Dispute Resolution

Most people are aware of the two main kinds of law which apply in Scotland. These are case law (decisions from previous court cases) and legislation (Acts of either the Westminster or Holyrood parliaments, subordinate legislation, and certain kinds of European laws).

But have you ever wondered how the government of the day decides what new legislation it would like to bring into force? And how does it decide which old laws should be amended, repealed or updated? In short – how is the law reformed?

The role of Law Commissions

Often, new acts of the UK and Scottish Parliaments are the result of manifesto commitments made during elections. However, the two Law Commissions (the Law Commission for the law of England and Wales, and the Scottish Law Commission for Scots law) also play a crucial role in law reform.

The Law Commissions do this by providing the Government with independent advice on which areas of law should be simplified, modernised and improved. Bills are then prepared and placed before Parliament for a vote.

A high profile example of an Act which came about as a result of the Scottish Law Commission’s work is the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011. This introduced exceptions to (but did not abolish entirely) the centuries-old rule preventing someone from being tried twice for the same crime.

How does the Scottish Law Commission work?

The Scottish Law Commission has recently produced a video in which Lord Pentland, the current chairman, and James Wolffe QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, discuss the work of the Scottish Law Commission.

All members of the public are entitled to give their view on any proposed law reform. Keep an eye on the current consultations section of the website so you don’t miss your chance to have your say.

Fiona Chute