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Scots law has a basis derived from Roman law, combining features of both uncodified civil law, dating back to the Corpus Juris Civilis, and common law with medieval sources. The terms of the Treaty of Union with England in 1707 guaranteed the continued existence of a separate legal system in Scotland from that of England and Wales. Prior to 1611, there were several regional law systems in Scotland, most notably Udal law in Orkney and Shetland, based on old Norse law. Various other systems derived from common Celtic or Brehon laws survived in the Highlands until the 1800s.
Scots law provides for three types of courts responsible for the administration of justice: civil, criminal and heraldic. The supreme civil court is the Court of Session, although civil appeals can be taken to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (or before 1 October 2009, the House of Lords). The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court in Scotland. The Court of Session is housed at Parliament House, in Edinburgh, which was the home of the pre-Union Parliament of Scotland with the High Court of Justiciary and the Supreme Court of Appeal currently located at the Lawnmarket. The sheriff court is the main criminal and civil court, hearing most cases. There are 49 sheriff courts throughout the country. District courts were introduced in 1975 for minor offences and small claims. These were gradually replaced by Justice of the Peace Courts from 2008 to 2010. The Court of the Lord Lyon regulates heraldry.
For many decades the Scots legal system was unique for being the only legal system without a parliament. This ended with the advent of the Scottish Parliament, which legislates for Scotland. Many features within the system have been preserved. Within criminal law, the Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal, typically with no possibility of retrial in accordance with the rule of double jeopardy. There is however the possibility of a retrial where new evidence emerges at a later date that might have proven conclusive in the earlier trial at first instance, where the person acquitted subsequently admits the offence or where it can be proved that the acquittal was tainted by an attempt to pervert the course of justice – see the provisions of the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011. Many laws differ between Scotland and the other parts of the United Kingdom, and many terms differ for certain legal concepts. Manslaughter, in England and Wales, is broadly similar to culpable homicide in Scotland, and arson is called wilful fire raising. Indeed, some acts considered crimes in England and Wales, such as forgery, are not so in Scotland. Procedure also differs. Scots juries, sitting in criminal cases, consist of fifteen jurors, which is three more than is typical in many countries.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) manages the prisons in Scotland, which collectively house over 8,500 prisoners. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is responsible for the Scottish Prison Service within the Scottish Government.
Health care in Scotland is mainly provided by NHS Scotland, Scotland's public health care system. This was founded by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 (later repealed by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978) that took effect on 5 July 1948 to coincide with the launch of the NHS in England and Wales. However, even prior to 1948, half of Scotland's landmass was already covered by state-funded health care, provided by the Highlands and Islands Medical Service. Healthcare policy and funding is the responsibility of the Scottish Government's Health Directorates. The current Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport is Shona Robison and the Director-General (DG) Health and chief executive, NHS Scotland is Paul Gray.
In 2008, the NHS in Scotland had around 158,000 staff including more than 47,500 nurses, midwives and health visitors and over 3,800 consultants. There are also more than 12,000 doctors, family practitioners and allied health professionals, including dentists, opticians and community pharmacists, who operate as independent contractors providing a range of services within the NHS in return for fees and allowances. These fees and allowances were removed in May 2010, and prescriptions are entirely free, although dentists and opticians may charge if the patient's household earns over a certain amount, about £30,000 per annum.
The Economy of Scotland had an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of up to £152 billion in 2015. In 2014, Scotland's per capita GDP was one of the highest in the EU. Scotland has a Western-style open mixed economy closely linked with the rest of the UK and the wider world. Traditionally, the Scottish economy has been dominated by heavy industry underpinned by shipbuilding in Glasgow, coal mining and steel industries. Petroleum related industries associated with the extraction of North Sea oil have also been important employers from the 1970s, especially in the north-east of Scotland.
In February 2012, the Centre for Economics and Business Research concluded that "Scotland receives no net subsidy" from the UK, as greater per capita tax generation in Scotland balanced out greater per capita public spending. More recent data, from 2012–13, show that Scotland generated 9.1% (£53.1bn; this included a geographical share of North Sea oil revenue – without it, the figures were 8.2% and £47.6bn) of the UK's tax revenues and received 9.3% (£65.2bn) of spending. Scotland's public spending deficit in 2012–13 was £12bn, a £3.5bn increase on the previous year; over the same period, the UK's deficit decreased by £2.6bn. Over the past thirty years, Scotland contributed a relative budget surplus of almost £20billion to the UK economy.
In the final quarter of 2016, the Scottish economy contracted by 0.2%; the UK as a whole grew by 0.7% in the same period. As of September 2015, the Scottish unemployment rate of 5.9% was above the UK rate of 5.5%, while the Scottish employment rate of 74.0% was higher than the UK figure of 73.5%. De-industrialisation during the 1970s and 1980s saw a shift from a manufacturing focus towards a more service-oriented economy.
Edinburgh is the financial services centre of Scotland, with many large finance firms based there, including: Lloyds Banking Group (owners of HBOS); the Government owned Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life. Edinburgh was ranked 15th in the list of world financial centres in 2007, but fell to 37th in 2012, following damage to its reputation, and in 2016 was ranked 56th out of 86.
In 2014, total Scottish exports (excluding intra-UK trade) were estimated to be £27.5 billion. Scotland's primary exports include whisky, electronics and financial services. The United States, Netherlands, Germany, France and Norway constitute the country's major export markets. Scotland's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), including oil and gas produced in Scottish waters, was estimated at £150 billion for the calendar year 2012. If Scotland became independent, it would hold 95% of the UK's current oil and gas reserves if they were split geographically using a median line from the English-Scottish border. If the reserves were split by population, that figure would be reduced to 9%.
Whisky is one of Scotland's more known goods of economic activity. Exports increased by 87% in the decade to 2012 and were valued at £4.3 billion in 2013, which was 85% of Scotland's food and drink exports. It supports around 10,000 jobs directly and 25,000 indirectly. It may contribute £400–682 million to Scotland, rather than several billion pounds, as more than 80% of whisky produced is owned by non-Scottish companies.
A briefing published in 2002 by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) for the Scottish Parliament's Enterprise and Life Long Learning Committee stated that tourism accounted for up to 5% of GDP and 7.5% of employment.
Although the Bank of England is the central bank for the UK, three Scottish clearing banks issue Sterling banknotes: the Bank of Scotland; the Royal Bank of Scotland; and the Clydesdale Bank. The value of the Scottish banknotes in circulation in 2013 was £3.8 billion; underwritten by the Bank of England using funds deposited by each clearing bank, under the Banking Act, (2009), in order to cover the total value of such notes in circulation.
Of the money spent on UK defence, about £3.3 billion can be attributed to Scotland as of 2013. Although Scotland has a long military tradition predating the Treaty of Union with England, its armed forces now form part of the British Armed Forces, with the exception of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe's only legal private army. In 2006, the infantry regiments of the Scottish Division were amalgamated to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Other distinctively Scottish regiments in the British Army include the Scots Guards, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the 154 (Scottish) Regiment RLC, an Army Reserve Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps.
Because of their topography and perceived remoteness, parts of Scotland have housed many sensitive defence establishments. Between 1960 and 1991, the Holy Loch was a base for the US fleet of Polaris ballistic missile submarines. Today, Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, 25 miles (40 kilometres) north-west of Glasgow, is the base for the four Trident-armed Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines that comprise the UK's nuclear deterrent. Scapa Flow was the major Fleet base for the Royal Navy until 1956.
A single front-line Royal Air Force base is located in Scotland. RAF Lossiemouth, located in Moray, is the most northerly air defence fighter base in the United Kingdom and is home to three fast-jet squadrons equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Scottish education system is distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom. The Curriculum for Excellence, Scotland's national school curriculum, provides the curricular framework for children and young people from age 3 to 18. All 3- and 4-year-old children in Scotland are entitled to a free nursery place. Formal primary education begins at approximately 5 years old and lasts for 7 years (P1–P7); children in Scotland study Standard Grades, or Intermediate qualifications between the ages of 14 and 16. These are being phased out and replaced by the National Qualifications of the Curriculum for Excellence. The school leaving age is 16, after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Access, Intermediate or Higher Grade and Advanced Higher qualifications. A small number of students at certain private, independent schools may follow the English system and study towards GCSEs and A and AS-Levels instead.
There are fifteen Scottish universities, some of which are amongst the oldest in the world. These include the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh—many of which are ranked amongst the best in the UK. Proportionally, Scotland had more universities in QS' World University Rankings' top 100 in 2012 than any other nation. The country produces 1% of the world's published research with less than 0.1% of the world's population, and higher education institutions account for 9% of Scotland's service sector exports. Scotland's University Courts are the only bodies in Scotland authorised to award degrees.
Tuition is handled by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), which does not charge fees to what it defines as "Young Students". Young Students are defined as those under 25, without children, marriage, civil partnership or cohabiting partner, who have not been outside of full-time education for more than three years. Fees exist for those outside the young student definition, typically from £1,200 to £1,800 for undergraduate courses, dependent on year of application and type of qualification. Postgraduate fees can be up to £3,400. The system has been in place since 2007 when graduate endowments were abolished. Labour's education spokesperson Rhona Brankin criticised the Scottish system for failing to address student poverty. Scotland has fewer disadvantaged students than England, Wales or Northern Ireland and disadvantaged students receive around £560 a year less in financial support than their counterparts in England do.
Scotland's universities are complemented in the provision of Further and Higher Education by 43 Colleges. Colleges offer National Certificates, Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas. These Group Awards, alongside Scottish Vocational Qualifications, aim to ensure Scotland's population has the appropriate skills and knowledge to meet workplace needs. In 2014, research reported by the Office for National Statistics found that Scotland was the most highly educated country in Europe and among the most well-educated in the world in terms of tertiary education attainment, with roughly 40% of people in Scotland aged 16–64 educated to NVQ level 4 and above. Based on the original data for EU statistical regions, all four Scottish regions ranked significantly above the European average for completion of tertiary-level education by 25- to 64-year-olds.