A REGISTER of judges’ financial interests came a step closer yesterday when the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee backed a public petition asking for such a register.

Law journalist and legal campaigner Peter Cherbi submitted the petition six years ago, and despite the opposition of top judges, the Petitions Committee referred the matter to the Justice Committee which will now seek further information on the creation of a register.

The register received all-party support at the committee. Green MSP John Finnie MSP told it: “I would be supportive of that and I think future generations will be surprised that we are not in the position of having this register already.”

SNP MSP Rona Mackay said the committee should obtain more information and take it forwards, while Labour’s Daniel Johnson said transparency enhances independence of the judiciary.

Cherbi commented: “I welcome the positive developments today at the Justice Committee, where members clearly support the six years of good work by the Petitions Committee, continued support from former Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali and all the evidence accumulated over these years.

“I look forward to the Justice Committee taking this petition forward with exploratory work on how to create a legislative framework around a register of judicial interests and any necessary required independent oversight.”

Cherbi continued: “I would hope to see the Justice Committee work along with the Petitions Committee on this issue, to ensure a fully comprehensive register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary becomes a reality.

“Given the outcome of today’s Justice Committee meeting, I would also hope the judiciary now recognise their stance towards transparency is inconsistent with public expectation of openness and accountability in all branches of the executive.

“It would be a gesture of good faith from the Lord President – and a show of trust in the public – for Scotland’s judiciary to now work with MSPs.”