Judicial Independence

What is it and why is it so important?

Parliament HallClick to enlarge image

The independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of a democratic society and a safeguard for the freedom and rights of the citizen under the rule of law. It means that judges should be free to make impartial decisions based solely on fact and law, without interference, pressure or influence from the state. In Scotland, the principle was emphasised as long ago as 1599   when the Lord President of the Court of Session declared that the judges were independent of the king, “sworn to do justice according to our conscience”.

 Judicial independence is protected in several ways:

  • freedom from interference, influence or pressure from the  State through separation from government and parliament, which may be involved in disputes heard by the judge;
  • restrictions on removal from office – for instance, a full-time, salaried judge can only be removed before retiring at 70 if unfit for office because of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour; and
  • immunity from being sued or prosecuted for work carried out as a judge.

 To uphold their independence, judges should act with impartiality and integrity. When they are sworn in, judges take the judicial oath: “I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

 The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 enshrined judicial independence in law. It introduced a duty on Scottish ministers, the Lord Advocate and MSPs to uphold the continued independence of the judiciary, barring them from trying to exert influence through any special access to judges.  Read more

Lord Summers installed as a Senator of the College of Justice

Tuesday, 25 April, 2017

Alan Summers QC has been installed as a Senator of the College of Justice, taking his place on the bench with the judicial title, Lord Summers.

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Office of Sheriff recruitment 2017

Monday, 24 April, 2017

The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland invites applications from suitably qualified individuals who wish to be considered for appointment to the office of Sheriff.

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New sheriffs appointed at Oban and Fort William

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

Patrick Hughes and Eilidh MacDonald have been appointed to the office of sheriff by Her Majesty the Queen, the Scottish Ministers have announced.

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Queen's Counsel 2017

Friday, 10 March, 2017

The Lord Justice General invites applications by advocates and solicitor advocates seeking recommendation for appointment as Queen’s Counsel in Scotland.

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UK Supreme Court to sit in Scotland

Wednesday, 1 March, 2017

The UK Supreme Court will sit in Edinburgh later this year, the first time that the UK's highest court has sat outside London.

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