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Law and change: Scottish legal heroes
Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

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3 The rule of law

The rule of law is a concept which is regarded as underpinning both our constitution and an effective and fair legal system. At its simplest level, the rule of law states that no one is above the law. As you have seen from your studies in Week 2 this is a relatively modern concept as originally monarchs regarded themselves as absolute, ruling by divine right and with absolute authority. Parliaments and citizens had limited, if any, authority or power.

The fight for democracy, openness, equity and justice underpin the legal history of Scotland and the current legal system reflect the principles which underpin rule of law. Take a few moments to think about how much you value the principles as you work through the next sections think about the role of law in its contemporary context.

Figure 10 Principles underpinning the rule of law

The rule of law is becoming more commonly talked about both in the UK and the international arena. It is regarded as a crucial mainstay of international relations, for democracy, stability and economic growth. Within Scotland (and the UK as a whole), however,concerns over access to justice and transparency are increasing. The outcomes of exiting the European Union on a nation that voted to remain are unclear, as are the powers that the UK Government may seek to retain. These all go to the heart of the rule of law and their impact has yet to be fully realised.