For many outside the UK, Scotland is simply part of it, although it's probably not a good idea to say that to a Scotsman. The reality is that in spite of the Act of Union
of 1707, Scotland is a separate country with its own unique traditions such as the Loch Ness Monster
, Scotch whisky, Al Stewart
(sort of), haggis, and of course the kilt with its associated tartans.
Lesser known is the fact that Scotland also has its unique system
of criminal justice. How many people sit on a jury? In the UK as in the US, it is 12. In Scotland it is 15, so there are no hung juries. Also, in the UK and US, when a jury reaches a verdict, it may answer guilty or not guilty. In Scotland there is a third verdict, not proven. And, before a jury can convict, it must be shown corroboration. This does not mean, necessarily, there must be two witnesses to a crime; corroboration can mean for example CCTV, or physical evidence.
As with many legal safeguards, this has come under attack from the enemies of freedom - including last October at the High Court
in Edinburgh, when it was rejected.
The police are usually enthusiastic proponents of attacks on individual liberty, but even they sided with the judges on this one.
Alas, such attacks are as ever unremitting, and this morning in addition to the topical Boston bombing and the forthcoming funeral of Margaret Thatcher
, the subject was given space on the BBC's Breakfast
One group who would like to see the corroboration rule scrapped are so-called anti-rape campaigners. Fortunately, we have not yet reached the situation in either England or Scotland where a man can be convicted of so heinous a crime just because a woman says so, as clearly Landen Gambill
supporters would like, but as the man said: "Eternal vigilance..."