Watchdog rules out freemason move
Monday, 4 November, 2002
Councillors in Scotland will not be forced to declare membership of the freemasons, according to the new standards watchdog for local government.
Professor Hugh Begg will take up the post in the next few weeks.
In his first newspaper interview he ruled out drawing up a list of organisations in which councillors ought to declare an interest.
The statement was greeted with disappointment by the convenor of the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee, Mike Rumbles.
Professor Begg told the Herald newspaper that councillors would be told to err on the side of caution and declare any interests which "members of the public might reasonably think could influence their actions".
The standards commissioner's role will be to investigate complaints against politicians.
The position was created through Scottish Parliament legislation aimed at reassuring the public about the honesty of politicians.
Mr Rumbles said he was disappointed at the professor's stance.
His committee will shortly be issuing guidance telling MSPs that they ought to register membership of organisations such as the freemasons, the Orange Order or the Knights of St Columba.
He said this would reassure the public that action was being taken against secrecy and sectarianism.
But Professor Begg said he did not want to name any specific organisations.
He said councillors themselves should decide whether to list their membership of such groups, along with their old school, trade union or financial interests.