Life imprisonment: an appropriate ultimate penalty in Scotland?Since the effective abolition of the death penalty, life imprisonment has been the ultimate penalty in Scotland. Life imprisonment is controversial, on the one hand, because Scots courts cannot issue whole orders to ensure that life sentenced prisoners are never released . On the other hand, the relative number of persons serving life sentences in Scotland is already amongst the highest in Europe. This lecture questions whether life sentences from which offenders may never be released are human rights compliant. It also asks what can be done to reduce the number of persons serving life imprisonment by considering what the alternatives could be to life-long imprisonment.Dirk van Zyl Smit is Professor of Comparative and International Penal Law at the University of Nottingham. Until 2005 he was Professor of Criminology at the University of Cape Town, and was also Dean of the Law Faculty from 1990 to 1995. In 2012 he was Global Visiting Professor at the New York University School of Law. His publications include Principles of European Prison Law and Policy: Penology and Human Rights (OUP 2009) and Taking Life Imprisonment Seriously in National and International Law (Kluwer 2002). Recently Dirk has been leading a major research study on the use of life sentences around the world. The study is the first of its kind to consider the application of the life sentence systematically in comparative context.