UK: Scotland

The Judicial Institute for Scotland

Scots law has its origins in the European civilian law systems, but has gradually developed similarities to the English common law system. Thus comparative lawyers classify Scots law as a mixed legal system.

Background: The Judicial Studies Committee [1997-2012]
Formal judicial training has existed in Scotland since 1997, when the Judicial Studies Committee was set up in order to “promote training for the judiciary both in the Supreme Courts and in the Sheriff Court.”

The Lord President is responsible for all aspects of training for all judges, which includes Senators (judges of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary), Sheriffs (who deal with the majority of civil and criminal court cases in Scotland and sit alone in the sheriff courts around the country), Stipendiary Magistrates (legally qualified solicitors or advocates who sit alone within the Justice of the Peace Court in Glasgow) and Justices of the Peace (lay magistrates who sit with a legally qualified adviser to deal with summary criminal cases).

By virtue of section 2 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 the Lord President is Head of the Scottish Judiciary.

The Judicial Institute [founded 2013]
The Judicial Institute for Scotland was formed on 1st January 2013 and implements the training objectives agreed by the governing body under the overall supervision of the Lord President.  The Hon Lord Malcolm is the Chairman of the governing body of the Judicial Institute, and The Hon Lord Woolman is Vice-Chairman. Operational responsibility for the delivery of training rests with the Director of the Judicial Institute Sheriff A Duff, Deputy Director Sheriff A Cubie and Head of Education Jessica MacDonald.

The Judicial Institute is based in Parliament House, Edinburgh and virtually all training and education takes place in a modern training suite. The guiding philosophy of the Judicial Institute is that judicial training is judge-led, judge-devised and judge-delivered.

The format of the training is largely one-day and two-day courses on specific subjects, including topics such as sentencing, criminal law, family law, European law and private law.  Emphasis is also placed on bench-specific skills, including court and case management. The Judicial Institute has developed specific training modules in relation to domestic abuse; diversity awareness; equal treatment; and judicial ethics in public life.

Work is currently underway to develop a Virtual Learning Environment that will allow judicial office holders to undertake eLearning courses accessible from their own homes or place of work.

Generally, judicial training in Scotland is not mandatory. However, Induction training for newly appointed judicial office holders is compulsory. Judicial Training Determination Number 2011/1 requires each newly appointed judge to undergo a period of at least five days of induction training.

At least three of the days must be undertaken before the new appointee commences bench duties, with the balance of the days, if any, being completed within 12 months from the date of appointment. The training modules include:

  • Judicial Ethics and Conduct
  • Court Management
  • Procedural and Evidential Issues
  • Assessment of Witnesses
  • Judgement Writing
  • Sentencing
  • Social Context, Equal Treatment and Diversity
  • Vulnerable Persons in the Courts

The Judicial Institute is responsible for all aspects of training judicial office-holders including, promoting and updating the identification of the needs of the Scottish Judiciary for education, skills training, IT training, case management training, personal development and personal growth as judges. The Judicial Institute strives to ensure that training is bench specific and that it engenders the highest level of social awareness of cultural, sexual and ethnic diversity. Two places on our Refresher and Skills courses are reserved for guest European Judicial Training Network judges. The Judicial Institute very much values the input of our overseas guests.

The Judicial Studies cemented its links with the National Judicial Institute of Canada in 2010 by the signing of a Partnership Agreement. This agreement symbolises a developing judicial training relationship and it articulates some of the objectives to be achieved by working together and sharing resources and expertise.
The Judicial Institute continues to work closely with colleagues in Canada and will continue the outreach work commenced and developed by the Judicial Studies Committee in order that the Scottish judiciary have access to modern, relevant, practical training and education. 

The Judiciary of Scotland's Judicial Training home page:


  Judicial Institute for Scotland
  Parliament House
  11 Parliament Square
  Edinburgh EH1 1RQ
  Telephone: +44 (0)131 240 6930