Legislation to create a more user-friendly, simplified structure for Scotland’s tribunals has been published by the Scottish Parliament.
Tribunals are a key part of the legal system, protecting people from potentially unfair treatment in a range of specialist areas such as support for learning, health, land and housing.
However, the current system – which has developed in an ad-hoc and unplanned way over many years – is long overdue for reform.
The Tribunals Bill is designed to create a structure which is more user-friendly, independent and less complex. It will:
Create a simple two-tier structure for tribunals - a First-tier Tribunal for hearing first decision cases and Upper Tribunal Scotland primarily for appeals from the first-tier
Bring judicial leadership under the remit of the Lord President
Create a new office, the President of Scottish Tribunals (PST), with the responsibility for ensuring tribunal business runs effectively and efficiently
Establish new independent appointment arrangements
Continue to protect the distinctive nature and culture of each particular jurisdiction.
Minister for Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham said: “Tribunals are a central part of our justice system, providing access to justice for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. However the current system is overdue for reform - it has developed over a long time in different ways, with differing leadership structures, appointment processes and ways to appeal.
“The Tribunals Bill is at the very heart of our commitment to improving our justice system, providing vital protection while ensuring people are treated fairly.
“It will establish a streamlined two-tier structure and a new office, the President of Scottish Tribunals, to protect the expertise of each jurisdiction and ensure business runs efficiently.
“By simplifying the tribunals structure and standardising some processes, the Bill will make the system more user-friendly and effective, saving time and resources while retaining the benefits of the current specialised tribunals.”
Dr Donald Lyons, Chief Executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “The Mental Welfare Commission supports the intentions underpinning the Bill. We are particularly pleased that there is a commitment to a dedicated mental health chamber in the first instance and that any future changes to the chamber structure will be subject to consultation. In our view, this will result in continued development of the Mental Health Tribunal’s expertise in a structure that encourages best practice to be shared and developed within and among the different chambers.”
Aileen Devanny, President, Private Rented Housing Panel/ Homeowner Housing Panel said: “This Bill gives recognition to the importance of Scottish tribunals and their role in providing a proportionate and accessible justice system for users. It provides a flexible framework to meet changing demands for legal dispute resolution into the 21st Century, whilst at the same time acknowledging the need to retain the specialism and preserve the distinctiveness of the existing tribunals, such as the Private Rented Housing Panel and the Homeowner Housing Panel. The structure proposed will create an appeal route from chamber decisions to an Upper Tier Tribunal which will have special expertise in the chamber jurisdictions. The Bill provides important guarantees for the independence of the Scottish tribunal judiciary.”
Today’s Bill can be accessed by clicking here.
The legislation follows a consultation by the Scottish Government in spring 2012 on ‘A new tribunal system for Scotland’, which can be accessed by clicking here.