Legislation is a primary source of Scots law. It emanates ultimately from the authority of a legislature. Today legislation affecting Scotland is produced by the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, and the institutions of the European Union. Legislation is also created by government under ‘prerogative powers’ and by government ministers and other bodies through powers delegated by Parliament.
A piece of legislation from the UK Parliament is known as an Act of Parliament, or a statute.
UK Acts are categorised as Public General Acts, Local Acts and Personal Acts.
Public General Acts are now the most common type of Act passed. Unless otherwise stated, a Public General Act is presumed to apply to the whole of the UK. However, the territorial extent may be limited to a particular area, e.g. Scotland or England and Wales.
Local Acts only affect a particular restricted area of the country.
Personal Acts only affect a particular individual or body (e.g. a company)
A piece of legislation from the devolved Scottish Parliament is known as an Act of the Scottish Parliament (asp).
Acts of the Scottish Parliament (asps) are similarly categorised as being public and general in application or as being private Acts, which have local or personal effect. However, the scope of an asp does not affect the way it is cited in the same way as it affects a UK statute.
The UK and Scottish parliaments can delegate legislative powers to another body enabling it to make legislation. Such legislation is known as delegated (or subordinate or secondary) legislation. Delegated legislation may be created by a number of bodies including government ministers such as a Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers, local authorities, the courts, public corporations, statutory bodies and utilities. The most common forms of delegated legislation you will encounter are Statutory Instruments (or SIs) and Scottish Statutory Instruments (SSIs).
Historically, the pre-1707 Scottish Parliaments created legislation. A few of these 'Scots Acts' are still in force today.
Information about European Union legislation is available from the EU Legal Information guide:
Once legislation is enacted it does not necessarily come into force automatically. Furthermore, the version of legislation originally published does not necessarily remain the version in force in perpetuity. Legislation may require subsequent legislation to bring it into force and may be amended by later legislation. Indeed, once provisions are repealed or revoked, they cease to be in force. Not all provisions of UK legislation extend to Scotland. Conversely, the territorial extent of some provisions is restricted to Scotland.
When using legislation, you need to be aware of whether the source you use provides legislation in its original form or in a revised version.
In either case, you should check whether subsequent amendments have been made since the version you are using was created.
In addition, the meaning of legislation is subject to judicial consideration in case law.
Databases such as Westlaw, Lexis®Library and Legislation.gov.uk incorporate features which allow you to check the status of UK and Scottish legislation. However, it is sometimes necessary to use “traditional” aids such as the Current law Legislation Citator.
Modern UK Public General Acts and Acts of the Scottish Parliament usually comprise the following elements:
Acts of the Scottish Parliament are assigned an “asp” number rather than a chapter number.
Acts of the Scottish Parliament include a note of the date the Act was passed by the Parliament and the date the Act received Royal Assent, this precedes the long title.
Longer Acts may be divided into large numbered “parts” and then into “chapters”. However, sections continue to be numbered consecutively throughout the whole Act.
Note that provisions regarding interpretation, commencement, short title and extent may often be combined in a single section.
Explanatory Notes – do not form part of the Act and are published separately. These are now officially produced for UK Public General Acts and Acts of Scottish Parliament which were introduced as government Bills (except budget bills). These may be used in the interpretation process.