David Sellar is a graduate of the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh in history and law respectively. He qualified as a solicitor in 1966. After two years with the Scottish Land Court, he joined the Faculty of Law at the University of Edinburgh where he is now an honorary fellow. His main interests lie in Scots law and Scottish history, including legal history and family history. He is joint author of the Saltire Society's Scottish Legal Tradition (1991) and has written on the history of various branches of Scots law, including marriage, divorce, incest, homicide and unjust enrichment. He has published on the Lordship of the Isles and on the origins of many Highland families, including the Campbells, MacDonalds, MacDougalls, MacLeods, Lamonts, MacLachlans, MacNeills and Nicolsons. He was O’Donnell Lecturer (in Celtic studies) at Edinburgh in 1985, and a Rhind Lecturer in 2000. He has been a Member of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland, Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Literary Director of the Stair Society and Chairman of the Conference of Scottish Medievalists. He has also served on the Council of the Scottish Genealogy Society and the Heraldry Society of Scotland. He has held the office of Bute Pursuivant of Arms since 2001, and was appointed Lord Lyon King of Arms in 2008.
This article seeks to give a flavour of the contemporary land debate in Scotland; a debate which emphatically concerns land and landscape, law and justice. It considers the historical background to that debate, including the tragedy of the Highland Clearances, and follows the progress through the recently re-established Scottish Parliament of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This ground-breaking and controversial Act falls into three parts: the first provides for a general public right of access to land throughout Scotland; the second gives communities a right of pre-emption over land coming on the market; and the third empowers crofting communities to acquire land.
W. David H. Sellar 'Spens of Lathallan - the Campbell Connection' (2005) The Double Tressure No. 28, pp. 10-20
W. David H. Sellar 'Somerled to John of Islay: Ragnall and Alexander Og' (2001) Clan Donald Magazine No. 14, pp. 25-30
W. David H. Sellar 'William Forbes Skene (1809-92): historian of Celtic Scotland' (2001) Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 131, pp. 3-21
W. David H. Sellar 'Scots Law: Mixed from the Very Beginning? A Tale of Two Receptions' (2000) Edinburgh Law Review Vol.4, pp.3-18
W. David H. Sellar 'The Highland Clearances and the Scottish Land Court' in M. Jones and A. Schanche (eds) Landscape, Law and Customary Rights (Nordic Saami Institute, Kautokeino, Norway, 2004) pp. 93-101
W. David H. Sellar 'Contributions on: 'Somerled', 'Ewen of Argyll', 'Alexander of Argyll', 'John of Argyll', 'Sir Alexander Falconer', 'George Dallas', 'John Dundas', 'Alexander Bruce', 'George Fergusson, Lord Hermand', 'William Morison' and 'William Forbes Skene'' in H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
This chapter focuses on the year 1795 until 1932, a period which marks a great shift and change in the history of the law of delict in Scotland. In the early period of Scots’ law of delict, negligence does appear however it was treated as an element of particular claim rather than as a general basis for liability. This concept of negligence changed as the Scottish courts became increasingly aware of the jurisdictions of the concept of duty, reasonableness, and foreseeability. The chapter also outlines the convergence of the Scots and English law of negligence during the 19th century which affected the radical shift and orientation of the Scots law on negligence and duty.
For several hundred years, Scots law has held to the proposition that a promise is legally binding without the need for acceptance. Stair discussed promise and the rationale behind the claim of promise as being legally binding in his Institutions. And although later writers lacked the clarity of Stair’s vision and capacity of analysis, the law remained unchanged until the Requirements of Writing Act in 1995. This chapter considers Stair’s treatment of promise against the background of the canon law and jus commune, and actual practice in Scotland. It probes into the state of Scots law in the years between the Scottish Reformation in 1159–60 and the appearance of Stair’s Institutions in 1681. It also investigates the influence of the pre-Reformation canon law on the creation of the Scottish law of obligations. In addition, the chapter also addresses the questions of Stair’s use of the term ‘pollicitation’ which bedevilled the entire area of this law.
W. David H. Sellar 'Hebridean Sea-Kings: The Successors of Smerled 1164-1316' in E. J. Cowan and R. Andrew McDonald (eds) Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Medieval Era (Tuckwell Press, East Linton, 2000) pp. 187-218
W. David H. Sellar 'The Ancestry of the MacLeods Reconsidered' in (eds) Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness: Vol. LX 1997-1998 (Inverness, 2000) pp. 233-258