Subject: RE: FOI request for Statute Law Database
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 10:03:11 +0100

Dear Mr Irving,

Thank you for your request regarding information on the Statute Law Database (SLD) dated 13 July 2006.

The Statute Law Database is an online resource produced by the Statutory Publications Office which is part of the UK Government, Department of Constitutional Affairs.  The SLD took primary legislation that was in force in 1991 to form the original content of its database and for many years they have been trying to launch an updated system containing consolidated versions of primary legislation which eventually would be available, not just to Government users, but also in some form to the general public. In December 2005 after several years of not being updated, the old SLD was discontinued.

Following an extensive pilot and testing programme (and many technical problems) the new enquiry service for the SLD was launched to government users at the end of May 2006.  In a way this is still a pilot phase of the project as it is still the case that the legislation on this database cannot be guaranteed to be up to date beyond the end of 2001.  My understanding is that the information will continue to be updated to include more recent amendments during the course of 2006, with the hope that a similar SLD enquiry system will be launched to the general public early next year.

Essentially, the Scottish Executive are simply a ‘user’ of the SLD.  It is not a Scottish Executive database and we do not have access to the raw data on the SLD.  We are therefore unable to provide you with the content of the SLD as it is not information held by the Scottish Executive in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  The SLD is the property of the Department of Constitutional Affairs and I would suggest that you might wish to direct your request to that body.  Their address is:

Unfortunately, it has always been the case that there is no free at-the-point-of-access resource providing a comprehensive database of current 'as amended' legislation.  The SLD does hope to redress this situation to some extent in the future.

Other than the SLD there are really only 2 other databases which provide comprehensive access to legislation which is fully amended and up to date.  These are both commercial databases available from the two main legal publishers, one is Westlaw, produced by Sweet and Maxwell, the other is Legislation Direct, produced by LexisNexis/Butterworths.  A huge amount of editorial and technical work is involved in maintaining updated legislation and due to the editorial content and added value on these commercial databases this material is, of course, protected by copyright.  The Scottish Executive provides its lawyers with access to Westlaw.  Legislation Direct is not as useful to lawyers in Scotland due to the gaps in pre-devolution legislation relating to Scotland.

Other sources which can be used to find and update legislation include:

·         The Office of the Public Sector Information website: The website includes copies of as originally enacted Acts of the UK Parliament from 1988 and Statutory Instruments from 1987 and Acts and Scottish Statutory Instruments from the Scottish Parliament from 1999 onwards.  

·         Some legal publishers produce tools called legislation citators which allow you to piece together all of the amendments to an Act or Statutory Instrument to find out what the legislation looks like now.  The main product that does this is a hard copy publication called Current Law Statutes, published by Sweet and Maxwell. 

·         A hard copy multi-volume work, published by LexisNexis/Butterworths provides as amended versions of Statutes and Statutory Instruments (although not pre-devolution Scottish legislation) called Halsbury's Statutes and Halsbury's Statutory Instruments

·         Legal textbooks sometimes include current versions of legislation which are appropriate to the content of the book. 

These hard copy works might be found in a large central public reference library, or a Librarian at such a library may be able to advise where you might be able to access copies of these reference works.

Alternatively, if it is a particular area of law you are interested in, a Solicitor, or perhaps the Citizens Advice Bureau, may be able to advise on the current status of legislation in this area.

I hope that this information is of some assistance. If you are unhappy with this response to your request, you may ask us to carry out an internal review, by writing to Robert Gordon, Head of Legal and Parliamentary Services, St. Andrews House, Regent Road, Edinburgh, EH1 3DG. Your request should explain why you wish a review to be carried out, and should be made within 40 working days of receipt of this letter, and we will reply within 20 working days of receipt. If you are not satisfied with the result of the review, you then have the right to make a formal complaint to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Many thanks

Helen Robinson
Assistant Librarian
Solicitors Legal Information Centre
Scottish Executive
Victoria Quay
Tel: 0131 244 0306
Fax: 0131 244 7417