PLAID Cymru’s newest peer has suggested the SNP should consider keeping membership of the House of Lords under review to get independence “in as many rooms as we can”.

Carmen Smith, 28, became the youngest peer in Westminster’s second chamber earlier this month despite believing the institution should be abolished.

But she insists that while it exists as part of the Westminster law-making machine, Plaid Cymru should be there to contribute to decisions being made for Wales.

Despite being a sister party to Plaid Cymru, the SNP do not send anyone to the Lords and have historically stood firmly against getting involved with the unelected body.

But before Christmas, former chief strategist for the Yes campaign Stephen Noon told the Sunday National that pro-independence voices should be in the House of Lords to create “ambassadors for independence in the institutional heart of the UK”, suggesting there were SNP figures who would be valuable additions.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has maintained that no one will enter the Lords from the party on his watch. 

Smith – now known as Baroness Smith of Llanfaes - said while Wales and Scotland have different constitutional relationships with the UK Government, Lords membership is something the SNP shouldn’t rule out.

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She told the Sunday National: “I think it benefits all of our independence movements to have voices that support independence in as many rooms as we can.”

Asked if she felt the SNP should consider having peers, she added: “Plaid Cymru and the SNP are sister parties and we share a lot of the same values, but we also have different tactics and Wales and Scotland have very different constitutional relationships with Westminster.

“Although this is a tactic that might work for us, it may not work for another party - but I do see it as another tool in our toolbox to fight for a fair deal for Wales. I don’t believe in the place, but I’m viewing it in a pragmatic way.

“I think constitutional relationships do change over time because we have an unwritten constitution and they can also depend on what government you have at Westminster, so it’s something that’s worth reviewing and reflecting on [Lords membership].

“It’s up to the SNP membership, really.”

Having Lords members is largely a matter of compromise for Plaid Cymru. Instead of sending unelected people into the chamber, the party has a mechanism whereby people nominate themselves to be Lords and then party members have a vote on who they’d like to see take up a seat.

Smith will also face a reselection battle every five years, a way of combatting the lack of accountability a usual lifetime appointment brings.

The National: Plaid Cymru's Carmen Smith will take up a seat in the House of Lords aged just 28

The internal process this time around was designed to address the gender imbalance in the Lords and ensure a woman was put forward for membership.  

Noon suggested the template could be followed by Scotland to get independence voices into the chamber.

Smith said it was not a perfect mechanism, but the party has tried to find as many ways as it can to do things differently.

She said: “We’re a democratic party, we don’t believe in people being born into roles.

“It’s not a perfect mechanism but it’s a way we think helps address that point [of the chamber being unelected].

“The other things I’ve done are when I was being sworn in, I wore artificial fur to support animal rights and I took the oath in Welsh.

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“It’s very small things but the things we have control over, we’re trying to do in a better way.”

Ultimately, while being involved with an institution she doesn’t agree with comes with its challenges, Smith is guided by a firm belief that while decisions which affect Wales are made in the Lords, she has to be there.

She said: “If we’re not there, those decisions are going to be made anyway without our input, so that’s how I square it in my mind really.

“My appointment alone has also sparked the discussion again on why we have the place, which I think is good.

“I want to have that discussion and talk about reform and why Westminster doesn’t work for Wales.

“It gives another platform for us to be able to raise the cause of independence [too]. I do believe you have to be in there to change things.”

Smith will be the only member of the Lords for Plaid Cymru once Dafydd Wigley – who has sat in the chamber since 2011 - steps down after the General Election.

But the party are still fighting for the three seats they were promised in 2006 by the then-Labour government under Tony Blair to match their representation in the Commons.

Smith said: “It’s part of the full government cycle at Westminster and we send MPs, so it makes sense to complete that cycle by having peers too.

“We are owed three seats and we have made further representations to have more seats in the chamber, so we hope we hear back about that.

“I believe in independence, but until we get that independence, we have to be pragmatic with what avenues we have and where we need to have seats around the table.”


The Sunday National headline of March 31 read: "SNP TOLD: DON'T RULE OUT LORDS PLACE". This was based on an interview with Plaid Cymru peer Carmen Smith. We wish to clarify to our readers that – as set out in the story itself – Carmen Smith believes it is a matter for the SNP membership to decide.