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Lord Stephen

21/11/2010

Congratulations are due to Nicol Stephen, the former LibDem Leader, outgoing MSP for Aberdeen South and the only Scottish politician to make it onto the List of soon-to-be ennobled Peers (by contrast, Wales does rather well, with Dafydd Wigley, Eluned Morgan and Jenny Randerson all put forward, but even the Northern Ireland Assembly and GLA are referenced, thanks to Ulster Unionist Sir Reg Empey joining Lord Trimble on the Tory benches and Dee Doocey being listed among the LibDem peers.

Of course, it’s notable that Nicol Stephen is the only former Westminster MP in the LibDems’ ranks (having been MP for Kincardine & Deeside from 1991 to 1992), but it goes to show how much traffic there’s been between Holyrood and both Houses of Parliament at Westminster since 1999. There was, of course, the job lot of MPs who headed North in 1999 (to say nothing of three Peers: Mike Watson, James Douglas-Hamilton and David Steel), but the roll call is still intriguing today.

The SNP boycotts the House of Lords so the only transfer can be between the Commons and Holyrood. Obviously, Alex Salmond is the prime example of the transfer, but there’s also Andrew Welsh (the last remaining member of the First Eleven to be a Parliamentarian, and standing down next year), Roseanna Cunningham, Alasdair Morgan and John Swinney. Incidentally, the SNP are the only party ever to have had a former MEP in their ranks, in the shape of Winnie Ewing, who was an MP from 1967 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1979, a member of the delegation to the old European Assembly, an MEP for the Highlands and Islands from 1979 to 1999 and an MSP from 1999 to 2003. Though Ian Paisley trumps that by being an MP, MEP and MLA all at the same time, and having been ennobled as Lord Bannside is the only politician in the UK to have sat in four different chambers.

Labour has, of course, Lord Foulkes in its ranks at Holyrood, along with Malcolm Chisholm (the last remaining member of Labour’s 1999-2001 overlap) and David Stewart, who lost his Westminster seat in 2005, but was elected to Holyrood on the Highlands & Islands List two years later. Cathy Jamieson and Margaret Curran have gone the other way, while, as we know, Jack McConnell has joined George Foulkes on the Red Benches.

The Tories have no former MPs at Holyrood now (though Peter Duncan is a candidate for next year), but David Mundell of course went the other way. The only ex-MSP to be a Tory Peer is James Douglas-Hamilton, who was in the Lords already.

The LibDems have only Nicol Stephen now (though Willie Rennie is a candidate next year as well), and no former MSPs in the Commons, but they do have Lord Wallace and soon, Nicol Stephen joining him, as well as David Steel (who was already a Peer, even though he was willing to show the common touch by stooping to the level of Knight while in the Scottish Parliament).

Even Margo MacDonald has Westminster experience, having been MP for Glasgow Govan from 1973 to 1974.

And we even have a couple of former Law Officers in the Lords: Neil Davidson and Colin Boyd.

But as we’ve seen, the number of former MSPs in the Lords is growing, and with the door basically shut to dual MP and MSP mandates as of next year, I suspect it will continue to grow. Perhaps Nicol Stephen ought to nip in quickly, and take the styling Lord Legion while it’s still available.

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