History of Scots Law

Scots law is an independent and distinct legal system that can trace its origins back to ancient Roman law, e.g. the ‘Corpus Juris Civilis’. Unlike many European legal systems, it is uncodified with sources in common (traditional) law, statute (Acts of Parliament) and jurisprudence (court judgments).

The academic study of comparative law describes Scots law as a ‘mixed legal system’, i.e. a mixture between the ‘civil’ legal systems of Continental Europe (which have a strong basis in university teaching) and the ‘common law’ legal systems of England and other English-speaking countries. In this sense it is similar to South African law or Quebecois law, for example.

Between the Act of Union 1707 and the Scotland Act 1998 Scotland shared a parliament with England and other countries of the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, Scots law remained fundamentally separate from English law, albeit the Union facilitated a mutual exchange of legal influences and some harmonisation of substantive law.

The Scotland Act 1998 reinstated the Scottish Parliament. While only a devolved assembly as opposed to a fully-fledged independent institution, the Parliament has nonetheless advanced the distinctive character of Scots law into the New Millenium.

Moreover, since the Treaty of Rome 1957 Scotland has formed part of the European Union, therefore shares a large range of trade laws with Europe as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Areas of law regulating private affairs tend to be characteristically Scots (e.g., property ownership, buying/selling houses, family law, divorce, wills and criminal law), whereas areas of law regulating commerce and tax tend to display greater similarity between Scotland and England.