There’s gold in them thar hills …
The Scots law of treasure trove sprang back to public attention on 4 November 2009 with the news that an amateur treasure hunter's find of prehistoric gold jewellery in a field somewhere near Blair Drummond in Stirlingshire was now in the custody of the Treasure Trove Unit, with the finder expected to benefit from a substantial reward of at least a six-figure sum.
But Scots Law News understands that the treasure trove system is under some pressure at present. In the past it has always been taken to be superior to the English system, both in having a much wider definition of "treasure" not limited to precious metals and in the inducement it offers finders to report their findings to the treasure trove authorities through the prospect of reward even for non-precious finds. But it appears that the rate of reporting finds in Scotland has fallen well behind that in England, where the system in force since 1997, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, seems to have been very successful. Wikipedia summarises matters thus:
Finders of objects that are not treasure or treasure trove are encouraged to voluntarily report them under the Portable Antiquities Scheme to finds liaison officers at county councils and local museums. Under the scheme, which started in September 1997, the officers examine finds and provide finders with information on them. They also record the finds, their functions, dates, materials and locations, and place this information into a database which can be analysed. The information on the findspots may be used to organize further research on the areas.
The point is that despite the absence of a finder's reward for non-precious material in England the system for reporting finds is working much better from a general archaeological point of view. And it works with "treasure" as defined in England as well: the recent discovery of an Anglo-Saxon gold hoard in Staffordshire was apparently first reported to the authorities under the Portable Antiquities Scheme. So another cherished and ancient piece of Scots law looks to be under challenge and in need of review.