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Civil Courts & Tribunals

Civil Law covers many areas including buying and selling houses, marriage and family law, debt and executries. Courts and tribunals can be used to resolve disputes.

Court of Session

The Court of Session is the supreme civil court in Scotland, based in Edinburgh. The Court of Session is both a court at first instance for initial consideration of cases and the court of appeal for most civil matters, although Sheriffs Principal can also hear appeals at local level as an alternative.

The jurisdiction of the Court of Session (ie the civil matters it deals with) as a court of first instance is broadly the same as the jurisdiction of the sheriff court although there are some matters that can be raised only in the Court of Session - judicial review of decisions by administrative authorities is an example. Decisions of the Court of Session in appeals are subject to ultimate appeal to the House of Lords.

Sheriff Court

The Sheriff Court is the local court and there are 49 sheriff courts across Scotland. The sheriff courts deal with the majority of civil cases although, as noted above, its jurisdiction at first instance is broadly the same as the Court of Session.

Civil matters dealt with in the sheriff court include debt, claims for compensation, contract disputes, family matters such as divorce, eviction, anti-social behaviour and various applications under statutes concerned with matters such as licensing, bankruptcy and steps relating to enforcement of debt.

There are other minor civil court for specialist areas such as the Land Court for dealing with crofting issues.

Justice of the Peace Courts

A Justice of the Peace (JP) Court is a lay court where a Justice of the Peace, who is not legally qualified, sits with a legally qualified court officer. JP Courts were created by the Criminal Proceeding etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 and they replaced former District Courts which were operated by local authorities. Details of where JP Courts are located can be found on the Scottish Court Service website.


Tribunals also sit in Scotland, covering a wide range of subjects including employment, education, children's hearings, social security and tax. These tribunals sit in various locations across Scotland, though most cases are heard in the major centres of population, principally Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The tribunal system in Scotland has been subject to review over recent years and the Scottish Government is now pursuing a programme of tribunal reform.

More information on the courts and court procedures is available at the Scottish Courts website.