Debt cases have nearly halved since 2008-09
Over three-quarters of debt cases were small claims
Over 90 per cent of debt cases were undefended
Debt actions in Scotland
Money owed to an individual or organisation is known as a debt and can include council tax, business taxes, hire purchase agreements, utility bills, bank overdrafts and loans. Where there is a dispute over a debt and a creditor wishes to enforce their right for payment for goods sold, services provided or money lent they can raise a debt case in court. There are multiple routes to debt management and resolution of debt issues of which raising a case in court is just one. The Scottish Legal Aid Board has reported on the availability and accessibility of legal services in relation to debt in their second monitoring report. This report found that "Other routes to debt management or resolution of the debt issue, not involving court, are increasing in importance. Debt management companies and the not-for-profit sector appear therefore to be an increasingly significant avenue for people seeking assistance with debt issues relative to solicitors.".
In a debt court case, the person raising the action must prove that a debt exists. As debt cases can be for any monetary value and involve disputes between individuals and organisations, all sheriff court procedures (small claims, summary cause, ordinary cause and commercial) can be used. For the period of these statistics, debt cases were raised in the sheriff courts if the value was up to £5,000 and in either the sheriff courts or the Court of Session if the value was £5,000 or over. However, following the introduction of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, cases initiated from 22 September 2015 must be raised in the sheriff court if the value is up to £100,000.
Debt cases made up 44 per cent of all civil court cases initiated in 2014-15.
Scottish Crime and Justice Survey
Three per cent of respondents to the 2014-15 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey reported having money and debt problems. Owner-occupiers had the lowest prevalence of money and debt issues (two per cent), in contrast to social renters (six per cent) and those living in private rented accommodation (four per cent). Those living in areas of multiple deprivation were also more likely to report an issue related to money and debt (five per cent) than the rest (three per cent), as did victims of crime (seven per cent) compared to non-victims (two per cent).
There were 33,755 debt cases initiated across the sheriff courts and Court of Session in 2014-15. This was 5 per cent less than the number initiated in 2013-14 and 49 per cent lower than the 65,798 cases initiated in 2008-09 (Figure 13 and Table 11). There are multiple routes for resolving disputes over debt and it is possible that non-court options are becoming increasingly favoured by those pursuing debts.
There was a large increase in the number of debt cases raised in the Court of Session from 5 in 2013-14 to 70 in 2014-15.
Over three quarters (76 per cent) of debt cases initiated in 2014-15 were small claim. Ordinary procedure and summary cause cases made up most of the rest of the cases and ordinary cause - commercial procedure cases accounted for one per cent of initiated debt cases.
Across all debt case types ninety one per cent of disposed cases were undefended. Sixty two per cent of debt cases were disposed in favour of the pursuer (Table 12).
Email: Eddie Chan