Civil justice statistics in Scotland 2021-22

Statistics on civil law cases in the Scottish courts together with other related information, such as statistics from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.

This document is part of a collection

4. Court reforms

In October 2014, the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 was passed by the Scottish Parliament and received Royal Assent in November 2014. The reforms aim to address existing inefficiencies and bring about a cost-efficient, effective and accessible civil justice system for all individuals. Key reforms introduced by the Act, their date of implementation, and expected indicators of their effects are listed in the remainder of this chapter.

The changes outlined in this chapter are not an exhaustive list of changes introduced by the Act. Transitional arrangements apply to all of the reforms described. More information on the Act can be found on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Act 2018 in May 2018. It received Royal Assent on 5 June 2018 and most of the provisions are now in force. The legislation contains provisions which aim to make the expenses in civil litigation more predictable and affordable, which will improve access to justice. Improved access to justice may result in an increase in the number of cases, especially personal injury actions. The Act also makes provision for a group proceedings procedure. Rules governing the 'opt-in' procedure were implemented in July 2020. The implementation of group proceedings is likely to result in a decrease in the number of actions as multiple claims of the same or similar nature are dealt with by one representative case.

4.1 Courts and procedures

Exclusive competence of sheriff courts

From 22 September 2015

The exclusive competence for all sheriff courts has been extended. Before the Act, only actions with a value of up to and including £5,000 could be raised in the sheriff courts, while cases above that value were eligible to be heard in the Court of Session. This has now changed, and actions with a value of up to and including £100,000 fall within the exclusive competence of the sheriff courts, while cases above this value will usually be raised in the Court of Session.

Sheriff Personal Injury Court

From 22 September 2015

Litigants can choose to raise actions pertaining to personal injury valued up to and including £100,000 either in their local sheriff court or in the national personal injury court in Edinburgh. For higher value actions, a pursuer (claimant) has the choice of these forums and also the Court of Session. The Sheriff Personal Injury Court was established to increase efficiency and reduce settlement times of cases.

Summary sheriffs

From 1 April 2016Summary sheriffs were created and they have a more limited jurisdiction than existing sheriffs, they are limited to dealing with cases of less than £5,000. Summary sheriffs are able to deal with the following proceedings: family; domestic abuse; adoption; children's hearings; forced marriage; warrants and interim orders; diligence proceedings; extension of time to pay debts and simple procedure.

Simple procedure (phase one)

From 28 November 2016

This procedure replaced most of the small claims actions (the exception being a few EU cases) and the more straightforward summary cause procedures, applying to cases with a value less than £5,000. Simple procedure has been designed to be efficient, inexpensive and informal, so that parties can represent themselves. It is mainly dealt with by the new summary sheriffs.

Simple procedure (phase one) only replaced summary cause actions relating to payment, delivery or for recovery of possession of moveable property, and actions which order someone to do something specific. A second phase of simple procedure is expected to follow in due course, covering certain types of actions not covered by the first phase such as personal injury cases.

4.2 Judicial review

From 22 September 2015

Reforms introduced require an application for raising proceedings to be made within a three month time limit. Applicants must also seek permission from the Court of Session to proceed under the new procedure for judicial review.

4.3 Appeals

Appeals from Court of Session to the UK Supreme Court

From 22 September 2015

Permission from Court of Session judges is now required before cases can reach the UK's Supreme Court. This means any party wishing to overturn a decision from the Inner House of the Court of Session must seek permission beforehand. If the Inner House refuses, the party can seek permission from the Supreme Court directly. In effect, the changes mean appeals from Scotland to the Supreme Court are now subject to the same rules as appeals from other parts of the UK.

Sheriff Appeal Court (Civil)

From 1 January 2016

The Sheriff Appeal Court was established to ensure cases are dealt with at an appropriate level and prevent unmeritorious claims from reaching the higher courts. The court is presided over by Appeal Sheriffs, and led to the previous sheriff principal role of adjudicating on appeals against decisions of sheriffs being abolished.

The effect of the reforms removes the ability to appeal directly from the sheriff court to the Court of Session, and provides a mechanism for appeal within the sheriff court system.



Back to top