Roseanna Cunningham MSP

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Roseanna Cunningham MSP

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  • Member for: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
  • Region: Mid Scotland and Fife
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Roseanna is a member of the following Committees:

Roseanna is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Roseanna Cunningham

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Roseanna Cunningham)

Today’s debate provides an opportunity to consider the issues related to a register of interests for the judiciary—a subject that has been discussed by the Public Petitions Committee over recent months, as the convener, David Stewart, outlined.

It is, of course, vital that judges be seen to be both independent and impartial. They must be free from prejudice by association or relationship with one of the parties to a litigation. They must be able to demonstrate impartiality by having no vested interest that could affect them in exercising their judicial functions, such as a pecuniary interest or familial interest.

As I understand it, the petition originally concerned a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary. It called on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a register of pecuniary interests of judges bill, as was then being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament, or to amend present legislation to require all members of the judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests and hospitality received to a publicly available register of interests. That is a narrower definition of the register than the convener talked about.

The Scottish Government considers that it is not necessary to establish a register of judicial interests. Our view is that the safeguards that are currently in place are sufficient to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary in Scotland. Those important safeguards are: the judicial oath, the “Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary”, which was issued by the Judicial Office for Scotland in 2010, and the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

I will look at those three safeguards in a little more detail. The judicial oath, which is taken by all judicial office-holders before they sit on the bench, requires judges to

“do right to all manner of people ... without fear or favour, affection or ill will”.

The statement of principles of judicial ethics states at principle 5 that all judicial office-holders have a general duty to act impartially. In particular, it notes:

“Plainly it is not acceptable for a judge to adjudicate upon any matter in which he, or she, or any members of his or her family has a pecuniary interest. Furthermore, he or she should carefully consider whether any litigation depending before him or her may involve the decision of a point of law which itself may affect his or her personal interest in some different context, or that of a member of his or her family”.

The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 contains provisions to regulate and investigate the conduct of judicial office-holders. Under section 28, the Lord President has a power to make rules for the investigation of

“any matter concerning the conduct of judicial office holders”.

The Complaints about the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules came into force in 2011. There was a consultation on those rules last autumn, responses to which the Lord President has considered, and new rules and accompanying guidance will be published in due course.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

We have looked at that report. I will refer to it shortly, if I have the time.

In addition, members will be aware that the Scottish Court Service has set up a public register of judicial recusals, which has been in operation since 1 April 2014. David Stewart mentioned it. The register sets out why a member of the judiciary has recused himself or herself from hearing a case in which there is a conflict of interests. Although that does not go as far as the petition suggested, we believe that it is a welcome addition to the safeguards that I have already covered.

The setting up of a register of judicial interests would be a matter for the Lord President, as head of the judiciary in Scotland. The Lord President takes the view that a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary is not needed. Furthermore, a judge has a greater duty of disclosure than a register of financial interests could address.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

I want to make some progress.

The statement of judicial ethics that I referred to says that a judge’s disclosure duties extend to material relationships. In his written evidence to the Public Petitions Committee, the Lord President referred to the findings of the Council of Europe group of states against corruption. The 2013 GRECO report, which followed the fourth evaluation round report on the United Kingdom, found that

“nothing emerged during the current evaluation which could indicate that there is any element of corruption in relation to judges, nor is there evidence of judicial decisions being influenced in an inappropriate manner.”

GRECO therefore did not recommend the introduction of a register of judicial interests, which suggests that the current safeguards are sufficient and that there is no obvious problem that such a register would solve.

The position is, of course, different for MSPs and for members of other Parliaments. We are directly accountable to our constituents and are required to register our interests. GRECO also considered issues regarding the prevention of corruption in relation to members of Parliaments across the UK and recommended:

“it is essential that the public continues to be made aware of the steps taken and the tools developed to reinforce the ethos of parliamentary integrity, to increase transparency and to institute real accountability.”



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

If David Stewart will permit me to, I want to move on; I want to get through my speech.

I am aware that the petition in question was related to the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill in the New Zealand Parliament, which was considered earlier this year by its Justice and Electoral Committee. As David Stewart indicated in his opening remarks, the bill did not proceed. As I understand it, the committee recommended that the bill should not be passed and, following that report, the sponsoring member intended to withdraw it.

It is also the case that there is no equivalent register in other parts of the UK. As I have said, we do not think it necessary to establish such a register. The case has not been made that the existing safeguards are not effective. I can only assume that members agree with that, because we completed stage 3 of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday. That bill could have been used as a vehicle for legislating for the introduction of a register of judicial interests. I am surprised that an amendment to that effect was not, if members are exercised by the issue, lodged during consideration of the bill.

However, today is an opportunity for wider consideration of the issue, and I look forward to hearing what others have to say. I will perhaps return to some of the issues that are raised in my closing remarks.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

I do not believe that.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

The debate has given us the opportunity to discuss issues around transparency and conflicts of interest and whether a register of judicial interests would address those matters. However, I sense that much of the debate has been about the process. Members will forgive me if I do not get too drawn into that aspect of the discussion—it is not really for me to intervene in committee procedures or the calling of witnesses. I am sure that if concerns are expressed about that they might be taken up in another place.

The debate also ranged rather more widely than the motion might have otherwise suggested. That is understandable. We have heard differing views expressed about the need for a register of judicial interests. As I said, some contributions went very widely, indeed. An exchange of views is always welcome.

We all recognise the importance of the need to ensure judicial independence, accountability and transparency. However, as I said in my opening remarks, key safeguards are already in place to ensure the judiciary’s independence and accountability. To repeat, those important safeguards are the judicial oath; the “Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary”, which was issued by the Judicial Office for Scotland in 2010; and the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.The debate has given us the opportunity to put on the record that those safeguards exist.

We have seen from the debate that, if the Lord President was to introduce a register, a wide breadth of interests may need to be declared. As raised by a number of members, including Stewart Stevenson and Graeme Pearson, material relationships may in many cases be more relevant than pecuniary interests.

I think that I am right in saying that it was David Stewart who described a situation whereby a judge had to recuse himself because he had been at the same social event as one of the key lawyers in the case. I do not want to misrepresent what he said, but that is my recollection; what he said was along those lines. Frankly, if we took that approach too far, either we would have to cloister judges permanently or no cases would ever be heard, because the way in which our social relationships work in Scotland makes it almost possible to avoid that happening on a number of occasions.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

Perhaps the member will allow me to get into my speech, because I want to return to that point.

We have also heard that the Lord President is taking action to increase transparency. The register of judicial recusals recently set up by the Scottish Court Service is an excellent example of that. Over time, that will give us a better understanding of how that process works.

I am sure that the Lord President will read the Official Report of the debate and members’ speeches with interest. I will not be drawn into a discussion of his decision about attending the committee. However, as referred to by Joan McAlpine and others—I am not quite sure if I remember who—he has warned that the introduction of a register of judicial interests could have unintended consequences. He said:

“Consideration requires to be given to judges’ privacy and freedom from harassment by ... media or ... individuals, including dissatisfied litigants.”

A point that no member has raised is that, if publicly criticised or attacked, a judicial office-holder cannot publicly defend him or herself, unlike a politician. We have the opportunity to respond to criticism; a judge would not. They do not have the same right of reply as we have.

I must ask what would be included on a register. If we are agreed that it is far less likely to be financial interests that create problems, the register would somehow have to encompass social, familiar and other relationships. A register that included those relationships would be difficult to compile. Family trees, friendships and all sorts of organisations and affiliations would have to be included. Neil Findlay seemed to suggest that even religious affiliation should be included. How on earth would one know in advance what might cause a problem in a case that was as yet unseen?

It is interesting that all members who have spoken have avoided making reference to a register in anything other than very general terms, although it is clear that it is assumed that any declaration would go beyond financial interests. I have set out some of the issues that would arise if such a register were given closer consideration.

I return to David Stewart’s point about the situation in the House of Lords prior to the creation of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. As I understand it, declarations were confined to financial interests and there was not the kind of register that members have discussed this afternoon. Furthermore, when the Supreme Court was set up in 2009, it was decided that the financial register would not be continued. Instead, a code of judicial conduct was drawn up. The register to which David Stewart referred was not analogous to the register that members have been discussing. We should understand that.

We should also take heed of the outcome of the report of the Council of Europe group of states against corruption—GRECO. I reiterate that that is an important objective assessment of where we are in relation to the judiciary in Scotland and the United Kingdom.

I am aware that other people take a different view on the need for a register. The former Judicial Complaints Reviewer thought that a register would increase transparency and public trust.

As I said, it would be for the Lord President to establish a register of interests, in his capacity as head of the Scottish judiciary. However, the Government does not consider that there is currently evidence that the existing safeguards are not effective. We do not consider that a register is necessary. Indeed, some of the issues that members have raised point us to how difficult it might be to compile the kind of register that people think might be appropriate.

A number of members referred to the register of interests of MSPs. However, the situation is different, because we are directly accountable to the electorate. That is why the register exists—and we are not required to declare religious affiliation, our circles of friends and relatives, and all the social relationships that can give rise to some of the suspicions in respect of judges.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

The debate has presented an opportunity to consider all the issues. I assure members that we will continue to keep the issues under review. However, our current position is that a register is not necessary.



Meeting of the Parliament 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Roseanna Cunningham)

The Scottish Government is strongly opposed to any attempt by a future United Kingdom Government to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, or to withdraw from the European convention on human rights. The Human Rights Act exists to protect the interests of everyone in society. Safeguards in the act have been actively used to protect the everyday rights of ordinary people in Scotland, including by helping some of the most vulnerable people in society to challenge iniquitous policies such as the bedroom tax. The Scottish Government’s position is that implementation of the Conservative Party’s proposals would require legislative consent, and that this Parliament should make it clear that such consent will not be given.



Meeting of the Parliament 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

Professor Miller was absolutely correct to issue that warning. Over the past week, some highly irresponsible proposals and statements have been made by people who hold high political office and who should know better, frankly. Attacks on human rights must never be used as a cheap political manoeuvre by any party. David Cameron and Chris Grayling are running scared of the UK Independence Party and are pandering to the Europhobic extremists in their own party, and appear not to care about the damage that they are doing. The proposals are dangerous and they threaten rights that all of us enjoy. If they were ever implemented, they would inflict immense damage on the UK’s international reputation, and on international efforts to protect and secure human rights around the world. We could hardly lecture other people if we were not prepared to abide by those international rules.

Scotland deserves better, the rest of the UK deserves better and the international community deserves better, and the influence that Scotland and the UK have in the wider world mean that we in this Parliament have a responsibility to show leadership on the issue and to make it clear that what Chris Grayling is proposing is simply unacceptable. I am sure that the overwhelming majority of members of this Parliament agree on that.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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YesCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
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YesCarried

S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
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YesCarried

Amendment 61 moved by Elaine Murray on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bi
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NoDefeated

Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 63 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 64 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Roseanna Cunningham
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-10291: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10090: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09957: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09272: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08950: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08881: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08544: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08422: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08145: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06644: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
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EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3O-05825: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/02/2009 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-05305: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-05247: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-05049: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/11/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11949: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11850: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11849: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11851: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11221: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/03/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-10098: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/02/2008 Show Full Question >>