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An introduction to law in contemporary Scotland

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Many aspects of the law in Scotland are different from those of England and Wales. Centuries of development and growth have been influenced by factors unique to Scotland, resulting in a legal system that is distinct from those of its neighbours. This free course, An introduction to law in contemporary Scotland, explores the legal history of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament and its relationship with the UK Parliament.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • consider what is law and what are the sources of law in Scotland
  • understand the legal history of Scotland
  • explain how Acts of the Scottish Parliament originate
  • understand the difference between primary and delegated legislation
  • understand the relationship between the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Monday 21st March 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under The Law
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An introduction to law in contemporary Scotland


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This course will introduce you to the law making process in Scotland. It is drawn from the Open University course W150 An introduction to law in contemporary Scotland. The Scottish legal system and many aspects of the law in Scotland are different from those in England and Wales. The law of Scotland has a history and roots, which are distinct from that of England and Wales. Despite forming a union with England and Wales at various points throughout that history, Scotland has retained a separate legal system.

Like the law of England and Wales, Scots law today represents centuries of development and growth. Its evolution has been influenced by social and economic factors, the effects of war, religious, political and governmental changes, alliances with overseas powers and union with England. The most recent development has been the establishment of the Scottish Parliament with its own law-making powers.

There can be no doubt that the law of Scotland has been influenced by England and Wales and vice versa and it is true that the two systems share some characteristics. Nevertheless, there are many differences between the two systems including differences in court systems, law making, terminology and route of qualification for lawyers. An understanding of the law in contemporary Scotland can be enlightening irrespective of which side of the border the student sits!

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course W150An introduction to law in contemporary Scotland [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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