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Scotland: A review of 2014

The impact of the referendum, the political will of the Scottish government to “make justice work” with its overhaul of the civil court system, and a landmark shift in the law on prescription (limitation) are our pick of the milestones for Scotland in 2014. 

The interest, fervour and debate generated by the referendum dominated the political landscape, newspapers and conversations for months across the UK.  Irrespective of personal viewpoints it clearly got a lot more voters interested in what political parties can do for them and what each party’s manifesto means for their everyday life.  The Scotland Act drawn up from the Smith Commission recommendations will further empower the Scottish Government mainly in areas of tax and benefits.  Following the General Election next year there will be real pressure to enact the new legislation without dilution.    No doubt this will increase calls for other campaigners for more devolved powers across the UK.  The General Election and its aftermath may slow down the rolling wheel of civil reform but undoubtedly the insurance sector is going to have to be alert to this changing landscape to understand, interpret and react to the challenges ahead.

It has been 30 years since the last reforms to our civil court system and this year we saw the highly anticipated Courts Reform (Scotland) Act given Royal Assent.   It provides the framework for major reform, the like of which the Scottish civil justice system has not seen before. The foundations are firmly in place and 2015 will see a major shift of business from the Court of Session to a new structure of Sheriff Courts.  It is hoped that there will in addition be new rules in place with regards to procedure and expenses (costs) to ensure the smooth progress of the reforms. 

The Supreme Court case of David T Morrison & Co Limited t/a Gael Home Interiors (Respondent) v ICL Plastics Limited and others (Appellants) (Scotland)(2014) UKSC 48 saw the age old law of prescription significantly altered.  The five year prescription period for financial loss arising from an actionable wrong now starts to run from when there is knowledge of loss rather than knowledge of the cause of the loss.  The effects of this will no doubt be seen in the coming months with the likelihood that there may be a number of claims that prior to the decision looked reasonable but which can no longer be pursued.  There is also renewed debate on whether the Scottish Law Commission’s recommendations to legislate in this area to require knowledge of the cause of the harm should now be implemented.  This would of course reverse the Morrison decision.

Contact

For further information please contact Caroline Coyle, Associate, Professional Support Lawyer, on +44 (0)7712 355 907.

By Caroline Coyle

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.

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