Background to Scottish Parliament public petition PE01491
My public petition to the Scottish Parliament calls for the law to be amended to require decision-makers to declare membership of secret societies such as the freemasons, that demand fraternal preference to their brethren over non-brethren, or organisations which have constitutions or aims that are biased against any particular sect, religion or race.
It is the second petition on this theme that I have lodged with the Scottish Parliament, the first is recorded by the parliament here LINK and the records of the meetings, from my Tom Minogue blog, are here: LINK
Problems with my e-petition submission
Prior to my online public petition being accepted by the parliament it went through a process of submission by me and editing by the clerks. Ostensibly this process is aimed at efficient parliamentary clerical staff helping hapless members of the public to get their petitions in a format that is clear, concise, and within the powers of the parliament to grant. In reality however the process can be somewhat different.
Filling in an online petition to the Scottish Parliament is a relatively simple process involving the applicant or petitioner filling in seven boxes which will either be given a green light to proceed as acceptable or a red light, stopping the petition from being lodged with the clerk’s comments as to why they found the applicant’s entry flawed.
In the case of my petition the red light was quickly shown and the clerks found problems in the “Brief Description” I had entered to describe the petition.
My choice of ” Secret society membership declaration by decision makers.” was said by Anne Peat, the PPC clerk to be “overly wordy” and suggested I change it to “secret society membership.” as, according to Ms Peat, “That title will still explain what the petition is about”
Of course the clerk’s position was simply ridiculous as the suggested text would mislead prospective supporters of my petition to conclude that I had a problem with membership of secret societies per se. This would not reflect my true position, which was that I had no problem with the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker being members of secret societies such as the freemasons, but I did have a concern that arbiters, decision-makers, belonging to organisations that take oaths and promise to prefer their brethren, might be conflicted in making judgements, which were between their brethren and non-brethren.
The other sections of the petition that I had to submit proved as problematical as the Brief Description section, and after many months of toing and froing my petition was at an impasse with the clerks and I eventually made a complaint to Susan Duffy, Head of Committees and Outreach, the parliamentary official who deals with such matters, in terms that I was “being thwarted by the Clerk to the PPC Anne Peat and/or her staff.” in my attempts to create an online petition in reasonable terms. LINK
After considering my complaint the Head of Committees decided not uphold it, but made some recommendations that were to my favour and gave me 20 days to appeal her decision. In that period I again attempted to lodge my petition on the understanding that if I still met with unreasonable objections from the clerks I would take the matter further, and this time the lights changed from red to green and my online application was accepted pretty much in the terms I wanted, but in a truncated form (1,098 words) given the instruction from the clerks that I must not be “overly wordy”.
Canvassing support from my petition.
As the subject matter concerns the law and how the law is applied, it seemed only right that I sought to engender debate and support from members of the legal profession, as well as members of the public.
Targeting law academics in all the Scottish & Northern Ireland universities has been quite straight forward, as their e-mail addresses are readily available and the response from them proved quite positive with some prominent academics openly supporting the petition.
Contacting members of the Faculty of Advocates proved difficult, but was achieved and getting my message to law students was perhaps the most difficult task of all but eventually the Students Union at the University of Edinburgh and Robert Gordon’s University brought the petition to the attention of their law students.
The general public were canvassed by way of the mainstream media, with articles in the Sunday Post and The Courier, and by way of the new media with online articles by me on “Better Nation” and “Scottish Republican Socialist News” and various other internet blogs.
Social media was also used to some effect and set up a Facebook Page to deal with the petition entitled “Secret Society Membership Declaration by Decision Makers” LINK and this page will also be used as a notice board to keep the general public and in particular the 3,116 who had signed up to support the petition on the PPC E-petition site, abreast of progress with the petition.
First steps with the petition
The day after the period for support signatures ended I received and e-mail from the clerks inviting me to attend the Public Petitions Committee meeting of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 12th November at Holyrood and granting me my request that I be allowed to address the committee LINK . The committee allow 5 minutes, for this and then would be open to questions on my petition from the PPC members.
I was also advised that I would be able to bring a friend to sit beside me and I invited Accountability Scotland, who had supported my petition to nominate an observer for the meeting.
Albeit that notice of the meeting was given at short notice, I e-mailed acceptance of the PPC’s invitation and advised them of the latest situation regarding Norway’s judges, which had been clarified on 1st October LINK , and asked that this document together with an article by Andrew Sparrow, Political correspondent of the Guardian, be put before the committee before for their consideration prior to the meeting of 12th November.
A 10-page counter-petition is lodged by Grand Lodge.
In the event just 5 days before my petition was put before the PPC, and in an unconventional move, that is not, as far as I can see, part of the petitions process as described in the parliament website’s guidance, the Grand Lodge of Antient and Free Masons of Scotland submitted a 10-page counter-petition.
This 2,901 word counter-petition consisted of: 1/, A 3-page, 1,200 word submission from David A. Begg, Grand Secretary of Grand Lodge; 2/, a 2-page, 980 word submission by Robert L. D. Cooper, Museum Curator and Archivist of Grand Lodge, and 3/, a 4-page, 721 word submission from C. Martin McGibbon, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland. This document, which was referred to as a communication by Chris Hynd, Committee assistant, was to be “circulated to members with their papers for Tuesday’s meeting and published as a submission on your petition’s page on the website.”
Nowhere in the e-petitions process do I see provision for such an unsolicited submission or counter-petition to my petition being accepted by the clerks before the committee has met to discuss a petitioner’s submissions.
Of course such a counter-petition is not confined to the strict format and word limits that my petition was and is at an advantage in that respect. No copy of this document was sent to me for my comment or approval and it was foisted on me by the clerks without my approval only days before the PPC meeting. LINK
SPICe dancing to Grand Lodge’s tune.
As if it were not bad enough that the clerks had disadvantaged me in this way prior to the committee becoming involved in my petition, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) briefing paper, which was prepared to inform the members of the previous petition and the current situation, had weighted their briefing heavily on terms identical to the submission from Grand Lodge, including two Italian cases that were irrelevant to my petition, while ignoring a published, Scottish, Social Security Commissioner’s appeal case ruling that was entirely relevant to my petition. LINK
I had little time to prepare for this ambush by Grand Lodge which was very obviously prepared to bolster the misguided interpretation of the circumstances surrounding the lifting of the rules regarding judges Masonic declarations in England and Wales in 2009, but I hastily prepared a rebuttal on the day before the PPC meeting and included this in my 5-minute address to the PPC is here: LINK
Public Petitions Committee meeting of 12 November
I was limited to what I could say in the 5-minute address but at the earliest opportunity I had, when being welcomed by the Convener, I took the opportunity to place on the record the fact that I had lodged additional papers with the clerks when I accepted the invitation to attend and this can be found in the Official Report of the whole meeting here LINK as well as on the Parliament TV’s coverage of my evidence and examination by the committee, which is here:LINK
The meeting was a lively one and had one absentee, the Deputy Convener, Chic Brodie. I would welcome comments on the meeting by the link at the foot of the page. N.B. All comments are treated on a strictly confidential basis.
The only declared Mason on the PPC is at one with Grand Lodge on their spurious legal arguments.
Given that Grand Lodge of Free and Antient Masons had relied so heavily on the two Italian cases that Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, had said United Grand Lodge of England had threatened to use in a Judicial Review of the judges Masonic membership register it was not altogether surprising to me that the only declared Freemason on the PPC, Angus MacDonald MSP, LINK also concentrated on these cases which in no way can be said to be relevant to my petition and were certainly not the reason that Jack Straw ditched the Masonic membership register, and he was quite clear he did this for other reasons.
I might understand all of the Masons singing from the same hymn sheet, but cannot understand why a supposedly impartial SPICe briefing would do the same while ignoring highly relevant cases from my own petition.
This one-sided look at the history of Judges’ Masonic declarations, coupled with the fact that the clerks had not put my Norwegian Domstol letters before the committee or the Guardian article about Jack Straw’s political opportunism being the reason for overturning the rule on judges’ Masonic membership registration meant that I was severely handicapped from presenting my petition to the committee.
Should Angus MacDonald MSP, a declared Freemason, have taken part in discussions and voted on PE01491?
I also feel that while it is commendable that Angus MacDonald MSP volunteered the fact that he is a member of Lodge Zetland No.391 in the register of interests for members of the Scottish Parliament, which was something he didn’t need to do according to Standing Orders as I understand them, any merit he gained for his willingness to do this is negated to a large degree by the fact that he did not declare his membership Live & On The Record at the beginning of the hearing into a matter that he has a direct interest in, I.E. my PE01491.
I feel that Angus MacDonald missed a chance to show openly that he had an interest in the petition and to step aside and not vote on it as he did that morning. I would have respected him more if he had done so instead of pursuing Grand Lodge’s misguided Italian misinterpretation with such zeal.
Even if it were the case that Angus MacDonald was entitled to question me, make argument against and vote on my petition, the fact is that most observers would not be aware of his entry in the MSP’s register of interests declaring membership of Lodge Zetland No 391 and would therefore assume he was totally objective, which of course he wasn’t.
PPC Clerk, Anne Peat says sorry for the missing Norwegian evidence, but is this good enough?
On Thursday 14 November, Anne Peat e-mailed me and apologised for making the error of not putting my Norwegian and Guardian papers to the PPC for the meeting and said she would do this now and while I accepted her apology I am not sure that this is good enough. LINK
The damage has been done to some extent and I will not be able to put these matters the committee personally, and this weakens my argument. I have responded to Anne Peat, clerk to the Committee and copied the PPC in on this as they seemed to be under the impression that the only people who should have their views sought were the Lord Advocate, a government officer, the sheriffs, and the police and this latter group do not feature in my petition, but they do in Grand Lodge’s and it is as if their counter petition which outweighed mine in words by three to one is also being given more weight by the clerks, SPICe and the PPC members. LINK
Should the Scottish Parliament Information Centre be renamed Disinformation Centre?
Although SPICe, on their web page proudly claim they are informing Parliament and their Petitions Briefing goes on to state that they do not take a view on the merits or otherwise of petitions it is patently clear that they have sided with the opportunistic actions of the discredited former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who scrapped the Masons register for judges as a vote-winning gimmick in 2009 with an election imminent (SPICe say he did this two years earlier and distance him from this claim).
SPICe’s view of the events in England and Wales are seized on by Grand Lodge of Scotland in their counter-petition and I have written to SPICe to set the record straight with their inaccuracies and omissions even though their Petitions Briefing page makes it clear that they not respond to concerns raised by petitioners and are more or less are accountable to no one.
That may be so, but nevertheless, I have made my dissatisfaction with their inaccurate, and one-sided view of my petition known to them. LINK
Denis Oag, head researcher of SPICe steams in to defend his briefing paper
In a surprise but welcome move SPICe have responded to my criticism and copied their response to the PPC. LINK Moreover, the e-mail response from SPICe was not drafted by some minion, but was penned by no less a person than their principle, the Head of Research and Library, Mr. Denis Oag.
Unlike MSPs parliamentary officials like Mr. Oag do not have a register of interests that the public can access, but according to his biography details online he is a pretty knowledgeable and experienced chap. He has university degrees in Social Policy and Law from Edinburgh, and Humanities, Sociology and Politics, from the Open University and has 20-years service as a Minewarfare Officer in the Royal Naval Reserve.
Mr Oag is also a very literate man, having been author and co-author of many publications ranging from “The Holyrood Building Project”, to “The Regiments of Scotland”, and though it may be unfair to quote from his Twitter account, he does make it clear that he has no time for semi-literates like myself who don’t “know the difference between “your'” (possessive pronoun) and “you’re” (contraction of you are)?. I don’t even know what a pronoun is! LINK
Faced with evidence from such a formidable person it is with some trepidation that I feel it necessary to contradict Mr Oag, as, unlike him, I don’t have the benefit of any sort of further education, having left secondary school at the age of 15 without so much as an O-Level pass to my name.
And whereas he has 20-years service as a Naval Officer in command of Minesweepers, I served an apprenticeship repairing them, before sailing on tramp steamers as a humble ships-carpenter for just over 3 years.
We are an unequal match intellectually and socially, but nevertheless I will say my piece as I believe he is mistaken in his assessment of what is relevant to my petition, at the risk of being blown out of the water by his arguments.
His response makes some concessions to my complaint about SPICe’s briefing paper being one-sided, but he maintains that it was a fair summary. In fairness to him, though, the first thing he does is apologise for the error he made in stating that Jack Straw’s decision to scrap the requirement for judges to declare membership of the freemasons was made in 2009 and not 2007 as the SPICe briefing paper stated.
Referring to this error Mr. Oag asks me to agree that “this date was not key to any of the issues described in the briefing.” Of course I do not agree that the date is not relevant and would argue that it is absolutely key to the actions of Jack Straw, as the wrong, (2007) date would have put Jack Straw’s actions in the mid-term of the Labour government.
There is a whole different set of circumstances and pressures on the government mid-term than when they actually scrapped the registration rule in 2009, at which time they were looking to call a snap election as soon as they could reverse their poor poll showing, and were trying every trick in the book to court popularity including bribing the Masonic voter.
This they did by scrapping the judges Mason register. So it doesn’t take a university graduate in Politics to work out that there is every difference between Jack Straw’s possible motives for scrapping the rule in 2009 as opposed to the circumstances that pertained in SPICe’s erroneous mid-term date of 2007.
Moving on to the main thrust of my complaint, which was that SPICe were implying (if not asserting) that the 2 spurious Italian ECHR cases were what caused Jack Straw to abandon the judges Mason register. This simply is not true. It goes against any reading of Jack Straw’s statement to the house, which makes it perfectly clear that he abandons the registration requirement because he found no evidence of criminality among Masonic judges.
Mr Oag sticks to his, and Grand Lodges’ north and south of the border, oft-repeated canard that the Masonic register rule was scrapped because of the 2 Italian cases, even though Jack Straw, with a thousand lawyers at this disposal never said or even suggested any such thing. Then Mr Oag rather patronisingly concedes that “it would be equally valid to describe the situation in the terms I use”!
How very British of Mr Oag to allow that my truth is equal to his, and Grand Lodge’s fanciful spin. I may not have a university degree in Law or have the command of the English language that Mr Oag has, but I wouldn’t need to have such qualifications to understand the bleeding obvious; that which is staring me in the face. It is a fact stated in simple language in Jack Straw’s statement, that he ended the policy because a review showed no evidence of malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a freemason and in Mr Straw’s words: “therefore, it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of this information.”
Next Mr Oag again states the obvious, that is, how it is very important that MSPs understand relevant ECHR case-law. He then tries to portray his use of ECHR case-law as being relevant and even-handed, claiming that the 2 Italian cases were pertinent to my petition whereas the Scottish Social Security Commissioner’s ruling was not.
Firstly I would agree with him it is very important that MSPs understand relevant ECHR case-law and in the Social Security Commissioner’s Dundee case Commissioner Anne C McGavin cites four ECHR rulings: “Schuler‐Zgraggen v Switzerland (1993)”; “Piersack v Belgium (1982)”, “Hauschildt v Denmark (1989)”, “Remli v France (1996)” and one Scottish case, my own trial, “Stott v Minogue (2001), Ms. McGavin uses relevant case authorities to show the rights of a claimant in a tribunal to call for a declaration of Masonic membership from tribunal members deciding his case, so that he would have confidence in the tribunal giving him a fair hearing.LINK
Ms McGavin stresses the fact that a court must, when challenged demonstrate the: “confidence which the courts must inspire in those subject to their jurisdiction.”
What could be more apt than a case about a claimant’s ECHR right to have tribunal members declare Masonic membership, being used for a petition about a claimants ECHR right to have tribunal members declare Masonic membership, or membership of other secret societies?
For Mr Oag to try to justify the need to inform MSPs about my petition by reference to the rights of members of Masonic lodges in Italy not to be debarred from certain jobs by dint of their membership, or for this group to be discriminated against when no other society membership would attract registration, is simply staggering and irrelevant.
Mr Oag is in a hole that he has fallen into by following spurious Masonic case authorities and he should stop digging. He still has the opportunity to cite a case that is wholly relevant to my petition, one in which reference is made to my own Scottish case, Stott v Minogue, the genesis to my previous PE306 and this petition PE01491. How more relevant can one get?
In fairness to Mr Oag he does concede the fact that “it is unclear whether a requirement to declare membership of a broad category of organisations which may included Freemasons would be considered to breach the right of freedom of association” which begs the question of why is he giving prominence to the two Italian cases that United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodge of Scotland continue to erroneously claim does breach that right?
Mr Oag then attempts to justify leaving out various issues or correspondence relating to my previous petition PE306 by saying that “it would not usually be considered necessary to look into the issue in such detail.” This is an astonishing admission for Mr Oag to make. It amounts to him accepting that he can ignore very important submissions by me to the parliament in connection with my petition, such as the Speculative Society of Edinburgh, but mention instead that they were highlighted by Robbie the Pict via the newspapers.
There is no justification or attempt to explain why he left out the other cases that the previous session of parliament looked at and decided not to publish, and this is where the parliament stands to be disgraced, because among the five cases I put to the Justice 2 Committee in 2003 which have disappeared into a parliamentary black hole, is a serious allegation by a housemaster at Queen Victoria School regarding freemasonry having played a role in facilitating the abuse of pupils, and the privileged position enjoyed by Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane mass murderer at that school.
Captain Oag, RNVR then goes full speed astern on his SPICe report
To summarise, after a defensive beginning Mr. Oag then backtracked to a large extent on the SPICe briefing paper.
He apologises for the fact that the date given for Jack Straw’s U-turn was out by 2 years, but detracts from his apology by lamely claiming that “this date was not key to any of the issues described in the briefing.”
He makes a less than convincing case for the SPICe briefing reliance on the 2 Italian ECHR cases being the reason that Jack Straw scrapped the requirement for judges to register membership of the freemasons before conceding “it would be equally valid to describe the situation in the terms I use”! I.E. that they were scrapped because a review found no evidence of impropriety among Masonic judges.
He concedes the limitations of the 2 Italian ECHR rulings by stating “it is unclear whether a requirement to declare membership of a broad category of organisations which may included Freemasons would be considered to breach the right of freedom of association”
He excuses the lack of evidence about my previous petition, by stating “it would not usually be considered necessary to look into the issue in such detail.” while not explaining why he found it appropriate to include evidence from Robbie the Pict, The Guardian, Grand Lodge, Domstol, etc. in preference to my previous petition submissions.
I would hope that it is not too late for Mr. Oag to remedy matters by preparing a more balanced and comprehensive briefing paper for PE01491, one which fairly reflected the current situation regarding the law and previous petition submissions.
If we cannot learn from the past we repeat past mistakes, and it was a mistake to bury so much information about my previous petition, a mistake that necessitated this, current, petition.
Another day, another submission from Grand Lodge
Not content with outnumbering my petition in word count by almost three to one Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland weigh in with another submission. LINK If my petition is judged on verbosity then Grand Lodge will win with their counter petitions hands down!
A Christmas Eve intervention by Charles Gilchrist ‘Chic’ Brodie
One MSP missing from the meeting of 12 November was the Deputy Convener, Chic Brodie, who had made inappropriate comments in writing about me prior to my petition being considered by the Public Petitions Committee. LINK
In my letter of acceptance to the PPC I had agreed to give my 5-minute presentation to the committee under protest if Mr Brodie was present and in the event he absented himself from that meeting. I did so because I believed that he had been discussing my petition and my personal affairs with my constituency and his SNP colleague, and perhaps fraternal brother, MSP Bill Walker. [More on this later]
Mr Brodie’s may have regretted his absence from the first meeting to consider my petition and wanted to make amends for his lack of input and he remedied this by interfering in the most extraordinary fashion on Christmas Eve. He took the totally undemocratic decision to propose alterations to my petition terms which would have the effect of extending the range of secret societies to include: Propaganda Due (The outlawed P2 Mafia Masonic Lodge which was the subject of a Vatican Bank scandal), Opus Dei (which I had already suggested to the committee in my presentation), and the Saint Vincent De Paul Society, a Roman Catholic lay group which collects and distributes charitable gifts to the poor.
Mr Brodie made his suggested amendments by way of an e-mail to every committee member, committee substitutes, and clerks, and myself. LINK
The PPC e-mail with the first of 7 responses and tell me I can comment, but: be brief!
Following the meeting of 12 November, the PPC wrote to various bodies seeking comment on my petition. LINK
The first response to the PPC was from the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service and stated that they did not wish to comment. LINK
In the covering letter from the PPC they advised me that the next meeting at which my petition would be considered was planned for 28 January 2014 and I would be allowed the opportunity to comment on the responses to their question but that I would have to be brief and keep my comments to 3 sides of A4! LINK
Why are the PPC asking the police for their views? Are we already in a police state?
The mistake of Anne Peat, Clerk to the PPC in not putting my submissions re Norway’s judges Freemason register requirement and the failure of the SPICe team to include the Social Security Commissioners appeal decision in the case of Dundee man Victor Duncan meant that when the PPC met on 12 November and decided to seek the views of various bodies re my petition they did not do this with my submissions in full.
One would be forgiven for thinking that my abbreviated petition terms, which were trimmed by the clerks in a very officious manner, were secondary to the 10-page counter petition by Grand Lodge of Scottish Freemasons.
I say this because while the police were not a group identified in my petition (other than to explain it was Masonic police in Fife aiding a brother and competitor of mine that caused the petition in the first place ) as being candidates for registration of secret society membership, they were used as relevant evidence by SPICe and Grand Lodge in connection with the 1990 – 2009 register in England & Wales. The one that was scrapped by Jack Straw with an election looming.
I have serious concerns about the unitary force that is Police Scotland in that they seem to be advocating and assisting in making laws which give them great powers and little accountability. This fact is well recorded LINK so I am concerned that the PPC decide to consult them on my petition, which has nothing to do with them.
It is well-known that the driving force for the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill which has now been enacted was Stephen House and his deputy in Strathclyde Police, and it is also a matter of record that I opposed this Bill LINK. That was a matter the police had an interest in (some would say an inordinate and vested interest in), but are our police force now also responsible for informing parliament how it should act on public petitions in which they do not feature?
We have a single police force in Scotland but are we in danger of slipping into a police state?
My pleas to the PPC with regard to vested interests seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
When making my 5-minute submission to the PPC on 12 November I concluded by pleading with the committee to look at my petition terms afresh and judge it on its merits.
I said: “In my opinion, this should be done by way of forensic research and examination involving academics and shouldn’t rely solely on those with vested interests; judges and politicians, who, for whatever reason might want to gloss over this issue.”
There is nothing to suggest that my pleas have received any attention from the committee as, apart from the police who should not be consulted being part of the problem rather than the solution, some of the people approached by the PPC have already answered the very question that the PPC seek answers to.
Lord Gill, Lord Justice General’s views on secret society declarations are already on the record
Unless he has had a Damascene conversion Lord Gill is unlikely to approve of Masonic declarations by judges when he refused to answer a litigant’s question on this very subject LINK, and as a matter of fact I had asked him to declare his Masonic status when he agreed to look into my complaint against the Commissioners, etc. at QVS, LINK a request he refused to address. Nor is he likely to disapprove of undisclosed membership of the Speculative Society of Edinburgh when he has already given that organisation his stamp of approval. LINK
Nor is the current Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill likely to go against the decision by his predecessor Jim Wallace who ruled out any question of membership declaration by members of the judiciary who belonged to the Masons or the Speculative Society. LINK
Kenny MacAskill a classic case of someone with a vested interest.
Kenny MacAskill has also shown that he has some liking for an orange flavour in atmosphere at least, something I wrote to him about after the CIS League Cup Final at Hampden Park in 2011.
This was a game which the Times football writer, and Rangers season ticket holder, Graham Spiers wrote: “For fully 120 minutes the Ibrox legions belted out stuff about the Pope, Fenians, and some of their other favoured subjects.
Quite a few of us have become used to “the rangers problem” over the years but Sunday at Hampden was still quite an eye-opener. It was the consistent, incessant nature of the bigoted chanting that was truly shocking.”
Spiers also wrote: One of the problems we have in tackling bigotry in Scottish football is the sheer ignorance of the subject that we have to put up with. For instance, Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, clearly didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, to judge from the fatuous statement he released after attending the match at Hampden.
After the prejudiced chants had boomed out, the following was MacAskill’s take on the whole spectacle. “This was the showpiece everyone wanted to see — it was a great advert for Scottish football,” he said. “The players, management and fans contributed to a memorable occasion, and I urge that their positive example inside the ground is replicated outside it over the course of the evening and beyond. Football is a force for good in society.” LINK
This is perhaps a classic example of why I pleaded with the PPC to avoid solely asking vested interests for their views. In the case of MacAskill we have a Justice Minister who thinks that Orange anthems are marvellous, so he is hardly likely to want Orange Order members to declare same, or their fellow travellers in the Masonic Order for that matter.
I wrote to MacAskill and Assistant Chief Constable, Campbell Corrigan on their comments about the disgusting spectacle of the CIS Cup Final in 2011. Assistant Chief Constable, Campbell Corrigan, was if anything worse than the Justice Secretary in his remarks. He stated to the BBC “I think the atmosphere at the ground was excellent and the match was a great advert for our football. I hope that this atmosphere is replicated across the force and that we see a drop in the levels of alcohol related violence that blights so many communities.” Mr Corrigan went on to become Chief Constable. LINK
Are these the people the PPC should be canvassing for their opinions about membership declarations of organisations such as the Orange Order or their brothers in the lodge the Freemasons?
Non-response from Sheriffs’ Association
The PPC asked the Sheriffs’ Association this simple question: “What are your views on what the petition seeks and the discussions that took place at the meeting of 12 November? The Committee would find it helpful to know whether you support the proposal; and secondly, on the practicalities of the proposal.”
The Sheriffs’ Association response said simply that it “does not support the proposal. All judicial office holders take an oath on taking up appointment which includes a promise of impartiality.” LINK
Given that the main thrust of my petition was the conflict of oaths between the young man who joins the Masons and promises to prefer their brethren and the same man who later achieves judicial office, the response from the Sheriffs’ Association is unhelpful if not downright disrespectful to the PPC.
It is also contemptuous of my arguments about which I had given much time and thought, in the hope that whoever looked at them would take them seriously.
The Sheriffs’ Association submission is simply an arrogant statement, which says in effect: “We are above the law and don’t have to justify anything we do.” They seem to think that they are perfect.
That is not my experience. It is within my experience that sheriffs are just like the rest of us and can be good, bad, indifferent, and all shades in between.
My first petition to the parliament on a similar topic, PE306 explained that the reasons for my petition were not limited to Masonic police officers, but also hinged on a search warrant granted by a well-known Masonic sheriff, Charles W. Palmer, about whom I commented then:
“The officer in charge of a search warrant (which was signed by a well-known Masonic Sheriff) would not let the petitioner take a copy of its terms but did allow the petitioner to note the terms of the warrant which allowed the officers to search for large railway bridge parts made of heavy steel and a lorry…..
…..As it was the petitioner’s experience, that inexplicable events often coincide with the presence of Masons in number, and so, still charged with the crimes of house breaking and theft the petitioner felt less than enthusiastic at his prospects of appearing before a Masonic Magistrate. Perhaps the same one who signed the flawed search warrant. The petitioner seriously examined a litigant’s right to know if the Sheriff hearing their case is a Mason…..
….In the event the Sheriff who had signed the warrant used to search the petitioner’s works died in the back of his car while having sex, underneath or on top of a prostitute in Tower Street, Leith. At this stage the petitioner was not comfortable with the appearance of impartiality demonstrated by the justice system and felt sure that the inexplicable actions of the officials concerned were involved with Freemasonry.”
[N.B. At my trial the PF was unable to produce the original search warrant, which was said to have gone missing, but did produce a copy of a copy of a search warrant for my inspection, which I rejected as it was in different terms to the one produced previously to me by the police and bore the signature of a different sheriff]
So my petition was to some extent brought about by the actions of a sheriff who had broken the terms of several oaths, promises, or vows; his judicial oath by breaking the law in having sex on a public highway, and his marriage vows in being unfaithful to his wife. LINK
I would rather have concentrated on the principles of the conflict of oaths, but since the Sheriffs’ Association chose not to address my questions in this regard, but instead take a high-handed attitude, it is my prerogative to give examples where their members’ conduct is not exemplary.
The example I cite is not purely an ad hominem attack, but is background to my original petition that the parliament declined to publish and has been posted on my blog for years. LINK
I thought that it was unfair of the parliament back in 2003 to ask me to give examples of where freemasonry has interfered with justice, but that was what they asked for and that is what I attempted to do.
With PE01491, I argued, reasonably and politely, that the terms of my petition, and the question of a conflict of oaths should be the subject of forensic examination by academics and not rely on those with vested interests.
The PPC chose, at least as a first step, to ask those with a vested interest and perhaps they got what they deserved from the Sheriffs’ Association; a non-response to their questions.
Police Scotland give the view from their castle in Kincardine
The response to the Public Petitions Committee from Police Scotland was straight forward and simple, they did not have a view. LINK
That is fair enough as the petition that I had raised did not concern them. It was none of their business and I resented the fact that the PPC had asked them to comment on a matter that was the subject of a petition brought about mostly by the biased actions of Masonic police officers in Fife Constabulary. Previously detailed in 2003 here: LINK
However, after having given the views of Police Scotland, Neil Richardson, Deputy Chief Constable, then thought that we should have his own views; what occurred to him.
These views make it clear that he did not view the video of the PPC proceedings, as they were predicated on the supposition that I sought declarations of secret society membership from all potential jurors.
My actual view as articulated at the PPC hearing of 12 November was that vetting could be carried out, if necessary, depending on the case at trial. As such matters are dealt with in other jurisdictions such as the USA.
Despite giving us his personal views, based on a false premise, it is interesting to note that Deputy Chief Constable Richardson suspected that jurors would lie about their membership of secret societies to avoid jury duty. Something he said would be difficult to dispute.
I think that we could have done without Dep. C. C. Richardson’s speculation in this regard, which I see as symptomatic of the current trend of the police acting in the political sphere.
It is fairly well-known that the driving force for the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, which has now been enacted, was Stephen House and his deputy in Strathclyde Police, and it is also a matter of record that I opposed this Bill and was critical of the police in that submission. LINK
At least that was a matter the police had an interest in (some would say an inordinate and vested interest in), but are our police force now also responsible for informing parliament how it should act on public petitions in which they do not feature?
I have the greatest respect for those hard-working men and women in the police force who do a difficult job, but there seems to me to be a willingness in the public mind to equate senior police officers with wisdom and propriety; that does not tie in with my personal experiences, which gave rise to my original petition.
Lest it be thought that my experiences of Fife Constabulary’s senior officers were far-fetched, consider the Inspector in Fife Constabulary, Richard Lumsden, who was so besotted by Hitler that he had his car registration altered to the acronym of the Nazi Party. LINK
Another Inspector in Fife Constabulary, Richard Munro, hid documents that would have cleared two murder accused and saw the men go to prison before he was found out and jailed for five years. LINK
Then there was the officer from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who became Chief Constable of Fife, John Hamilton, whose air mileage per year – that he claimed expenses for – was greater than some British Airways pilots. LINK
Or more recently Fife had the distinction of having the first female Chief Constable in Norma Graham who was recently fined and banned for careless driving. LINK
I do not make these observations in a vindictive way, but rather as context to my own experiences, which show that the views and actions of powerful police officers, whether from Police HQ at the castle, or elsewhere, are fallible.
Scottish Government endorse Jim Wallace’s view & say I am still the only one with concerns re freemasonry in the judiciary
The response from the Scottish Government which was asked to look at my submissions and evidence to the Public Petitions Committee simply restated the position of the previous Justice Secretary Jim Wallace and do not even mention my submissions regarding the Norwegian situation whereby judges have to declare membership of the freemasons. LINK The terms of the letter were said to have been seen by the Secretary for Justice (Kenny MacAskill).
The Norwegian omission is significant and may have been made easy for the government due to the fact that the clerk to the PPC, Anne Peat, did not give the committee my letters from the Norwegian Courts Administration (Domstol). [See above]
The Public Petitions Committee papers for the meeting of 28 January.
I did not examine the papers (usually published the Thursday before the meeting) for the meeting of 28 January until the morning of Monday 27th and was shocked to see that despite the apology of the convener for the absence of my Norwegian submission and his promise (on the record of the meeting of 12 November) that his committee would examine all matters fairly there was no mention of my Norwegian submissions.
There was however the paper submitted after the last meeting by the Grand Lodge which asked the committee to approach the Scottish Human Rights Committee and the briefing paper for the meeting had given this move as a possible course of action for the committee.
This situation whereby my submissions were being ignored despite promises by the Clerk, Anne Peat, and the Convener, David Stewart, while unsolicited submissions by a party which had no status in my petition were being actively considered, caused me to conclude that I was not dealing with honourable or even honest people, and I should consider withdrawing my petition.
Another concern was the fact that the Convener had failed to show firm leadership in dealing with his deputy, Chic Brodie, who had insulted me by innuendo at a time when my petition was gathering signatures and had yet to come before the committee for consideration, and had interfered with my submission by making written representations to the committee seeking to alter the terms of my petition.
The terms he wished to introduce seemed to me to be anti-RC in nature as he cited organisations that have been associated with that church, namely Opus Dei, P2 (Propaganda Due Italian Masonic lodge disbanded after a banking scandal with the Vatican Bank), and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, which he averred should be included in the list of organisations I considered appropriate for registration of membership by decision makers. LINK
This was not his place to do and I brought this matter to the Conveners attention but he failed to do anything about this breach of procedure and this combined with the shenanigans with the Norwegian submissions convinced me that I had no prospect of having a fair hearing before a committee chaired by this Convener.
There are other anomalies that swayed my decision such as the failure of the Convener to ask the declared Masonic member of the committee, Angus MacDonald to absent himself from the meeting of 12 November as he had a vested interest in the subject matter, and the Lord President’s apparent backing of the status quo at a private meeting attended by the Convener and Vice Convener, but the two main ones are as stated above.
At 12.35 on Monday I advised the Convener, copied to all members, substitutes and clerks that I had abandoned my petition. I received confirmation of receipt of my e-mail timed 12.49 Monday.
The matter then, as far as I, the petitioner was concerned was finished, I was Functus Officio as a petitioner. 1 hour after I told the committee of my decision, I told my supporters via, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook.
Pretending to have a request from me to close my petition the PPC vainly attempt to pretend abandonment didn’t happen
I did not watch the live transmission of the PPC meeting as I did not expect there to be anything for me to watch. I assumed the clerks would simply remove my item from the agenda or there would simply be an announcement to that effect by the Convener, but astonishingly I later found that the committee had carried on as if the letter of abandonment from me, had been in terms that sought their approval to close the petition.
Can’t the members of the PPC read plain English? LINK
N.B. In a departure from normal practice on this blog I have decided to offer a sun-spot holiday for two weeks for two for anyone who can find my request that the PPC consider closing my petition (today 28th Jan according to Convener) in my abandonment e-mail letter of 27th January. LINK
The committee then embarked on a weird and wonderful examination of matters that were no longer in their gift, namely my public petition.
Their debate was fanciful and considered: still inviting Grand Lodge to appear and approaching the Scottish Human Rights Commission as Grand Lodge had requested. These are but two examples of the lengths the committee went to, in order to pretend that my public petition was still alive.
If their debate was surreal their conclusion published on the parliament’s website the following day was even stranger and reported that it “decided to close the petition, under Rule 15.7. on the basis that, in considering the evidence received, it was not persuaded that further action is necessary”!
These people really are living in cloud cuckoo land. Persuaded by whom? The petition was abandoned yesterday boys and girls and all the pompous posturing you can muster won’t make it come back to life!
The pathetic efforts of the committee have to be seen to be believed.