Mental Health Law in Scotland

There are several pieces of law in Scotland that ensure people with a mental illness, learning disability or related condition get appropriate treatment and have their rights respected, including the Mental Health Act, Adults with Incapacity Act, Criminal Procedure Act, and Adult Support and Protection.

The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 applies to people who have a mental illness, learning disability or related condition. Due to their condition, sometimes people are unwilling or unable to agree to appropriate treatment. The Mental Health Act seeks to protect and care for people by setting out when and how people can be treated, when people can be treated or taken into hospital against their will, and what people's rights are and how these rights are protected. 

In June this year, the majority of Parts 1 and 2 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 2015 came into force. These make changes to the 2003 Act. For more information, see the complete guide to the Act here:

Principles of the Act

The 10 principles of good mental health care and treatment have been set out in law. In order to practice good mental health care, mental health professionals must:

  1. Take your past and present wishes into account
  2. Make sure you get the information and support you need to take part in decisions
  3. Take the views of your carer, named person, guardian or welfare attorney into account
  4. Look at the full range of options for your care
  5. Give you treatment that provides maximum benefit
  6. Take account of your background, beliefs and abilities
  7. Make sure that any restrictions on your freedom should be the 'minimum necessary in the circumstances'
  8. Make sure that you are not being treated less favourably than other patients
  9. Your carers' needs are taken into account and they get the information and support  they need to help them care for you
  10. Take special care of your welfare if you are under 18 years of age

Key Parts of the Mental Health Act

Emergency Detention: On recommendation from a doctor, an emergency detention certificate allows a person to be held in hospital to assess their condition. This detention lasts up to 72 hours and can only include urgent treatment, unless the person consents to other treatments. View the Scottish Government's guide to emergency detention certificates here.

Short Term Detention: A short term detention order allows for a person to be detained in hospital for up to 28 days for assessment and/or treatment. View the Scottish Government's guide to short term detention here.

Compulsory Treatment Orders: A compulsory treatment order (CTO) allows for a person to be treated for their mental illness, subject to certain conditions.  Mental Health Officers must apply to the Mental Health Tribunal for CTO's. Find out more about CTO's from the Mental Welfare Commission from Scotland here.

Independent Advocacy: Under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act, people with learning disabilities and people with a mental illness have a right to independent advocacy. Find out more from the Mental Welfare Commission from Scotland here

Safeguarded Treatment: You can be given medication without your consent in the first two months of your treatment. Treatments with special safeguards from the start include: artificial feeding, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), other treatments that act directly on your brain, medication where the purpose is to reduce sex drive. After two months, you can only continue to have medication if you are capable of consenting and agree to take it, or a designated medical practitioner decides that you should have the treatment. Find out more from the Mental Welfare Commission from Scotland here.


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