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Legislation: How to find and use legislation: Where to find legislation

What is legislation? Where can you find UK and Scottish legislation? How can you check the status of legislation?

Traditionally legislation has been published in various series and collections of printed statutes and statutory instruments.

Today Scottish / UK legislation can be found using online commercial and publicly accessible database services.

Where to find legislation online | Where to find legislation in the Library

Where to find legislation online

Online sources of legislation

Westlaw Legislation Search

Westlaw Legislation Search

Westlaw includes in force UK / English Public General Acts and SIs from 1267 onwards. Acts of the Scottish Parliament and SSIs are available from 1999 onwards. In force acts of the pre-1707 Scottish Parliament are also available. Legislation found through a standard search incorporates amendments. Historic versions of statutes are available from 1991 onwards. Many Acts which are no longer in force are also available in their originally enacted text.

You can search 'Primary & Secondary Legislation' (Acts and SIs), 'Bills & Draft Legislation' and 'Policy & Guidance' from different tabs.

You can access the Legislation search from the Welcome page. Select the ‘Legislation’ link at the top of the screen.

This takes you to the search page, where you can search 'Primary & Secondary Legislation' by  'Title', 'Provision Number' and 'Free Text' terms.

Follow the link to 'More options' for additional search options, including searching by 'Subject/Keyword' terms or 'Statutory Definition' - as well as specifying whether you wish to retrieve historic law, prospective law or legislation in force at a specified point in time.

Once you have retrieved legislation, you can use 'Provision Details' and other supplementary material to check the status of legislation - including whether it has come into force, whether it has been amended or repealed, its jurisdictional extent and whether it has been cited in case law.

Lexis+ UK Legal Research Legislation Search

Lexis+ UK Legal Research includes in force Public General Acts and SIs which apply to England and Wales.

Some provisions of pre-devolution UK legislation which relate only to Scotland are not included.

However, amended versions of in force public acts of the Scottish Parliament and SSIs are included.

After logging into Lexis+ you are at the home page. You can search for legislation here. However it is often more useful to use the ‘legislation’ search if specifically looking for an act or statutory instrument.

Below the search box under ‘Content’, select ‘Legislation’. You are now on the legislation search page. To see more search options, select ‘Advanced Search’.

Once you have retrieved results, you can use the links to various supplementary sources (e.g. Status Snapshot, Halsbury's Annotations) to check the status of legislation, including commencement, amendments and repeals, as well as other supplementary information about the legislation.

Where to find legislation in the Library

Official or authoritative versions of legislation available in the Library

The Library's Government Publications collection (electronic mobile shelving on Level 1) includes official or authorised versions of various series of legislation.

N.B. Although these series may be 'authorised', you still need to check whether subsequent amendments have been made since the version you are using was created. It is often easier to use a revised version of legislation from a commercial publisher or database provider.

Commercial or independently published versions of legislation in the Library

Independently published print series reproducing legislation include Current Law Statutes, Scots Statutes Revised and Scots Statutes.

Current Law Statutes

Current Law Statutes comprises annual "bound volumes” and the "Service File”. Between 1949 and 1990 there was a separate Scottish Current Law Statutes Annotated service.

The bound volumes reproduce the original text of:

  • UK Public General Acts from 1948 onwards (1949 onwards for Scottish material);
  • UK Private Acts from 1992 onwards; and
  • Acts of the Scottish Parliament.

Legislation remains unrevised. However, Current Law Statutes is particularly useful because it incorporates annotations, which are not part the Acts' original text. Annotations, written by a subject expert, explain the impact of, and give background to, the text of the Act. Annotations include references to debates on a Bill, reported in Hansard. The text of the Act is in larger type while annotations are in smaller type.

The arrangement of Acts in the annual bound volumes is: UK Public General Acts, UK Private Acts, then Acts of the Scottish Parliament. Acts are then arranged by chapter or asp number.

Bound volumes now include the following information for each year:

  • Alphabetical and Chronological Tables of Statutes;
  • UK and Scottish Commencement Diaries;
  • A Table of Parliamentary Debates; and
  • UK and Scottish Indexes.

The Service File binders contain the current year's Acts. The "Current Awareness” binder contains commencement information as well as statute and SI citators for the current year.

Scots Statutes and Scots Statutes Revised
Student statute collections

Student statute collections concerning a particular area of law collect together relevant UK and Scottish Acts, SIs, SSIs, together with EU legislation and other relevant materials. Examples include Blackstone's Statutes on Company Law or Avizandum Legislation on the Scots Law of Obligations.


'Looseleaf' encyclopaedias for specific areas of law provide relevant revised legislation. As amendments are made, old pages are removed and new updated pages inserted. Scottish examples include The Scottish Planning Encyclopedia. Many works originally published as 'looseleafs' are now available on database services such as Lexis®Library and Westlaw.

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