Scotland is an ancient country boasting breathtaking landscapes, having been home to human inhabitants since around 12,000 BC. As a social species, we tend to live in groups, leading to the formation of society and the concept of laws. As most can imagine, life used to be much different back in the day than it is in the modern day, yet some of the ancient laws have remained present to this day. So, let’s have a look at some of the weird Scottish laws that are present in Scotland today, even though a lot of them are not being enforced anymore.
1. You can’t sing on a train
While most train operators will allow that late-night singalong on our way back from a night out (or a day out, cause we’re old), it is, in fact, illegal to sing on a train in Scotland. So, next time you’re being telt to stop the singing, just wait until you get off.
2. You can use anyone’s toilet at any time
This one’s a wee bit problematic, for obvious reasons. According to ancient Scottish law, you must let anyone use your toilet if they ask, even if it’s the middle of the night. However, this law has now become an urban myth, as it is not actually enforced anymore with people having the right to privacy, as well as letting a stranger into one’s home posing a risk in itself.
3. You can’t be drunk and in charge of a cow
According to the Licensing Act 1872, the mid-19th century in Scotland saw its peak in alcoholism. Causing great harm to society, strict alcohol licensing had to be introduced, as well as new offences were created. So, to bring the problem under control, people could no longer be drunk while in charge of cattle, carriages, horses or firearms, resulting in a prison sentence of up to 51 weeks.
4. You can’t be drunk and in charge of a child
Similarly, Scots were not allowed to be in charge of a child under seven while drunk. The laws paint a grim picture of everyday life during the Edwardian era. Plus, the “Drunk and Incapable” (D&I) arrests continued well into the 1970s for people’s own protection rather than as an offence.
5. You can’t be drunk in a pub
A further example of the Licensing Act 1872, people were not allowed to be drunk in a pub. While one might think it’s exactly the place to be drunk at, it was also the place with the most violence. The law states: “Every person found drunk… on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty”, and people could still get fined £200 for the offence to this day.
6. You can’t gamble in a library
When it comes to weird Scottish laws, there’s a whole Library Offences Act 1898. Having since been repealed, the act prohibited gambling in libraries, as well as abusive or obscene language.
7. You can’t fish for salmon on Sundays
For those who wish to head out to a nearby river to catch some sweet salmon this Sunday, you should probably reconsider. It is illegal to fish for salmon on Sundays in Scotland. What is more, if you catch a salmon and don’t want to eat it yourself, you must release it back into the water as it’s also illegal to sell it without a license.
8. Pre-teen boys cannot see a naked mannequin
Most of us have seen nude mannequins in our lives as they are waiting to get dressed in the latest fashion. However, there was an ancient Scots law prohibiting boys under the age of 10 from seeing a naked mannequin. However, the Scottish Law Commission has since confirmed it was never an actual law, instead, an urban myth.
9. You can’t draw on banknotes
Banknotes have their own 1928 Banknotes Act, stating it is illegal to draw, stamp or print on an official banknote. Thankfully, it’s a wee bit difficult to draw on the plastic banknotes nowadays.
10. The whale’s head belongs to the king and the tail to the queen
Thankfully, whales are now a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Whaling also completely ended in Scotland in 1963, but still remains an active industry in Iceland, Norway and Japan. However, if a whale has washed up on shore, the king owns its head and the queen its tail. This law is also used with sturgeons caught in Scottish waters.