9

I once heard that it is allowed to kill a scotsman in York, if you do it with a bow and arrow. Apparently there is no danger in this law, since the bow and arrow needed to be made by a no longer existing factory.

But is it really true?

  • 3
    The version I've come across is "In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow". This is quoted on many news sites but a search on the UK Statute Law database does not bring this up. – JoseK Oct 28 '11 at 5:29
5

This is often repeated, but sometimes in reverse: for example this Guardian article from 2007 states the Scotsman must be holding the bow and arrow.

Unlike the Welshman in Chester question, I can't see any acknowledgement by York City Council that there is any historical record of this. But such instructions have often been given during wars and there were many Anglo-Scottish wars, so it is not impossible; such instructions cease to apply once peace is concluded.

  • 4
    Instructions given to whom by whom under what authority? Presumably the relevant law isn't "You may kill a bow-and-arrow-carrying Scotsman.", but something along the lines of killing a person isn't considered murder/manslaughter if they are an armed enemy combatant during a time of war. – Oddthinking Oct 30 '11 at 2:21
  • 1
    Somebody carrying a bow and arrow in public and appearing hostile would probably still be considered a threat to be met with potentially lethal force today, no? A real bow and arrow, as romantic and anachronistic as we might see it today, is still a deadly weapon. – rackandboneman Jan 20 '18 at 10:08
20

This "law" ranked 10th in the search for the UK's 10 stupidest laws widely reported as the result of a 2007 survey

10) In the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow (2%)

The source for most of the laws listed on the survey for 10 stupidest laws is this book: The Strange Laws of Old England [Hardcover] by Nigel Cawthorne as stated in the BBC article

On page 197 the search results (only preview) show as below

And in York, it is said, it is perfectly legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow ..

enter image description here

Whats interesting is that a subsequent amended BBC article of the same 'most ludicrous laws' listed 7 of these and left out this one with the comment.

  • This is an amended version of an earlier story which included several examples of laws from the survey which we have been unable to verify, and these have been removed.

So in summary, this may or may not have been there once upon a time, but now seems to be a local legend rather than a stated law.

It definitely does not appear in the search results of the UK Statute Law database

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .