By Niall Whitty, Honorary Professor of Edinburgh Law School
1. 1961-1990. I must confess I have been fascinated by the Scots law of unjustified enrichment for over 60 years. My first contact with it occurred in autumn 1961 – in my first year at Edinburgh University Law Faculty.
At that time, the English law of restitution, with its imputed contract theory of quasi-contract and its Coronation cases, (rejecting restitution after frustration of contract) was held up to students in the Civil Law class as evidence that the English law of obligations, while rich in detail, was poor in principle. By contrast, Scots enrichment law, with its obediential obligation theory and civilian Cantiere San Rocco case, was said to be much superior as indeed in some respects it plainly was. In the next three decades, however, the condition and status of unjust enrichment in English law was completely transformed, while the Scots law, starved of research and the stimulus of comparative law, tended to stagnate and sometimes took wrong turnings. The reason was not so much complacency as the fact that the academic branch of the Scottish legal profession, though growing, was still relatively small and over-stretched. Probably more has been written on our enrichment law in the past 30 years than in the previous 300 years.