Scots law

Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Flag of Scotland.svg Scotland portal

Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is a hybrid or mixed legal system containing civil law and common law elements, that traces its roots to a number of different historical sources.[1][2][3] Together with English law and Northern Irish law, it is one of the three legal systems of the United Kingdom.[4]

Early Scots law before the 12th century consisted of the different legal traditions of the various cultural groups who inhabited the country at the time, the Gaels in most of the country, with the Britons and Anglo-Saxons in some districts south of the Forth and with the Norse in the islands and north of the River Oykel. The introduction of feudalism from the 12th century and the expansion of the Kingdom of Scotland established the modern roots of Scots law, which was gradually influenced by other, especially Anglo-Norman and continental legal traditions. Although there was some indirect Roman law influence on Scots law, the direct influence of Roman law was slight up until around the 15th century. After this time, Roman law was often adopted in argument in court, in an adapted form, where there was no native Scots rule to settle a dispute; and Roman law was in this way partially received into Scots law.

Scots law recognises four sources of law: legislation, legal precedent, specific academic writings, and custom. Legislation affecting Scotland may be passed by the Scottish Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament, and the European Union. Some legislation passed by the pre-1707 Parliament of Scotland is still also valid.

Since the Union with England Act 1707, Scotland has shared a legislature with England and Wales. Scotland retained a fundamentally different legal system from that south of the border, but the Union exerted English influence upon Scots law. Since the UK joined the European Union, Scots law has also been affected by European law under the Treaties of the European Union, the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (entered into by members of the Council of Europe) and the creation of the devolved Scottish Parliament which may pass legislation within all areas not reserved to Westminster, as detailed by the Scotland Act 1998.[5][6]

Scotland as a distinct jurisdiction

The United Kingdom, judicially, consists of three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.[4] There are important differences between Scots Law, English law and Northern Irish law in areas such as property law, criminal law, trust law,[7] inheritance law, evidence law and family law while there are greater similarities in areas of national interest such as commercial law, consumer rights,[8] taxation, employment law and health and safety regulations.[9]

Examples of differences between the jurisdictions include the age of legal capacity (16 years old in Scotland but 18 years old in England and Wales),[10][11] and the fact that equity was never a distinct branch of Scots law.[12] Some examples in criminal law include:

  • The use of 15-member juries for criminal trials in Scotland (compared with 12-member juries in England and Wales) who always decide by simple majority.[13]
  • The accused in a criminal trial does not have the right to elect between a judge or jury trial.[13]
  • Judges and juries of criminal trials have the "third verdict" of "not proven" available to them.[14][15]

There are also differences in the terminology used between the jurisdictions. For example, in Scotland there are no Magistrates' Courts or Crown Court, but there are Justice of the Peace Courts, Sheriff Courts and the College of Justice. The Procurator Fiscal Service provides the independent public prosecution service for Scotland like the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

Other Languages
čeština: Skotské právo
français: Droit écossais
Gàidhlig: Lagh na h-Alba
Scots: Scots law
svenska: Skotsk rätt