in the Commons and the votes of Scotland’s parliament, its Government and its Ministers were ignored.

It is the UK that is the problem not the SNP’s principled opposition to the Lords. Stephen Flynn has been crystal clear than there will be no SNP lords on his watch.

At Westminster this week I was delighted to meet up with the Catalan MEP Clara Ponsatí. Talking about the importance of political leadership and a renewed push for independence she said: “Poor political leadership is our most important problem because self-determination is above all, the task of those who identify with the ‘self’ that aims at determination.

"As Michael Walzer (the American political theorist) eloquently says: ‘The members of a political community must seek their own freedom, just as the individual must cultivate his own virtue. They cannot be set free, as he cannot be made virtuous, by any external force’.”

The SNP should provide the leadership and create the political conditions that will make Scotland a state. This will not happen by further enmeshing ourselves in the UK by entering the House of Lords.

Finally, we could speculate endlessly on the price of a peerage for an erstwhile SNP MP. But whether it’s a defection to the Tories or merely loss of face, the price is too high.

The result of such a monumental U-turn on longstanding SNP policy would be the loss of trust from both our membership and the wider independence movement. Those who helped put SNP MPs in Westminster expect us to maintain a healthy scepticism about the place. An independence of mind if you like. That does not include lining up for peerages.

On the day after Burns Night, I don’t think I can really put it better than the Bard himself:

Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,

Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that,

Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,

He’s but a coof for a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,

The man o’ independent mind,

He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.