Prescription Bill passed

More clarity for creditors and debtors in terms of legal claims.

The laws that determine when an individual’s legal rights and obligations are extinguished if not acted upon have been reformed, following legislation passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament.

The Prescription Bill will increase clarity, certainty and fairness for those in dispute over particular rights and obligations – such as when under a contract.

Negative prescription establishes time-limits for when certain obligations and rights end. If the time-limit is missed, the right is lost so cannot be enforced.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said:

“Negative prescription plays an important role in balancing individual interests, between creditors and debtors. It also serves the public interest in legal certainty by having claims raised promptly. Reform is needed to remove grey areas in the law, such as contention regarding the date the prescription clock starts ticking.

“This new legislation supports our determination to modernise civil law so it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. These changes will increase clarity, certainty and fairness, and benefit persons or bodies in resolving disputes.”


Time limits are essential in any legal system. Prescription and limitation are the means by which Scots law gives them effect.

The bill implements recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission’s Report on Prescription published in July 2017 , which highlighted legal issues around negative prescription that can lead to unnecessary inconvenience and expense.


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