Children (Scotland) Act 2020 - alternatives to court and funding of alternative dispute resolution pilots: report

Report on the Scottish Ministers progress between 1 October 2020 and 1 April 2021 on establishing a pilot of the meetings on alternatives to court and on funding of alternative dispute resolution as per the duties under section 23(1) (funding for alternative dispute resolution) and section 24(1) (pilot scheme for mandatory alternative dispute resolution meetings) of the Children (Scotland) Act 2020.

Pilot of mandatory meetings on alternatives to court

20. Section 24 of the 2020 Act was commenced on 17 January 2021[4].

21. The Scottish Ministers have not fulfilled their duty under section 24(1) of the 2020 Act to establish a pilot of mandatory meetings on alternatives to court. This is due to a number of reasons.

22. Firstly, the Coronavirus pandemic has led to a reprioritisation of non Covid19 related work.

23. Secondly, more time is needed to establish this pilot. The Scottish Government's intention is this pilot could be based on proposals which were put forward by Relationships Scotland and by CALM Family Mediators a few years ago and which were not taken forward at the time.

24. In the light of this earlier work, the Scottish Government has prepared an initial policy paper on the pilot of the mandatory meetings on alternatives to court. This paper discusses location of the pilot, how the pilot might operate and funding of the pilot. The paper has been shared with a variety of organisations and included at annex A to this report.

25. A key issue is to ensure the pilot is evaluated so lessons can be drawn as to whether or not meetings of this nature help to drive effective resolution of family disputes.

26. As the next step to setting up the pilot, the Scottish Government is writing to the Lord President to seek his views on the location of the pilot. The letter also seeks views on whether the details of the pilot should be set out in a practice note by the relevant Sheriffs Principal or by secondary legislation laid in draft before, and approved by, the Scottish Parliament and made by the Scottish Ministers.

27. Work on establishing a pilot of mandatory meetings on alternatives to court has been proceeding. If the decision is taken that the terms of the scheme could be set by practice note then the pilot may be able to commence in late 2021. However, if the Scottish Ministers decide to lay the details of the scheme down in regulations this will take longer given the parliamentary timetable as these regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure.

The Scottish Government
March 2021



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