A BACKBENCH committee yesterday went against
the Scottish Executive, telling it judges should be forced to declare
whether they are freemasons. LINK
The Justice 2 Committee rejected the opinion of
Justice Minister Jim Wallace that the judiciary should not be obliged
to reveal masonic links. LINK
The committee said the judiciary should be brought
into line with other public office holders who will have to declare
membership of clubs under new rules.
The MSPs agreed to write to Mr Wallace asking him
to back their proposals to promote openness and accountability.
The minister would have to do a U-turn to accept
the argument after insisting in February that there was "no need
for any steps at this time".
The committee members reached their decision after
discussing a petition on the issue from Thomas Minogue. LINK
56, the managing director of Kinghorn Engineering in Dunfermline,
expressed concern that masonic membership could affect the impartiality
of the judiciary.
SNP MSP for South of Scotland, Christine Grahame
argued MSPs and their assistants should declare their interests.
Labour MSP for Dunfermline West, Scott Barrie argued
judges should declare membership of all organisations, whether secretive
or not. He said: "The issue is not just about
freemasons but about other organisations that might not be on a
The committee convener and Labour MSP for Glasgow
Kelvin, Pauline McNeill, said the "perception of the public" was
the important issue.
Speaking after the meeting in Edinburgh, Mr Minogue
said he was reasonably satisfied. The position adopted
by the committee was broadly similar to that proposed by the Scottish
Consumer Council (SSC) in a letter to the committee.
The consumers' rights watchdog urged the committee
to consider the consultation being undertaken by the Executive and
the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. The consultation
will lead to new codes of conduct for public bodies and councillors
under the Ethical Standards in Public Life (Scotland) Act 2000.
The codes could require public office holders to
register and describe significant non-financial interests, including
membership of clubs.