The Press and Journal - Thursday, May 24, 2001
Judges must reveal freemason links, say MSPs

Jim Wallace MSP


A BACKBENCH committee yesterday went against the Scottish Executive, telling it judges should be forced to declare whether they are freemasons.

The Justice 2 Committee rejected the opinion of Justice Minister Jim Wallace that the judiciary should not be obliged to reveal masonic links.

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.

Mr Minogue, 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 secretive basis."

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.


Copyright © 2016 William Burns. All rights reserved.


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