Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland presents statistics on civil law cases in the Scottish courts together with other related information, such as statistics from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.
The majority of court buildings were closed during the first nationwide lockdown resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Innovations in processing civil business, initially to allow urgent cases to be progressed, and then moving to all other case types, were enabled by Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 emergency legislation. This allowed for a range of measures including electronic submission and signing of documents, and virtual hearings. At the outset of the pandemic some civil court hearings were able to proceed by way of written submissions and telephone hearings before moving to a general presumption of virtual Webex hearings. Civil justice case volumes for 2020-21 were noticeably lower than previous years. In 2021-22, case volumes generally increased from the previous year, but they are still much lower than pre-pandemic volumes. It is therefore unlikely that the data is representative of longer term trends in civil business, and this should be borne in mind when comparing statistics for 2020-21 and 2021-22 with earlier years.
There were 53,866 civil law cases initiated across the Court of Session and sheriff courts in 2021-22 (the figure excludes summary applications which are however included in Figure 1 repossessions). This represents an increase of 23% from 2020-21.
Key points at a glance:
- The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and associated public health measures have had an impact on civil justice during the years 2020-21 and 2021-22. This resulted in lower volumes of cases being initiated in civil courts. Case volumes have increased from the previous year, but they are still much lower than pre-pandemic levels. Caution is therefore advised in interpreting the figures in this bulletin for 2020-21 and 2021-22, particularly in terms of how they compare with earlier years.
- Debt cases made up 50% of principal craves initiated at civil courts in 2021-22. In line with overall cases, debts recorded increased from 2021-22 but are still lower than pre-pandemic.
- Eviction actions initiated made up 3% of principal craves initiated at civil courts in 2021-22.
- Family cases made up 23% of principal craves. Divorce and dissolution made up 74% of family cases initiated in 2021-22.
- Over two-fifths (44%) of personal injury cases were raised in the national Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
- Seventy per cent of damages cases were initiated under ordinary cause in 2021-22. Forty-nine per cent of the ordinary cause cases disposed of had a decree of absolvitor.
- After a large Covid-related fall in 2020-21, repossessions increased by 1,204%, bringing them closer to pre-pandemic levels. However, initiations are still 46% lower than 2019-20.
- All sheriffdoms in Scotland experienced an increase in initiated cases from 2020-21, ranging from 16% in North Strathclyde to 33% in Glasgow and Strathkelvin.
- In 2021-22, there were 13,502 civil legal aid grants, the vast majority of which were for cases in the sheriff courts.
- According to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2019-20, around three-in-ten adults experienced civil law problems in the three years prior to interview.
This publication presents management information from the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services systems. There is also relevant information from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, Scottish Legal Aid Board and National Records of Scotland.
All tables referred to in this bulletin are available in the 'Supporting Documents' Excel workbook 2021-22 Main Tables for this bulletin. The workbook includes an 'Index' sheet, with information on how to navigate the tables, alongside a 'Notes' sheet, with relevant details to assist users when reading and interpreting results.
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