The Scottish legal system is unique in its mix of European civil law traditions and the common law tradition of England. For instance, Scots family law allows wedding ceremonies performed under unconventional belief systems.
After you have mastered the Scottish dialect, gotten used to the weather and are developing a taste for single malt and haggis, you could still be on the wrong side of the law if you're north of Hadrian's Wall.
Scots law – never called Scottish, apparently – is different than the legal system in the rest of Britain, Canada or anywhere else. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing.
It depends on whether you want to marry someone in an extraterrestrial ceremony, look for legal insights from philosophers instead of judges or want to keep it a bit vague whether or not you committed a crime.
Great Scott! Confused? Obviously you're not a Scot.
"Scotland's legal system is a hybrid system," says Colin Lilburn, 26, a law student in the graduate program at the University of Glasgow, whose campus courtyard doubled for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.
"It mixes the civil law traditions of continental Europe with the common law tradition of England. Similar systems exist in South Africa and Louisiana [and Quebec, which has its own Civil Code]," explains Mr. Lilburn., 26, who hails from Dundee in the Scottish Lowlands.
Common law is the system in which courts look at earlier cases to apply to current situations and laws. Civil law systems, which date back to ancient Rome, are based on a written code of rules, which judges apply to the facts they hear in court.
"There are similarities, but we retain a distinctiveness, in our court structure, etiquette and legal language," Mr. Lilburn says.
For example, in Canadian and English law, it's called a tort when you do something to someone that's wrong but not quite a crime, such as shoving them or trespassing. In Scotland it has a different name: Delict. Lawyers in Scotland are called advocates – the great Sir Walter Scott was one. When you go to court for lower-level crimes and lawsuits, you don't tell the judge your story – you talk to the Sheriff.
No Twelve Angry Men
The jury system is different, too. Remember the movie Twelve Angry Men? Well, there are 15 men and women on a Scottish jury – regardless of whether or not they're angry.
The jurors who reach a verdict have three, not two, possible verdicts – guilty, not guilty or "not proven."
The three-verdict system stems from the 18th century. Apparently a jury back then wanted to emphasize that a particular person was so innocent that he was "not guilty" and the phrase stuck.
Today "not proven" has the same legal effect of not guilty but is often believed to be used in cases where it's suspected the accused really did the crime but there's just not enough evidence to throw the book at him or her. Some people in Scotland refer to this third option as "not guilty and don't do it again."
Speaking of throwing the book, in Scots law, courts can take guidance when they make decisions from the works of specified academic authors, known as institutional writers.
These books are not exactly page-turners. The accepted institutional writers' list includes the Viscount of Stair's 1681 Institutions of the Law of Scotland and a juicy tome called Jus Feudale, from 1603.
Family law is different in Scotland than in the rest of Britain, too. "In divorce cases, there's a stronger emphasis on achieving a clean financial break," Mr. Lilburn says. The system concentrates more on what resources each person needs to start over, rather than who gets the oil paintings or the silver spoons.
Same-sex marriage ... even between clans
Today, it's not only possible for a MacDonald and a Campbell to marry, putting to rest the feud that reached its climax during the 1692 Glencoe Massacre. "It's possible for a MacDonald and Campbell to have a same-sex marriage, too," Mr. Lilburn says.
As in the rest of Britain, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2014, but the Scots are proud that they began allowing civil unions a full decade earlier.
Scots family law also allows wedding ceremonies performed under unconventional belief systems. This might come in handy, given that in the 2001 census 14,052 Scots identified their religion as "Jedi order" – the Force be with them.
The Scots law system has become more complicated in recent years as more powers have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and after Scots voted in a referendum on independence in 2014. They rejected independence, but separatist sentiment is still strong, and to make matters even more complex, all of Britain is voting on June 23 on whether to remain in the European Union.
It's enough to drive anyone to drink. But if you do, be careful – you'll want to make sure the glass you raise complies with the Scotch Whiskey Regulations of 2009.