The udal tenant holds without charter by uninterrupted possession on payment to the Crown, the kirk, or a grantee from the Crown of a tribute called scat, or without such payment, the latter right being more strictly the udal right. Udal lands descend to all the children equally. They are convertible into feus at the option of the udallers.
The law code is mainly based on old Norse law and medieval Norwegian law, with some extremely minor influence from Celtic Law codes.
In more recent times, it has largely been absorbed into/replaced by Scots Law, although just to what extent is a matter of controversy. Because it is a medieval law code, it tends to deal with the conditions that people lived in before Shetland was annexed to Scotland. More modern concerns such as copyright, electronic property, gay rights, race equality don't come under it.
In addition to Scots Law operating in Shetland, British Laws have also been enacted. These are generally based on/inspired by English law, and don't necessarily take account of either pre-existing code. A third layer, that of European law, is supposed to supersede all of the above, and applies to the likes of fisheries, agriculture, import/export and employment rights.
- Crofting (Shetland style), scattald and other agricultural matters.
- Allodial title and land ownership.
- Legal representation.
- Use of the foreshore.
Unlike the rest of the UK, swans are not legally the British Queen's property in Orkney and Shetland.
In addition to Orkney, with which Shetland is closely associated, Udal Law is related to various Nordic law systems.
The name derives from óðal, which means a variety of things, including "homeland," "inherited goods," and "distinguished family". It is also associated with the Odal Rune, which is popular with Neo-Nazis and neo-Norse pagans.
- Drever, W.P. Udal Law in the Orkneys and Zetland
- Linklater, Eileen, 2002, Udal law – Past, present and future?, Dissertation, University of Strathclyde.