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The Bible and Scots Law

Solas is delighted to release the 5th edition of The Solas Papers. This contribution is made by Solas board member Catriona Walker, who is a solicitor living in Aberdeenshire and working in the charity law sector.

At one time Scotland was known as the land of the Book. It was said to have the highest literacy rate in Europe with evident results in philosophy, theology, law, science, engineering and medicine. Voltaire wrote, “lt is to Scotland that we must look for all our ideas of civilisation.”

Why should this have been so? Is there a connection between a national respect for the Bible, a high literacy rate and an advanced civilisation? Did one flow from the other or did these features of the Scottish identity develop independently?

The effect of the Bible on education is well documented and recognised by all who take an unbiased view of history.David Robertson has written of how Scotland was once known as “the land of the people of the book, and exported engineers, military leaders, politicians, doctors, teachers and missionaries all over the world. And it was not just Scotland – everywhere Christianity… brought education. The Reformation resulted in the establishment of universities and schools wherever it was successful” (Solas Magazine Winter 2015/16, p.19).

What is possibly not so frequently recognised in the influence of the Bible on the law of Scotland, and the purpose of this Solas Paper is to examine the roots of the Scottish legal system, and to consider the laws which are still part of Scottish criminal law which owe their origin to the Bible.

Download the full paper here.