Downing Street has refused to rule out giving disgraced MP Owen Paterson a peerage.

Rumours swirled in Westminster yesterday that the Prime Minister was considering offering the now-ex MP a seat in the Lords after he quit over a £100,000 a year lobbying scandal.

When asked about the rumours this morning, No.10 said there was a process for appointing new peers, but refused to say on the record that a peerage for Mr Paterson had been ruled out entirely.

The SNP has condemned any suggestion of a peerage for the shamed ex-MP for North Shropshire.

Pete Wishart, the party’s shadow commons leader, said: “Just like they did with Covid contracts, it seems the Tories will hand out peerages like sweeties to people - regardless of what they have done as long as they are one of their own.”

He said the situation was an “utter disgrace” and the latest debacle showed Westminster was “broken beyond repair”.

The MP for Perth and North Perthshire continued: “It is an utter disgrace that the Prime Minister failed to rule out a peerage for an MP who was found to have broken important lobbying rules - and looks to be considering rewarding bad behaviour with a cushy £300-a-day seat in the unelected and undemocratic House of Lords.

“Westminster is broken beyond repair and has become nothing more than a sleaze fest under Boris Johnson. It has been beset by scandal after scandal – with the Prime Minister and his Tory colleagues guilty of breaking the ministerial code, acting unlawfully, handing peerages to donors, contracts to cronies and special access to their pals.

“Scotland wants no part in the sleaze, cronyism and corruption which has become endemic in Westminster. The only way we can shake it off for good is to become an independent country.”

Nicola Sturgeon said it would be “grotesque” if Mr Paterson got a peerage.

Asked about the possibility at COP26, she said: “It would be grotesque and deeply offensive that somebody who had been found to breach standards by an independent process of investigation, who ended up resigning from the Commons, albeit in a messy process, ended up being put back into politics through the House of Lords.

“But then I say that as somebody who is in principle opposed to unelected peers sitting in the House of Lords.”