The new speaker of the House of Lords says he wants to deploy his ‘soft power’ in Scotland and help the union in a ‘non-political’ way.

Lord John McFall, a former Labour MP for Dumbarton, was speaking about what he hopes to bring to his new role as speaker of the House of Lords last night.

Speaking on the BBC’s Westminster Hour, Lord McFall said he wants to bring a “change agenda” to the speaker’s role which is required to be non-partisan and politically neutral.

He said: “I will have my change agenda. One example: outward facing. I come from Scotland. 

“At the moment there’s a huge issue as we know with the election and the possibility of independence.

“Now I have been at Westminster for well over 30 years.

“I respect the organisation in Westminster and how we’ve gone about our business.

“And also I feel that, in terms of the Union, there’s an important element, particularly for the Lords Speaker, in a non-political way, to reach out to the different areas of the United Kingdom.”

He said that as early as this summer he hopes to visit Holyrood and MSPs to discuss the constitution, adding: “I would like to think that during the summer recess, if agreed with the other parliaments and assemblies, that I will have a visit to talk to the politicians there, to engage, and the reason being is that the House of Lords still has quite a lot of soft power.

“So I want to deploy that soft power even more, in a cooperative and in a collaborative way, by saying ‘We’re here to reach out to you on this issue in a non-political way.’”

Asked if Lord McFall would be welcome in Scotland if he did try to help defend the Union, SNP MP Alyn Smith said: “Interesting he thinks that’s non-political somehow.”

The MP for Stirling said that Lord McFall would “of course” be “welcome” adding: “Everybody’s welcome. We’ve got a lively debate about this stuff, and that’s right that we should.

“But from an SNP perspective the House of Lords is just absurd. 

“It’s a Ruritanian nonsense. Everybody’s appointed. 

“There’s 26 bishops of the Church of England, but no other religious figures or other faiths. Rip it up and start again. It’s just not a credible organisation.”