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

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4 Summary

This week explored the skill of developing an argument and considered judicial precedent. You learnt how formal arguments can be constructed and how judges use formal legal argument to create precedent. Binding precedent underpins the development of common law. You were introduced to a number of legal terms and these are summarised in Box 6.

Box 6 Summary of legal terms in week 3

Legal TermDefinition
Ratio decidendi

The reason for deciding. The part of the judgment that creates law – the binding precedent.


Obiter dictum

Any thing said along the way. Other parts of the judgment. These may be persuasive but do not create law.


The decision or judgment

The outcome of the case for the parties involved.



A decision which states that a legal rule in an earlier case is wrong.



A method of avoiding a previous decision because the facts in the present case are different.


After this week of study you should now understand:

  • how to construct a reasoned argument
  • the ways in which an argument can be developed and evidenced
  • the development and use of judicial precedent.