(212)  The Scottish judiciary and the Speculative Society

On 13 March 2003 the High Court of Justiciary repelled Robbie the Pict’s petition to the nobile officium in which he sought to show that any judge who is a member of the Speculative Society is disqualified ipso facto from participating in his case on various matters relating to the Skye Bridge tolls (see below No 209).  Robbie had argued that the history of the Society showed that its origins were linked to masonic or quasi-masonic movements and that today it is elitist, sexist, racist and unionist [para 14].  Giving the opinion of the court, Lord Justice Clerk Gill said: On the information before us, we conclude that the Society is neither secret nor sinister and that it simply makes its own refined contribution to the public stock of harmless pleasure. It appears to be careful in its choice of members, but many societies are. Those elected are no doubt happy to be members. Others will be happy not to be. Live and let live is a useful principle in such matters. … We can see no reason why any reasonable onlooker could suspect that the loyalties and friendships that typify any society of this kind should in this case override the obligations of the judicial oath [para 26].  Lord Gill also noted that (para 20) The Society is a society for young men. According to the affidavit, the Society can have no more than 30 ordinary members at any time. Membership is gained by invitation and is subject to voting by secret ballot. The rules provide for a procedure of black-balling. When a member joins, he joins as an ordinary member for a period of three years. There is nothing in the rules to prohibit female membership, but there are no female members and there have never been any [para 20]. 

Lord Gill continued to decline to answer Robbie’s question: Have you [the judges in the case] ever taken the oath or entered apprentice at first degree for the purpose of entering into Masonic association, or are you obliged by any expectation of loyalty which has the potential to produce an imbalanced judgment in a tribunal such as this?  His Lordship observed that masonic membership was not per se a ground of judicial disqualification and stated: We refused to answer the petitioner’s question when he put it to us and we refuse to answer it now. The petitioner has failed to show why his question has any bearing on the issues in this case [para 7]. 

Finally, a further argument put by Robbie the Pict was dismissed as follows: [10] The petitioner also submitted that the judicial oath taken by each of us was itself invalid. This submission was based upon article 19 of the Act of Union 1707, as interpreted in the light of the Treaty of Birgham 1290, the Declaration of Dundee 1310, the Declaration of Arbroath 1320, and the Treaty of Edinburgh 1327. The petitioner submitted that the Act of Union was never implemented and that no lawful constitutional union existed between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England. His conclusion was that the judicial oath sworn by each of us was an oath only to the Queen of England and Wales and not to the sovereign people of Scotland. [11] The petitioner gave no notice of this submission. For that reason alone we cannot entertain it. In any event, we could not consider a point of such significance on the exiguous arguments advanced by the petitioner.