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Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

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3  Statutory interpretation: the rules

Where there is no interpretation section and a general interpretation Act does not apply then a number of rules may be applied. They are:

  • the literal rule
  • the golden rule
  • the mischief rule
  • the purposive approach.

These rules each take different approaches to interpretation of the words in legislation. Some judges prefer one rule, while other judges prefer another. Some judges also feel that their role is to fill the gaps and ambiguities in the law whilst others think that it should be left to Parliament as the supreme law-maker. As the rules can result in very different decisions, it is important to understand each of them and how they may be used.