CRITICS whose thinking is driven by ideology – whether socialist or nationalist or post-Presbyterian – are wont to rubbish the House of Lords as a prominent expression of the radically corrupt British state. Stuffed to the gunwhales with unelected hereditary peers, political cronies, establishment flunkies, and Anglican prelates, the Lords is all about flaunting unearned privilege and feathering selfish nests – or so the story goes.

To such distorting caricature this week's vote on tax credits (“Osborne bows to pressure after Lords tax credit revolt”, The Herald, October 27) opposes three awkward facts. First, that their lordships voted down Government legislation on the moral ground that it failed sufficiently to protect the poor. Second, that Anglican bishops were in the forefront of the opposition. And third, that in the opinion of at least one veteran Scottish observer, Iain Martin, the quality of debate and scrutiny was far better than that generally found at Holyrood.

There is much that is wrong with the Upper House, much that deserves reform; and when it becomes politically urgent enough for a government to invest precious resources of time and attention in the complicated task, reformation will happen.

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In the meantime, the House of Lords will continue to do its job of testing and improving legislation rather well. And honest critics will learn to take that into account.

Nigel Biggar,

Professor of Christian Ethics,

Oxford University, Wellington Square, Oxford.

THE House of Lords has just held an impressive debate on the issue of tax credits. There was much discussion of both the financial and the social impact of the Government's proposals, and of the constitutional right of the House of Lords to consider the issue. The highly charged debate was a model of how such matters should be discussed; the speeches on all sides of the arguments were measured, thoughtful and courteous to opponents.

As the votes on the various motions were proceeding, I noticed a tweet from Nicola Sturgeon saying "I'm no fan of the House of Lords but, if you are a Labour peer, why would you abstain in a vote to stop tax credit cuts?" My response to that is - where were the SNP? I thought that they were "Stronger for Scotland" yet the reality is that to mitigate the adverse effects the tax credit cuts, people in Scotland have had to rely on Labour and the Lib Dems. So much for "Stronger for Scotland".

Alastair Gillespie,

40 Findhorn Place, Edinburgh.

IAIN Macwhirter (“The thorny question of the ermine revolution”, The Herald, October 27) is right to point out the irony of normally virulent opponents of the House of Lords praising that institution. There was an excellent debate featuring people with real ability, experience and a genuine interest in the common good, sustained – protected even – by hundreds of years of protocol, convention and opaque rules.

As a revising chamber it undoubtedly needs reforming, but I couldn't help contrasting this with the Scottish Parliament committee system which seems to have no teeth, little ability, and would, I fear, have caved in under SNP pressure in a situation like last night. As it always has in the past eight years.

Allan Sutherland,

1 Willow Row, Stonehaven.

IT is remarkably ironic to watch Conservatives frothing about the House of Lords. When offered the chance to reform it in the last parliament they refused so to do. It is I think utterly offensive to most of us that the hard working poor should be brutally penalised when the richest in our society still benefit from a plethora of tax breaks and avoidance schemes. Perhaps I can draw a few to the Chancellor’s attention - high rate pension tax relief, inheritance tax breaks on £1 million-plus houses, entrepreneurs relief – the list goes on. But in all of this farrago no comment has been made of a most astonishing piece of Conservative hypocrisy.

While there has been much trumpeting about the rise in income tax thresholds, the Government continues to levy tax on all incomes above £8,000 in the form of National Insurance, 14 per cent on employers and some 12 per cent on employees – some 26 per cent in total. When basic rate income tax kicks in this tax take rises to 46 per cent. So as well as the savage cuts in support the Government continues to levy tax on the poorest in our society.

In engaging in a series of forced pay rises towards the living wage the Government is not simply transferring responsibility for supporting the poor from the state to employers it is also engaging in a massive forced tax levy on those employers, the biggest single increase in burden on business since the war.

We are thus left with the bizarre paradox of a supposedly low-tax, business-friendly party hammering British competitiveness, penalising the poor, and imposing a massive forced tax burden on the very businesses that keep the state going and effectively setting wage rates for a vast section of the economy. To combine actions that are fiscally illiterate and morally reprehensible in one swoop seems to me remarkable, even for a Tory Chancellor.

Hugh Andrew,

Birlinn Ltd,

West Newington House, 10 Newington Road, Edinburgh.

DAVID Torrance (“SNP must grasp nettle of welfare reform challenges”, The Herald, October 26), implied welfare powers in full were coming to Scotland, when in fact it is the equivalent of a mere 14 per cent of the entire Scottish welfare budget that is being devolved. So in light of such limited financial/welfare powers coming to Scotland, should the question not be: why is the other 86 per cent of welfare spend in Scotland not being devolved?

Mr Torrance did give recognition of the SNP Government’s proposals to give carers a better deal financially through the devolved welfare powers that are coming. However, he omitted to mention the Scottish Government’s proposals to scrap the “84-day rule” for children in hospital who subsequently lose there disability benefit. This clearly indicates the SNP Government at Holyrood is very much on the case of devolved welfare powers to follow. Mr Torrance surely knows that only limited welfare powers are coming to Scotland and had he taken the opportunity in this article to highlight exactly what those devolved powers would be, instead of taking a pot at the SNP, his article would have commanded some respect.

Catriona C Clark,

52 Hawthorn Drive, Banknock, Falkirk.

RUSSELL Vallance (Letters, October 27) is wrong to say that English MPs were barred from the Scottish Grand Committee (SGC) which debated Scottish bills before the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

In fact. whenever necessary enough English MPs were co-opted into the SGC to ensure that it would not disagree with (never mind veto) the UK Government line. The Welsh Grand Committee still operates this way, with English Tories in attendance with voting rights to counteract the Welsh Labour majority.

These committees were established not as an exercise in democracy, but to avoid English MPs wasting their time on Scottish or Welsh affairs which were seen as a sideline to the main event.

Mary McCabe,

25 Circus Drive, Glasgow.

I VERY much doubt if the changes Kezia Dugdale proposes to make to the Labour Party in Scotland will have the wow factor with the voters (“Corbyn in support of self-ruling party plan”, The Herald, October 27). It does seem incredible that, as pointed out by your editorial (“Vital for Labour to have Scottish voice”, The Herald, October 27), Scottish Labour hasn't been responsible for such matters as selecting their own candidates, constituency management and policy making. And it is equally incredible that the long succession of failed leaders of the Labour Party in Scotland did nothing to change that.

However, while making changes to Labour's basic organisation may tidy things up and give the impression of Scottish Labour having its own voice, the real test will come in policy decisions when the party in Scotland and the party at Westminster collide. If, for example, Scottish Labour opposes the renewal of Trident, but Westminster Labour supports its renewal, Scottish Labour's voice will be drowned out and silenced. The Branch Office may have a shiny new manager, but key executive decisions will still be made in London. Ms Dugdale's reforms won't change that.

Ruth Marr,

99 Grampian Road, Stirling.