Instabilities in the SOL plasma can strongly influence the SOL plasma behaviour and in particular the SOL width. The SOL stability analysis shows that there exists a critical ratio of the thermal energy and the magnetic energy. If the SOL beta is greater than this critical value, the magnetic field cannot prevent the plasma displacement and a strong MHD instability in the SOL occurs. In the opposite case only slower resistive instabilities can develop. A theoretical investigation of the SOL plasma stability is presented for JET single-null and double-null divertor configurations. The dependence of the stability threshold on the SOL beta and on the sheath resistance is established. Applying a simple mixing length argument gives the scaling of the SOL width. 5 refs., 2 figs.