Age of consent
The term 'age of consent' means the age at which a person is legally allowed to decide to have sex.
In Scotland, the age of consent is 16 for sex between males and females whether straight or gay. If either person is under 16, then the person over 16 is breaking the law.
The rules are different if one partner is or has been in a position of trust over the other.
Having sex with a girl under the age of 16 is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and life imprisonment where the girl is aged under 13.
The common law offence of “lewd and libidinous behaviour or practices” means that sexual intercourse with a boy under the age of 14 is a criminal offence and is punishable by up to life imprisonment.
Persons in a position of trust
If a person in a family setting has sex with a child under 16, they can be punished by up to life imprisonment.
The age of consent rises to 18 if one of the partners is or has been a carer, teacher, youth worker or in any position of trust over the other.
This is to help protect young people.
Any person who has sex with someone under the age of 18 over whom they have a position of trust, can be punished by up to 5 years in prison.
If the young person was a girl under 16 or a boy under 14, the person in a position of trust having sex with them can be prosecuted as having had sex with a child and can be imprisoned for life.
Free legal advice for kids
We can help you with any questions about the law. Freephone for under 18s : 0800 328 8970
The Scottish Child Law Centre is an independent charitable organisation, based in Edinburgh, which provides services to the whole of Scotland. The aim of the Centre is to promote knowledge and use of Scots law and children's rights for the benefit of children and young people in Scotland.