Appeals to the UK Supreme Court could in future be heard in Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast, the President of the court said in a speech last night.

Giving the Bar Council Law Reform Lecture 2016, on "The Role of the Supreme Court Seven Years On – Lessons Learnt", Lord Neuberger said he was "in the process of trying to change" the fact that the court sat exclusvely in London.

"The Justices are very conscious that the Supreme Court serves all parts of the United Kingdom," he continued, "and there is a real risk that, by always sitting in London, with nine of the 12 Justices being English, and with the great majority of appeals heard being English cases, the public may perceive us as being orientated to England and indeed rather London-focused. We try to meet this perception by visiting judges, lawyers, government institutions, and universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as round England. But we could do more, and what, in particular, I would like to do is to have the court actually sitting and hearing appeals in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast."

These might not be confined to appeals from those jurisdictions – and Lord Neuberger said he had answered doubts from English lawyers about having to travel for their appeal to be heard, by saying that was what Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish lawyers had to do all the time.

In his address the President also suggested that the move from the House of Lords to the Supreme Court had "helped to get across to the public where we are, what we do and why we matter", and increase understanding of the justice system and the rule of law.

The fact that judges made law, he commented, "should not be a problem in a country which enjoys parliamentary sovereignty. Where the law has been developed by a judge through a decision which is thought to be inappropriate, Parliament can always reverse the decision by legislation".

Turning to issues of human rights, Lord Neuberger commented: ""The Human Rights Act 1998 may have reinforced the view in some quarters that there is increased judicial activism, perhaps particularly in the Supreme Court. Thus, it is sometimes suggested that human rights put unelected judges in conflict with elected politicians. This is a demonstrably misconceived argument: the 1998 Act was enacted as a statute by elected politicians, and it does not merely entitle judges to give effect to human rights: it positively requires them to do so. The revolutionarily activist course would have been for the judges not to do that which an Act of Parliament required of them."

But he pointed out that the image of the Supreme Court as a tribunal which concentrated almost exclusively on public and human rights law "does not bear examination": of the 84 cases which were granted permission to appeal in 2015-16, only 35% were in the public law or human rights field. And the court in recent cases had emphasised the continuing importance of the common law, which might sometimes provide a remedy when human rights did not.

The President concluded by referring to efforts to improve the diversity of Justices appointed to the court, which at present has only one woman and no ethnic minority members. The next two recruitment exercises will be for groups of three Justices, to improve the prospect of "a more diverse and more coherent recruitment to the court", and proposals have been made to encourage applications "from people who would make good Justices but who might feel, strongly but wrongly, that they did not fit the profile of a Supreme Court Justice". These include "insight sessions", providing an opportunity to visit the court and discuss its work.

Lord Neuberger also confirmed his intention to retire next September, four months before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70, in order that his successor can be in place for the start of the next legal year.

Click here to view the text of his address.