MOST of us, I suspect, have few issues with some of the anachronistic leftovers of Britain’s imperial past. Any country you choose to visit will always guide you in the direction of the desiccated remains from its unlovely past. These were usually gained at someone else’s expense. You can admire the workmanship and learn the history without endorsing the murder and theft that must inevitably have been involved in their annexation.

Thus, try as I might, I couldn’t really summon any significant degree of emotion at the tumult caused by the BBC’s attempt to cancel the words of Land of Hope and Glory at the Last Night of the Proms. We live in febrile times when England is retreating into itself and severing its ties from the civilised world. It clings vigorously to the souvenirs of its past and stands its ground. Any suggestion of a raid on its delusions are now met with belligerent suspicion. “It’s an attack on our way of life." No wonder we have to leave Europe.

How did the BBC think this would be greeted in the McCarthyism of Dominic Cummings’ and Boris Johnson’s new Jerusalem? It simply stirred every town hall Tommy Robinson into action, having first been reassured that this Elgar chappie was one of us despite his exotic-sounding name. Wait till they find out that in 2010 his moustachioed coupon was supplanted on the £20 note by none other than the Scottish philosopher, Adam Smith. I feel a campaign coming on.

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There are many more egregious symbols of the darkness that has recently enshrouded England than Edward Elgar’s cheery old classic. Scotland’s newly-minted Baroness, Ruth Davidson, inadvertently highlighted one of them last week when she threw a fit at being called “Baroness” by the BBC’s political editor, Brian Taylor. Ms Davidson assumes her title next year following the Holyrood election but spoke of her pride in February when her elevation was announced. The baroness-in-waiting knows that in Scotland during an election being known by a medieval title belonging to Britain’s unelected upper house might not be a vote-winner in very many neighbourhoods. Nevertheless I wish Ms Davidson all the luck in the world in her efforts to ditch her grand appellation before she gets her fur coat next year.

Ms Davidson’s fit of pique occurred as the Electoral Reform Society published a poll indicating that support for the House of Lords is at a historic low in the UK after years of Conservative governments using it as an establishment bribes factory. The Survation poll found that more than 70 per cent supported an overhaul of the Lords following Mr Johnson’s decision to squeeze a 36 new peers into the chamber, making it the second largest unelected legislative body in the world.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The public are sick of the bare-faced cronyism and political patronage that plagues the unelected House of Lords. The Prime Minister’s latest round of appointees represented yet another batch of political allies and financial backers getting handed lifetime seats in the Lords. Voters are rightly backing urgent reform. The high support for abolition should be a wake-up call for parties and peers to back real change before these calls grow louder.”

Mr Johnson seems undeterred and will continue with his plans to create further places for a donors list of those who have provided financial aid for the Conservative Party. Thus, over the course of their entire lifetimes these donors can claw back a significant portion of their largesse to the Conservatives by claiming tens of thousands a year without actually having to spend much time in the place. It’s a neat way of converting a donation into a loan and getting British tax-payers to pay it back in instalments over a lengthy period, interest-free.

That the Labour Party continues to avail itself of this ancient bung palace remains one of the great curiosities of British public life. In particular, the party in Scotland has developed an extraordinary attachment to the House of Lords. In recent years an assortment of Scottish Labour mediocrities, in return for presiding over the party’s wretched and spectacular decline north of the Border, have embraced the Upper Chamber.

For years they inveighed against inequality and the essential wickedness of unearned privilege while purporting to represent communities most affected by their consequences. They might delude themselves that as Lords and Barons they can throw the odd spanner in the works of that nasty Conservative Government, but the rest of us know the real reasons why they succumbed at the last to the blandishments of the establishment: it makes them feel relevant long after their usefulness has expired and it’s a great networking exercise to ensure the gravy train keeps making regular stops at their houses. It’s a great little earner too.

The SNP to its great credit forbids its members from participating in this political launderette for the elite. If the Labour Party similarly ceased this betrayal of its core constituency the entire edifice would come crumbling down.

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The existence of this perverse old chamber, along with our funding of the royal family ensure that the pursuit of excellence and the concept of reward for honest endeavour will always be strangers to the way in which British public life is conducted. They convey the message that some are better than others merely by virtue of birth or by dint of having more money or better connections. They are remnants of a savage and uncivilised time when power was exercised ruthlessly in favour of those who had the money and the armies to do so.

It’s a grim message to hand to our children, which is exactly why supporters of the House of Lords and state-aided royalty will always seek their continued existence. If they grow up believing that they can get ahead by cheating, by evasion and by bribing the right people then all serious attempts at bringing about true equality and societal change will ultimately fail. And therein lies the Conservatives’ implacable opposition to Scottish independence: that if it’s seen to work without ingrained privilege at its centre it might give too many people in what remains of the UK the wrong idea.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald