JUDGES and sheriffs have abstained from around 100 court cases over potential conflicts of interest, fuelling calls for a register of interest for all judicial office holders.

Nearly all of the “recusal” cases involve the top legal figures having personal or professional links that could lead to questions about their impartiality.

Peter Cherbi, who has led the campaign for judicial transparency, said these examples confirmed that judges should go further and, by law, be required to declare their financial interests.

MSPs, MPs and board members of public bodies must declare whether they have outside interests such as shareholdings, directorships and other forms of income.

However, members of the judiciary – judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace – are under no such obligation.

Cherbi introduced a petition to Holyrood in 2012 calling for a mandatory register and his proposal is still being dealt with by a committee of MSPs.

When he was Lord President and Lord Justice General, Lord Gill robustly opposed the Cherbi plan and claimed a register could affect a judge’s privacy by encouraging "aggressive media or hostile individuals".

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

His successor, Lord Carloway, also adopted a sceptical position by arguing that it would be “inappropriate” for his colleagues to reveal their financial interests: “The proposal for a public register of the judiciary’s interests, gifts and hospitality is both unnecessary and undesirable.

“It is inappropriate for judges to make public comment beyond their judicial opinions in relation to individual cases. Therefore, unlike an elected representative or a member of the Government, a judge enjoys no right of reply.”

One of the reforms pushed through by Lord Gill was a register listing the occasions in which judicial office holders either granted or refused a formal motion for recusal in open court.

In 2014, eighteen cases were registered with the Judicial Office for Scotland (JOfS), such as when judge Lord Brailsford abstained in a case as he was known to the husband of the pursuer.

In the same year, Lady Wise did not preside over an appeal case as she had previously acted for a relative of the accused.

In 2015, the number of recusal cases increased to 34, including when Lord Boyd of Duncansby abstained because one of his relatives was involved in the action.

In the same year, Lord Glennie recused himself from a civil case involving Marshall Ronald and the Duke of Buccleuch on the grounds that the judge was an acquaintance of one of the parties.

The figure fell to 22 in 2016 and dropped to 18 in the following 12 months. Six cases this year means the overall number stands at 98. There has been one occasion where a recusal motion was refused.

However, the onus for declaring potential conflicts of interest rests with the judicial office holder, and none of the 98 cases appear to relate to shareholdings or directorships.

It is understood Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee will consider the petition again this month.

Cherbi said: “Given there have now been 98 published judicial recusals in Scotland, and recent improvements to the recusals register which have detailed actual cases rather than bare numbers preferred by Lord Gill, the time has now come to require of the judiciary the same full disclosure of interests which our 129 elected politicians at Holyrood and all MPs and peers at Westminster must declare in a register of interests.

“We are now into the sixth year of scrutiny of this issue at Holyrood, and remembering that the full debate in October 2014 in the main chamber drew cross-party support for a register of judicial interests, it is now essential the Parliament goes ahead and legislates for transparency in our courts.”

Moi Ali, the former Judicial Complaints Reviewer, said: “As a former JCR in Scotland, I am very supportive of a register of interests for the judiciary. There is no valid argument for the judiciary to be less transparent than people in other walks of life, such as politicians or members of public boards.”

A Scottish Parliamentary spokesperson said: “When the Public Petitions Committee meets later this month it anticipates discussing the issues and concluding its consideration of this petition.”

A spokesman for the JOfS said: "The Lord President's position on this matter, as was made clear in his evidence to the Public Petitions Committee, is that a register of judicial interests is neither desirable nor necessary. Judges are obliged to declare an interest where there is any real or perceived conflict, and to decline jurisdiction where appropriate. The register of recusals demonstrates that such declarations are made in open court, and in the interests of openness and transparency all instances where a motion for recusal is made, whether granted or refused by the court, are published on the judiciary's website."