Signing powers for councillors: guidance

Information for elected members of local authorities about their signing powers, which came into force on 10 December 2007.


This manual is intended to assist Councillors in the performance of their new signing duties. The manual draws heavily on the manual "Guidance Notes On Signing Duties For Justices of the Peace In Scotland" that was prepared by the District Courts Association in 2003.

From the 10th December 2007 Members of Local Authorities, Councillors, may undertake some of the signing duties undertaken by Justices of the Peace. This is a consequence of subsections 76(2), (3), (5) and (6) of the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform)(Scotland) Act 2007.

These signing functions are the same as those that could previously be performed by a JP who was on the Supplemental List, that is a "Signing Justice", as defined in the Bail, Judicial Appointments, etc. (Scotland) Act 2000. The 2007 Act authorises Councillors to:

  • sign any document for the purpose of authenticating another person's signature;
  • take and authenticate by their signature any written declaration;
  • give a signed certificate of facts within the Councillor's knowledge;
  • give a signed certificate of the Councillor's opinion as to any matter.

When a Councillor exercises their signing functions they must write "Member of a Local Authority" next to their signature for the document to be valid.

  • A Councillor may not administer the oath or affirmation.
  • A Councillor may not take an Affidavit.
  • A Councillor may not grant a Warrant.

A Councillor may not charge a fee for exercising their signing functions.

Acknowledgement is due to Nicola Brown LlB, Sheila Campbell JP, Ron Handley LlB, Phyllis Hands LlB, Eilidh Murray JP, Andrew Lorrain Smith JP, and Alistair Young LlB, my fellow members of the committee of the District Courts Association that wrote the original JPs' Signing Manual, upon which this work is based. I also owe my thanks to Sheriff F.R. Crowe, Director of Judicial Studies, and Alistair Young, Clerk of Court in West Dunbarton District Court, for all their assistance in the preparation of this manual. Responsibility for any errors and omissions is entirely mine.

Ewan Hawthorn, LlB, JP November 2007

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