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System of Education
Scotland has its own separate education system, separate from that of England. The Act of Union guaranteed the rights of the Scottish universities, but more importantly, Scotland became the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general free State education. This began with the Education Act of 1696 and became compulsory for children from the implementation of the Education Act of 1872 onwards.
As a result, for over two hundred years Scotland had a higher percentage of its population educated at primary, secondary and tertiary levels than any other country in Europe. The differences in education have manifested themselves in different ways, but most noticeably in the number of Scots who went on to become leaders in their academic, scientific and literary fields during the 18th and 19th centuries. The politician Jim Wallace stated in October 2004, that Scotland produces the highest number of university and college graduates per head of population than anywhere else in Europe.
School students in Scotland sit Standard Grade exams while students in England sit GCSE (General Certificate of School Education) exams, and then Higher
Grade exams rather than the English A-level (Advanced-level) system. Also, a Scottish university's honours degree takes four years of study as opposed to three in the rest of the UK, the starting point being roughly the same.
There are 21 Higher Education establishments in Scotland, including 13 universities. Four of these universities, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were formed in the 15th century, four more in the 1960s and others more recently. The budget for higher education in 2005 was £1.4 billion, with 56 % coming from the State and the rest from four sources; research contracts, fees from overseas students, intellectual property rights and other commercial activity.
The Law of Scotland is Scots Law (or Scottish Law).
After the Union with England, Scotland retained its unique legal system. The Scottish system is based on a unique combination of Roman civil law, English-inspired common law and native custom. Unlike most civil law jurisdictions, Scots law is uncodified, that is, it is not systematically arranged into a codex.
The Scots Legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal with no possibility of retrial. The third verdict resulted from historical accident, in that there was a practice at one point of leaving the jury to determine factual issues one-by-one as "proven" or "not proven". It was then left to the judge to pronounce upon the facts found "proven" and whether this was sufficient to establish guilt of the crime charged. Today the jury decides this question after legal advice from the judge, but the "not proven" verdict lives on. The "not proven" verdict is often taken by juries and the media as meaning "we know he did it but there isn't enough proof".
The country is divided into six sheriffdoms, each with a sheriff principal (chief judge) and a varying number of sheriffs.
Scottish Criminal Law is contained within Scotland but Civil Law has an ultimate court of appeal in England.
The English legal system divides lawyers into a basic hierarchy of multiple QC (Queen's Counsel), Barristers and Solicitors. The Scots system however has a single Lord Advocate and a single Solicitor General, Advocates and Solicitors. There is also an Advocate General to represent the United Kingdom.
The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland are the Scottish Executive's law officers, charged with representing the Executive in court cases. The Lord Advocate also serves as Scotland's public prosecutor. Both are appointed by the British monarch on the recommendation of the First Minister and with the approval of the Scottish Parliament.
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