Scottish Law Commission

The Scottish Law Commission is an advisory non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. It was established in 1965 to keep Scots law under review and recommend necessary reforms to improve, simplify and update the country’s legal system. It was established by the Law Commissions Act 1965 (as amended) at the same time as the Law Commission in England and Wales.[1]

Scottish Law Commission
Scottish Law Commission logo
Agency overview
Formed1965 (1965)
Typeadvisory non-departmental public body
Headquarters140 Causewayside. Edinburgh EH9 1PR
Motto"Promoting law reform"
Minister responsible
Agency executives
Parent departmentJustice Directorate of the Scottish Government
Key document
Scotland in the UK and Europe

Appointments are ordinarily made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland's Code of Practice.

The commission is part of the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies.


The Commission exists to keep Scots law under review and recommend reform as needed. The Commission's scope encompasses devolved and reserved matters, as defined by the Scotland Act 1998 and as such has duty for laws that are the responsibility of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, as well as those that are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.[2]


The Commission consists of 5 Commissioners appointed by the Scottish Ministers.[3] One of the Commissioners is the Chairman who by convention is a Senator of the College of Justice. The other Commissioners are drawn from those holding judicial office, advocates, solicitors or university law teachers. Commissioners are appointed for a maximum term of 5 years with the possibility of re-appointment. The current Commissioners are as follows:

  1. The Rt Hon Lady Paton[4] (Chair)
  2. Catherine Dowdalls QC
  3. Caroline Drummond
  4. David Johnston QC
  5. Dr Frankie McCarthy

The Commissioners are supported by the Chief Executive of the Commission, Mr Malcolm McMillan, and by both legal and non-legal staff. All permanent staff are seconded from the Scottish Government.


The past and current Chairs are as follows:[5]


  1. "Law Commissions Act 1965". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  2. "About us: What we do". Scottish Law Commission. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  3. "About us: Who we are". Scottish Law Commission. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  4. Lady Paton appointed as Chair of the Scottish Law Commission, Scottish Law Commission website, 19 Dec 2018.
  5. Lord Hope of Craighead. "Do We Still Need a Scottish Law Commission?". Retrieved 23 December 2017.

Further reading

Stark, Shona Wilson (2014). "The Longer You Can Look Back, The Further You Can Look Forward: The Origins of the Scottish Law Commission". Edinburgh Law Review. 18 (1): 59–83. doi:10.3366/elr.2014.0187.

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