1. Origins

As already observed, Scots law can trace its origins back to ancient Roman law, e.g. the ‘Corpus Juris Civilis’. However, the Roman Empire only ever retained somewhat tenuous control over any of the country. The legions invaded in about 83 AD, only penetrating as far as the Lowlands. They experienced considerable difficulty in keeping peace, and finally withdrew in about 210 AD. Accordingly, the Roman legal legacy owes little to actual occupation and more to subsequent adoption.

After the Romans gave up their Caledonian colony, Scotland was left to its own devices, a divided country of several distinct peoples, eventually unified under King Kenneth McAlpin in about 843 AD.

By the late 11th century Celtic law prevailed over most of Scotland, except in those parts of the country still under Viking dominion where Norse law remained in force, particularly in Orkney and Shetland. However, as time drew on Norman influences crept in from England, including feudal law. Scots Norman law initially developed in a similar vein to Anglo-Norman law, but gradually began to diverge. Scottish feudal distinctiveness was reinforced by the Scottish War of Independence, which came to an end in 1328, and yet further by the appointment of Sheriffs (modern day judges, but they originally had military powers as well), and by the establishment of Burgh Courts.

Rather than England, the Burgh Courts looked to Continental Europe as a source of legal thinking, hence they used Roman law as the basis for Scots common law. Many European nations had sustained Roman occupation for much longer and absorbed considerably more of its heritage.

In the 1200’s the Scottish Parliament also began to pass Acts.

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