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heritable jurisdictions

heritable jurisdictions. In the Scottish legal system before 1747, many of the king's subjects were not under the jurisdiction of royal courts either at local or at central level. Instead, they were answerable to a complex of hereditary or franchise jurisdictions in the hands of the feudal nobility. The basic heritable jurisdiction was the barony, which was universal. Towns could be burghs of barony under a feudal superior. Though there was an appeal from the barony to the royal sheriff court, this was not true of baronies in the regalities. These units, some as small as a town, some like Argyll 500 square miles in extent, were autonomous jurisdictions with their own supreme courts. High treason alone justified royal intervention.

Though resented by the crown, the system provided cheap, quick local justice, as its extensive records show. It was abolished after the 1745 Jacobite rising by the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act of 1747. Compensation was paid. Only baron courts survived though with curtailed powers.

Bruce Philip Lenman

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