The Scottish Sunday Express
Bid to make judges admit secret membership
Lawyers’ Masonic link to be exposed
Exclusive: By Tom Martin
9th May, 2004
SCOTTISH solicitors could be forced to declare whether they are Freemasons.
MSPs will meet later this month to discuss calls for lawyers to reveal if they are members of the notoriously secret society.
Researchers claim there is evidence many solicitors are wrongly using their Masonic connections in cases, causing conflicts of interest. They are now demanding law firms be forced to register any lodge members.
MSPs will debate the issue at the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee this month.
The move comes two years after another Holyrood committee asked ministers to review rules over what private interests judges should declare, including membership of Masonic lodges.
Backbench MSPs on the Justice II Committee wrote to then Justice Minister Jim Wallace, after considering a petition calling for members of the judiciary to declare, whether they were masons.
But the Executive insisted there was no evidence that Freemasonry influenced judges and also said Scotland's independent judicial appointments board protected the public.
The latest petition was lodged at the parliament last week by author and researcher Hugh Sinclair, founder of the Movement for a Register of Freemasons.
Mr. Sinclair, who has previously investigated links between Freemasonry and the Church of England, said yesterday: "Solicitors have to survive in an unforgiving market place.
"There is the potential for Masonic influence to be used improperly by solicitors whose personal integrity falls below the expected standard. "Freemasons are bound by oaths which historically impose gruesome penalties for breach of secrecy.
"Citizens need to know if solicitors are free from a conflict of interest." The Law Society of Scotland currently has its own code of conduct designed to preserve the integrity of solicitors but in his petition to the Parliament, Mr. Sinclair claims it is not enough.
Last year the Masonic movement, which is thought to have some 75,000 members in Scotland, opened up the membership registers of its 600 lodges north of the Border to quash persistent rumours that Dunblane killer Thomas Hamilton had been a Mason.
Claims that membership of another secret society had compromised the impartiality of some Scottish judges were rejected last year by the Court of Session. Robbie the Pict, a veteran Skye Bridge tolls protester, had claimed the bench was biased against him because of the influence of the Speculative Society.
His claim related to a failed appeal against his conviction for non-payment of the bridge tolls, heard in 1998 by Lord Osborne, a member of the Edinburgh-based society.
Mr. Sinclair, from Ellington, Northumberland, expects to have his petition heard on May 26. He, said: "I am not deliberately trying to attack Freemasonry but simply arguing there needs to be a great deal more honesty and openness.
"There is no suggestion of widespread corruption but we really need to protect the public from the possibility of conflicts of interests interfering in the justice system."