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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Justice, Law and Order


Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. Considered a hybrid or mixed legal system, with a mixture of civil law and common law elements, it traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. Together with English law and Northern Ireland law, it is one of the three legal systems of the United Kingdom. It shares some elements with the two other systems, but it also has its own unique sources and institutions.

Early Scots law before the 11th century consisted of a mixture of different legal traditions of the various cultural groups that inhabited the country at the time, the Picts, Gaels, Britons, Anglo-Saxons and Norse. The introduction of feudalism from the 11th century and the expansion of the Kingdom of Scotland established the modern roots of Scots law, which was gradually influenced by other, especially 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, the European Parliament, and the Council of 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. In recent years, 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 reconvening of the Scottish Parliament which may pass legislation within all areas not reserved to Westminster, as detailed by the Scotland Act 1998.

Scots law
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