John Bercow praises SNP MPs for 'already proving to be very good parliamentarians'

Speaker of the Commons has rebuked SNP MPs for breaking parliamentary traditions such as clapping but says he is open to changing the rules

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Many of the SNP’s 56 MPs are “already proving to be very good parliamentarians,” John Bercow has said.

John Bercow has praised the new intake of SNP MPs, saying many of them are “already proving to be good parliamentarians”.

The Speaker of the House of Commons said the Scottish nationalists deserved respect for regularly turning up for debates in the chamber in large numbers since winning an astonishing 56 seats at the general election and said they had taught a lot about “group solidarity”.

He has been forced to rebuke SNP MPs for breaking parliamentary traditions such as clapping in the Commons, telling them to “show some respect” after they applauded their Westminster leader’s response to the Queen's Speech, but said he was open to changing some of parliament’s oddest rules.

John Bercow said the SNP MPs had 'said something very significant by its behaviour since May about group solidarity'

Speaking at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event, Mr Bercow said: "I think my attitude to that is if the House wants to change its procedures, it can, if they vote to do so”.

Praising the positive contribution of the SNP’s 56 MPs, Mr Bercow said: “The significant thing is not how the SNP have changed parliament, because I don't think yet that they have.

"I think the significant thing is that, whatever you think of the SNP, their parliamentary party has said something very significant by its behaviour since May about group solidarity.

"They turn up in large numbers, they turn up very regularly, they turn up to support each other and a lot of them are already proving to be very good parliamentarians.

"It's not for me to support the SNP or oppose the SNP and I wouldn't dream of doing so, but I'm simply saying respect where it's due."

The SNP has made its present felt at Westminster since winning all but three seats in Scotland at the general election. It has taken advantage of the chaos that has engulfed the Labour party and has branded itself the “real opposition”.

After Labour decided to abstain on the Government’s plans to cut the welfare bill by £12 billion, including moves to cut entitlement to tax credits and limiting child benefit to the first two children, the SNP’s Pete Wishart mocked Labour MPs by asking the Speaker to “rearrange the furniture” of the Commons so the SNP became the official Opposition.

The SNP has also forced the Government into U-turns on plans to bring back foxhunting and its proposals for English votes for English laws and has claimed credit for the Government’s decision to postpone plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Meanwhile the party’s 20-year-old MP Mhairi Black won global recognition for her impressive maiden speech, which was watched 11 million times on the internet.

However the party attracted negative headlines when it tried to break seating conventions in the House of Commons, most notably when it staged a sit-in to prevent the veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner from taking his front-row seat that he has sat in for the duration of his 45-years in Parliament. It led to Sir Gerald Kaufman, the Father of the House, accusing the SNP of behaving like “goons”.

Angus Robertson, SNP’s Westminster leader, said the first three months had “only been a warm-up” for the SNP and said the party will “use the momentum gained from the past few months to further shake the foundations of Westminster” to get the best deal for Scotland.

“My 55 SNP colleagues and I are very much looking forward to the beginning of the new parliamentary session on September 7th where we will continue to work hard for our constituents and continue to provide the real opposition to the Tories at Westminster,” he added.