A guest post today from Tom Minogue, who’s lodged a petition at Holyrood to ensure judges, sheriffs and jury members must declare masonic membership, or similar. Here’s his thinking. Thanks for the post, Tom!

A handshake, earlierAs a schoolboy I was taught we were a better nation. Scotland had the best inventors, shipbuilders, currency and legal system and we were the hardest workers. It was that simple.

Driven by this Presbyterian work ethic myth I left school at 15 (no qualifications) and went on to form my own engineering business, which I ran successfully for 25 years before retiring. At its peak my company employed over 200.

My time in business was challenging and rewarding but also frustrating in that on many occasions opportunities were denied me because I was not “one of boys”.

In some works almost every gaffer’s hand I shook had the probing thumb of the freemason. This was not confined to engineering – also bank managers, tax inspectors and others – and left me to wonder how I might have fared were I one of the handshakers?

My firm conviction, based on a lifetime’s experience is that membership of freemasonry in Scotland – which has four times as many per head than England (the only world record we still hold?) – goes some way to explain why we have lost our worldwide reputation for excelling in areas we once led in: industry, banking and law.

I don’t like this state of affairs, but that is the way it is in Scotland and I will just have to lump it I suppose.

However in public life, where according to one ex-Grand Master Mason, freemasonry is the “very warp and weft”, I should not have to put up with Masonic shenanigans, especially not in the justice system.

And it was this prospect I faced when I was involved in a commercial dispute which was corrupted by freemasonry and led to a court case. Faced with the prospect of me, a non-Mason, having my evidence evaluated against that of a Masons in front of a Masonic Sheriff, I challenged the Sheriff hearing the case to declare his Masonic status. Because in such circumstances Masons are sworn to favour their brethren.

On hearing my challenge, the male sheriff promptly transferred my case to a lady sheriff, which satisfied my immediate concerns at the time, but after the hearing I petitioned the Scottish Parliament to have the law changed to require our judges and sheriffs to register secret society membership.

After toying with my petition for over three years, Parliament dismissed it without reason. This is not good enough and I am trying again under a new government with expanded terms to included jurors and other tribunals.

At the time of my previous petition I researched the interests of the current Scottish Law Lords and found that over two-thirds of this group were undeclared members of the Speculative Society of Edinburgh. Now either you believe that the meeting rooms of the Spec imbue the undergraduates who attend with great powers of jurisprudence, or you see the old boy’s network in action, an affront to meritocracy.

Some decisions by Scottish judges and juries have been held up to ridicule and scorn and to me it is not surprising when they are drawn from a pool which simply cannot be seen to be the best, or without prejudice.

In the trial of General Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, it was found that a presiding judge, Lord Hoffman, had corrupted the proceedings because he failed to declare an interest, namely that his wife worked as a secretary for Amnesty International who campaigned against the dictator. There was no bias on the part of Hoffman, but there may have been an appearance of such.

What then of the undeclared interests of freemason judges and sheriffs who swear Masonic oaths to help and keep the secrets of their brother Masons “as secure and inviolable as if they were in their own breast, murder and treason accepted”?

Apologists for freemasonry tell us that Masons are also advised to abide by the law, and judges and sheriffs are sworn to judge “without fear or favour”.

But which oath has precedence with the Masonic magistrate? The judicial one, without a mention of sanction for non-compliance? Or the Masonic one that promises, in lurid detail, blood-curdling penalties, including disembowelment and murder for non compliance?

I share the firm conviction of the 6th President of the USA, John Quincey Adams that such violence in Masonic oaths undermine the impartiality of the judicial process and at the very least we are entitled to know if those deciding our innocence or guilt or human right has taken such an oath.

That is the aim of my petition, to have those who have taken such promises of fraternal support declare this fact. Then if I, or any litigant, decide to object to this apparent bar to justice we can do so.

During discussion of my previous (similar) petition the Justice Minister, Jim Wallace, said my petition was unique and I was the only person he knew of with concerns in this regard. He obviously didn’t know Dr Samuel Johnson said this on the subject: “Where secrecy or mystery begins, vice or roguery is not far off.”