Scotland maintains a separate legal system called Scots law since the 1707 Act of Union. It has distinct rules and procedures compared to the legal systems in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Legislation affecting Scotland can be passed by either the Scottish Parliament or the UK Parliament, and European law has also influenced Scots law.
In terms of the legal profession, advocates in Scotland are equivalent to barristers in England, while solicitors are members of the Law Society of Scotland, representing clients in various legal matters. The Court of Session and High Court serve as the highest courts. Police Scotland is the largest territorial police force in the UK, formed by merging eight regional forces in 2013.
Powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament:
As outlined above, these include:
- Courts: both civil and criminal justice & law/procedure, and the legal profession.
- Policing: The Scottish Parliament has powers to legislate on policing, including creating laws, governing police structure and funding, promoting community policing, establishing police oversight mechanisms, and shaping aspects of the criminal justice system. However, certain areas, such as national security and counterterrorism, remain under the authority of the UK Parliament.
- Debt & bankruptcy: It can establish laws and regulations regarding debt management, debt collection practices, insolvency procedures, and personal bankruptcy. The Parliament has the authority to shape the legal framework and provide protections for individuals and businesses dealing with debts and bankruptcy matters.
- Family law: regulate marriage, divorce, child welfare, domestic violence, dispute resolution, and family financial matters within Scotland.
- Legal aid: it is the provision of legal assistance to individuals who cannot afford it. The Parliament can establish the eligibility criteria for legal aid, determine the types of cases covered, set the funding levels, and regulate the provision of legal aid services. It can also shape the policies and guidelines for administering legal aid in Scotland.
- Property law: The Scottish Parliament has powers in property law, including land registration, property rights, land use planning, housing regulations, compulsory purchase, and tenement laws. It can legislate on these matters and establish rules and procedures governing land and property in Scotland.
Powers reserved by the UK Parliament:
Obviously, the actual making of the legislation in reserved policy areas happens at Westminster. In addition, processes for seeking justice in some of these areas are UK-wide, including on most aspects of equality legislation; consumer protection; employment law and industrial relations; immigration, asylum and visas.
What Graeme can do:
- Direct constituents facing legal issues to sources of proper legal advice and support, such as Citizen’s Advice or ACAS for example.
- Raise law and order concerns, such as antisocial behaviour or speeding, with Police Scotland’s Angus Area Commander.
- Enquire with police as to the status of a constituent’s individual case, or chase updates where a constituent may have concerns about the level of communication on their case.
What Graeme cannot do:
- MSPs are not able to provide constituents with legal advice themselves.
- Graeme cannot directly organise legal aid for constituents, nor intervene in court or tribunal proceedings or decisions.
- Similarly, Graeme cannot interfere in police process.