The House of Lords to sit in judgement over Scots’ democratic rights

A House of Lords Committee is asking for submissions for a report on the state of the Union between Scotland and England. The report will be issued to mark 25 years of the Scottish Parliament, with the call for evidence ending on the 8th of April.

The fact that a House of Lords committee of elderly Unionists thinks it has the legitimacy to sit in judgement over the democratic rights of Scots will anger many.

This swollen body of unelected people appointed for life – the youngest being Carmen Smith, a party staffer aged 27 – is an affront to democracy that Scotland will always be saddled with while it remains in the UK.

Home Rule was once the great hope of many Scots. They thought a Scottish Parliament would allow Scotland to run its own affairs (except on shared areas like defence). But devolution is proving a faint shadow of true home rule. Scotland has far less autonomy than regions of countries like Canada, Spain, the USA or Switzerland. 

There is no prospect of that changing without full independence. Here are three reasons why this report is completely irrelevant.

  1.  Who cares what this House of Lords Committee thinks?

    The Committee is asking for evidence on issues like the Sewel Convention – the convention that Westminster should not legislate on matters where Holyrood is supposed to have the power. But the same committee has already recommended that the UK Government stick to the rules – it was ignored. 

    The House of Lords Constitution Committee produced a report in 2022 arguing that the UK Government’s “Anglocentric British Nationalism” was undermining the Union. But all of its recommendations were completely ignored by the UK Government, proving that it is a toothless tiger even when it makes sensible suggestions. 

    The dozen members of the House of Lords Constitution Committee include George Foulkes, who has made continuous attempts to use his position to undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament while unaware of the irony of him doing so from a place with no democratic legitimacy whatsoever.

    Other members of the Committee are: former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Annabel Goldie, Thomas Galbraith (a hereditary peer known as “Baron Strathclyde”) and 87-year-old Lib Dem peer Donald Martin who appears to have no connection with Scotland at all. 

    There is nobody on this Committee who could claim to represent the half of Scots who support independence. They are all Unionists – some with no connection to Scotland at all. 

    An independent Scotland would not have to contribute a share of its resources to support over 800 unelected peers who sit in the UK Parliament’s Upper House for life. Who actually cares what they think? Not even the UK Government it seems.

  2. We already have a report on the state of devolution from the Scottish Parliament

    In a paper called “Devolution Since the Brexit Referendum”, Holyrood’s Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson looked in detail at what has taken place. He made these main points:

    1. Westminster has continually gone against the devolution settlement

      The Sewel Convention says the UK should not legislate on matters where Holyrood is supposed to have the power. But the UK Government has done this at least 13 times in the last five years. 

      This includes: 

      • The Nationality and Borders Act, making it a criminal offence to arrive as a refugee;
      • Trade deal with Australia and New Zealand that that are bad for Scottish agriculture; 
      • Laws about genetically modified food; 
      • Removal of EU protections for workers’ rights; 
      • An energy bill that overrides Holyrood in several areas.

    2. After Brexit, Westminster took all the powers coming back from Brussels for itself 

      The Internal Markets Act has made it impossible for the Scottish Parliament to diverge in meaningful ways. Westminster passed the UK Internal Market Act 2020 which makes fundamental changes to the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Rules set elsewhere in the UK MUST apply in Scotland to imports from that part of the UK, whatever the equivalent rules in Scotland say. 

      Scotland can’t even put a 20p deposit on a glass bottle of Irn Bru because Westminster says no. That is a contrast to the flexibility of the European Single Market, which recognises both local factors and a balance of different policy objectives.

    3. Distribution of public funds 

      Previously, the EU spent structural funds working with the Scottish Parliament. The UK government said it would replace those. It has not. Instead it spends a much smaller amount of money directly in Scotland on its own priorities. The Levelling Up Fund is a case in point: instead of democratic representatives in Holyrood deciding how that money should be spent, it is up to Malcom Offord – the Unionist propagandist and Tory donor who failed to win election – and other unelected peers and members of the Scottish Office. Scotland’s Parliament is excluded from the decision-making process.  

  3.  Scotland needs independence as soon as possible

    Scots are getting tired of having the relatively small degree of autonomy that was part of the devolution settlement being continually undermined by Westminster.

    The influential political commentator Simon Jenkins assessed the state of devolution in the Guardian recently. He wrote: “As the UK in 2016 slid so casually out of the EU, so could Scotland slide out of the UK. It should, by size and economic potential, be as rich and independent as Ireland or Denmark. Ireland shook off its reliance on the UK and became a Celtic tiger. While it might be a pity – and a sad comment on England – Scotland could do the same. The next British government should start by tearing up the Barnett formula and devolving real power – fiscal power – in Scotland. Otherwise we should welcome the future Denmark of the British Isles.”

    Jenkins' suggestion of devolving significant powers to Scotland is not going to happen. It has already been ruled out by the two Unionist parties.


The democratic rights of Scots should not depend on the outdated and increasingly corrupt House of Lords. It has more than 800 members, appointed for life under patronage rules left over from feudal times. 

Whatever the Committee says, it does not matter. Both Labour under Keir Starmer and the Conservatives under Rishi Sunak have indicated there will be no significant new powers for Holyrood; that they don’t support the right of Scots to hold a referendum under any circumstances and that they will continue to oppose the democratic wishes of the Scottish people at every turn. 

The only way for Scotland to get the powers of a normal independent country is to become independent.