Scots Law on Mental Health

I’m off to Scotland on Monday and half hoping the weather warnings we’re just hearing about might mean I get stuck there! I’m originally from the very north of England so a lot of my childhood memories involve holidays and short trips to Scotland – I’ve always loved the place and especially the people. At university I spent two summers playing bass in shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and have some great memories from that, as you might imagine! Living in the Midlands, I’m able to go there very rarely so I was thrilled to be invited to support work that Police Scotland are doing on early intervention, mental health and criminal justice and I’m looking forward to going again in March to do a presentation at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Forensic Psychiatry conference in Glasgow.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time reading … mainly Scots Law on mental health and capacity; and I admit I have my eye on a book I will buy to learn much more if this work continues beyond next week. But this post is a fairly short one: aiming to provide a load of hyperlinks to various legal instruments and other mental health websites that people may find useful, including police officers in Scotland. I just kept a list of the ones I was looking up as I did my background prep and thought you may also make use of them?


A very good website for all things mental health in Scotland is that of the Mental Welfare Commission – the Commission is the statutory regulator for Scotland and ensures the law is being adhered to through visits, inspection and investigation. Their website includes easy-to-understand guides to the mental health system and mental health law as well as containing links to other resources and websites. In particular, I’d encourage those who want to know more to click ‘the law‘ on the top toolbar of the Commission’s website which opens up links to the Mental Health Act 2003, the Adults with Incapacity Act 2000 and the Criminal Procedure Act 1995. Each of the links to those pieces of legislation has easy to understand summaries of the most important provisions.

It is also worth looking at the Scottish Asssociation for Mental Health, the leading mental health charity in Scotland – again, loads of resources on their website for all those interested in, affected by or working in connection with the mental health sector. There is a load of useful stuff on there and it’s worth taking a look.

If you want to read the source material directly for yourself, go to the main legislative instruments for Scotland on mental health and capacity law, as well as the criminal justice system. They are –


As always, there are various police powers under mental health law that police officers should know about and officers.should also make sure they are aware of the psychiatric emergency plan for their area, which is issued under the MHA Code of Practice (vol 1). An example of a PEP from Dumfries and Galloway is a useful document to read – I’m assuming at this stage that such documents are supposed to exist across Scotland, but I’m struggling to find others at the moment. There is also the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy, 2012-2015 which should keep me nicely occupied on the train tomorrow and prevent me getting in to trouble.

Amongst the legal powers of interest and relevance to police officers under the MHA, these are the most significant –

Some years ago, when I first starting writing the BLOG, I wrote some Quick Guides about English / Welsh mental health law. I later adapted them with the assistance of Scottish officers to create Quick Guides on Scots’ mental health and capacity law and I’ve recently been contacted by a few operational officers to say that they find them useful and that they’ve helped make a positive difference at incidents. I’m more than aware that not working with this legislation every day, I may be missing some of the subtleties that need to be considered so I’m more than happy to take feedback about how to improve these, if anyone has ideas? … just leave a comment below or use the email contact sheet on the front page of the BLOG.

I hope this helps as a starter for ten?! – there will be more to follow this, I’m sure.

IMG_0053IMG_0052Awarded the President’s Medal by
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award

7 thoughts on “Scots Law on Mental Health

  1. Hi Michael
    I enjoy reading your posts. I’m not sure if you are aware but there is a small but enthusiastic and dedicated team in Police Scotland who work on this particular area. It might be mutually beneficial for you to link up going forwards.
    Kindest regards

    1. Sounds like a proper plan to me! – do you have any of their contact email addresses? I’m hearing to Tulliallan tomorrow morning and there until Wednesday – it’s a Glasgow based Superintendent who has invited me up: Thom McCLOUGHLIN?

  2. Hi
    Of course. I am at the college myself tomorrow but on a separate matter. I know of the Supt when we both previously worked at Tulliallan. If you can give me your work email I’ll send our contact details tomorrow morning.

  3. Great. I’m out of the office next couple of days but will try to send you an email. We have been working on an awful lot mental health related, I’d be surprised if Supt didn’t know about it. I’ll get our MH Lead to get in touch with him directly. Will be in touch.

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