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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Judges probed on masonic links
Freemasons graphic
The justice minister is reluctant to back such a move.
A Scottish Parliament committee has decided to press on with plans to get judges to disclose whether they are members of the freemasons.

The Justice 2 Committee has been told by the Justice Minister Jim Wallace that it would be difficult to legislate for such a change.

But the convener of the committee, Pauline McNeill, said there was public concern over the issue of freemasonry in the judiciary.

The Labour MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said the committee would revisit the subject as part of its review of the judicial appointments system.

Pauline McNeill MSP
Pauline McNeill MSP: Public concern
The committee made its pledge despite the continued reluctance of Mr Wallace to back such a move.

He had told the committee he would see difficulties with the proposal, which would require fresh primary legislation.

However, on Wednesday, the committee said it should be part of the consideration in new judicial appointment procedures which are expected to be brought forward by the Scottish Executive.

Possible impact

In England, the Lord Chancellor has instructed all new applicants for posts in the judiciary south of the border to say whether they are freemasons while serving members have also been asked to declare on a voluntary basis.

But there is no register of membership and the information held in the Lord Chancellor's department is not open to public inspection.

However, Mr Wallace insisted in February that there was "no need for any steps to be taken at this time" in Scotland.

The issue was raised in a petition to the Scottish Parliament from Thomas Minogue, managing director of Kingdom Engineering in Cowdenbeath.

He expressed concerns over secrecy within the freemasons and the possible impact membership could have on the impartiality of the judiciary.

The committee has taken evidence from court users and judicial bodies on the issue.

See also:

24 Apr 01 | Scotland
Court users asked for masonic views
03 Nov 00 | Scotland
Sheriff rebuffs masons question
19 Oct 00 | Scotland
Court hears freemasons challenge
20 Nov 99 | UK
Freemasons lift the net
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