Udal law

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Udal law is a near-defunct Norse derived legal system, which is found in Shetland and Orkney, Scotland and in Manx law [1] in the Isle of Man. It is closely related to Odelsrett.


Udal law was codified by the kings Magnus I of Norway "the good" and Magnus VI of Norway "lawmender". The Treaty of Perth transferred the Outer Hebrides and Isle of Man to Scots law while Norse law and rule still applied for Shetland and Orkney.

Scottish Courts have intermittently acknowledged the supremacy of Udal law in property cases up to the present day. Major differences from Scots law include shore ownership rights, important for pipelines and cables.

Udal law generally holds sway in Shetland and Orkney, along with Scots law.


The udal tenant holds without charter by uninterrupted possession on payment to the Crown, the kirk, or a grantee from the Crown of a tribute called scat (Danish: skat, now meaning "tax"), or without such payment, the latter right being more strictly the udal right. They were convertible into feus at the option of the udallers until feu was abolished in 2004.[2]

While in the rest of Britain ownership of land extends only to the high water mark, and the Crown is deemed to own what lies below it, in Orkney and Shetland it extends to the lowest Spring ebb.[3]

See also


  1. Collegium Medievale 8.1 (1995, publ. 1996), 5-49
  2.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Udal". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 556.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Udal law: [1]

Further reading

  • Drever, W.P. Udal Law in the Orkneys and Zetland

External links