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Scotland Update

Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill

At the beginning of February, the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill was formally introduced in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill is intended to modernise and improve the performance of the Scottish civil justice system and will give effect to the majority of the recommendations made by Lord Gill in his 2009 Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

The Bill is in 8 parts and the most significant reforms are in the first three parts:

Part 1

  • Introduces the new role of Summary Sheriff.

  • Makes provision for specialist courts with jurisdiction over the whole of Scotland which will deal with specific types of cases. This provision will allow the introduction of a specialist personal injury court. Lord Gill recognised that greater specialisation in the sheriff courts was desirable and there are already a number of specially designated commercial sheriffs in a handful of sheriff courts.  The Lord President will have the power to decide which categories of case are to be heard by sheriffs specialising in that type of case.

  • Increases the exclusive jurisdiction of sheriff court from the present limit of £5,000 to £150,000.

Part 2

  • Provides for the establishment of a Sheriff Appeal Court which will deal with both criminal and civil appeals. All civil appeals from sheriff court actions will be dealt with by the Sheriff Appeal Court and it will no longer be possible to appeal directly from the sheriff court to the Court of Session. Only after an appeal has been considered by the Sheriff Appeal Court will the possibility of a further appeal to the Court of Session arise.

Part 3

  • Deals with civil procedure and makes provision for civil jury trials to be held in the sheriff court. Currently the option of a jury trial, rather than a trial before a judge sitting alone, is only available to pursuers (plaintiffs) in specific types Court of Session actions e.g. actions for damages for personal injury/ death and defamation actions.

  • Introduces a simple procedure which will replace the current small claim and summary cause procedures in the sheriff court. It was recognised that there is a need for a procedure for low value claims, but that two separate procedures are not required. The current limit for claims of £5,000 and under will be kept, and cases brought under the simple procedure will be dealt with by Summary Sheriffs.

It is anticipated that the Bill will be enacted by the end of 2014, with implementation of the reforms taking place on a phased basis from the autumn of 2015.

Link to Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill.


For further information please contact Catherine Hart, Associate, Professional Support Lawyer on 0141 228 8000

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.