NICOLA Sturgeon has rejected calls for judges to declare details of their finances in a register of interest.

The First Minister said the proposal, lodged by justice campaigner Peter Cherbi, was "not necessary" and claimed existing rules were "sufficient".

Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee is in the middle of a long-term probe into whether judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace should be brought into line with other senior public sector figures.

MSPs, MPs, councillors and board members of public bodies are all required to register their outside financial interests.

A petition lodged with the Scottish Parliament in 2012 called for members of the judiciary to declare their "pecuniary" interests, which would include shareholdings, directorships and membership of external bodies.

Judicial officer holders can recuse - or remove - themselves if a conflict of interest arises during a case, but nothing more is required.

The plan was met with hostility by the country's top judge, Lord Gill, who repeatedly snubbed calls by the committee to give oral evidence.

He relied on written testimony to blast a proposal he said could compromise judges' privacy by encouraging "aggressive media or hostile individuals".

Lord Gill concluded: "The establishment of such a register therefore may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary."

The issue has now reached the desk of the First Minister, who has backed Lord Gill.

In a letter to John Pentland MSP, the Committee convener, she supported the status quo: "The Scottish Government considers that such a register of judicial interests is not necessary and that the existing safeguards - the Judicial Oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and the system for complaints against the judiciary - are sufficient.

"These safeguards, together with the register of judicial recusals, are sufficient to protect individuals from judicial bias."

She also repeated Lord Gill's fear about "aggressive media" and noted: "The position of the judiciary is different from that of MSPs and others who hold public office. The judiciary cannot publicly defend themselves."

The First Minister also revealed that Paul Wheelhouse, her Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, met Lord Gill in December to discuss the petition.

In his evidence to the Committee, Wheelhouse said he feared a register could leave judges open to "threats or intimidation", adding that colleagues at an environment quango had already been threatened by organised criminals.

However, emails between the Government and Scottish Environment Protection Agency revealed no link to organised crime.

Cherbi said: "I am surprised Nicola Sturgeon supports a judicial ban on transparency just because judges have been asked to declare their substantial interests.

"We are always told if you have got nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. What are the judges hiding and what do they fear?

"There cannot be one set of rules for judges and another for everyone else. A register of interests will enhance public trust in the justice system, not detract from it."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government considers that a specific register of interests is not needed. Existing safeguards, including the Judicial Oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Interests and the system of complaints against the judiciary, are sufficient to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary in Scotland."