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Scottish Legal Research


Getting Started with Scottish Legal Research

Scottish FlagThough Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, it has its own legal system, often referred to as Scots Law. It is a combination of civil law and common law elements that can be impacted by laws passed by several different legislative bodies, including the Scottish Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament, the European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union. This guide will help you to understand this legal system and to get started with Scottish legal research.


The Current Scottish Parliament

Though Scotland has a long history of having its own Parliament prior to 1707, for many years, it fell under the purview of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In 1999 power was devolved to the new Scottish Parliament, which is based at the Holyrood building in Edinburgh. Though certain matters, such as citizenship, are still reserved for the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament is responsible for making many of Scotland's laws, including those pertaining to education, health, and agriculture, to name just a few.

The devolution process was founded on a great deal of political thought and consideration. Below are some of the key documents along the way to formal devolution. 

Parliamentary Documents


Modern Day Legislation

Pre-1707 Scottish Parliamentary Research

Prior to the union of 1707, Scotland had its own Parliament for many centuries with the earliest surviving act dating to the 1200's. Though not every document from these early years is available, the resources below will help you get started with research during this period.

Courts and Case Law

The Scottish Judiciary

This diagram shows the structure of the Scottish Judiciary and the path of appeals through the courts. For more information on each level of the courts, refer to the Judiciary of Scotland's description of their court structure.

Finding Court Cases

Secondary Sources

Books at Harvard

Online Resources


Scottish Independence

Referendum of 2014

In 2014, there was a referendum to determine whether Scotland should gain its independence. The vote was ultimately unsuccessful, with about 55.3% of the population voting against independence. However, the process was noteworthy from a legal standpoint and there are several relevant legal documents and books for scholars studying this process.

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