A PETITION calling for judges to openly register their financial and other interests has received its biggest boost to date.

Five years to the day after it was lodged at the Scottish Parliament, former minister Alex Neil MSP will today call on Holyrood’s Petitions Committee to start the process of bringing a Bill before Parliament.

The transparency petition was lodged by legal affairs journalist and campaigner Peter Cherbi on December 7 2012, and it will be considered again today — the 22nd time it has gone in front of the Holyrood committee.

The SNP’s Alex Neil has followed the petition with interest and has actively campaigned for the judicial register of interests to be introduced.

He told The National yesterday: “It is now time for the Petitions Committee itself to look at using the powers of parliamentary committees to introduce a Bill to set up a judicial register of interests.

“There is no doubt in my mind at all that it is long overdue. I do not see why judges should be any different from ministers or MSPs, and they should need to declare interests as most people in public service do these days.

“A Bill of this nature is badly needed, and if it can be done on an all-party basis through the Petitions Committee, then the committee’s members should not wait and should act now to sponsor a Bill.

“I am very supportive of the Petitions Committee, which I think is a very good committee, and it is now time for them to seriously consider bringing forward their own Bill on this matter, as I have no doubt that the case for such a register has been thoroughly made out.”

Both Lord Carloway and Lord Gill, the current and former Lord Presidents of the Court of Session respectively — the senior judge position in Scotland — have opposed such a register of interests.

At least two High Court judges — Lord Carloway and Lady Smith — already declare their interests because they are members of the board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service.

They did so for the first time last month, along with Sheriff Duncan L Murray, after a Freedom of Information request.

Welcoming Alex Neil’s intervention, Cherbi said: “For five years, the Scottish Parliament has considered a petition calling for a register of judicial interests.

“In this time, the petition has generated more than 62 submissions of evidence, 21 committee hearings, a private meeting between MSPs and a top judge, 15 speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate, and two appearances by judicial investigators — who both support the petition.

“In two of those meetings, two top judges were left grasping at straws when asked why the judiciary should be above public expectations of transparency.

“This proposal to create a register of interests for judges applies the same level of transparency to the judiciary which already exists in other parts of the justice system such as the police, prosecutors and court administration and will bring judges into line with all others in public life who are required to register their interests.

“Along the way, the petition has gained wide cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament, wide support in the media, and the invaluable and fantastic support of two judicial complaints reviewers — Moi Ali, and Gillian Thompson.

“There is significant public interest in this petition going ahead into legislation, and if the Lord President is still against the idea of judges declaring their interests, our sovereign Parliament must act and set in law what the public expect — that judges register their interests.”