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Reforming Scotland’s tribunals

23/03/2012

The Scottish Government has today launched a consultation on reforming Scotland’s tribunal system with proposals centring around a unified, integrated structure which will be brought under the judicial leadership of the Lord President. 

The proposals intend to create two generic tribunals, a First-tier and an Upper-tier, in which to transfer the separately operating tribunals in Scotland.  There will also be genuine judicial independence by bringing the tribunal judiciary under the leadership of the Lord President.

Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham said:

“I want to bring greater clarity and cohesiveness to Scotland’s tribunal system, ensuring that people at all points in the system receive a strong, fair and just service. 

“Our proposed reforms will bring separate tribunals into a unified structure and provide for their independence by bringing judicial leadership under the Lord President. We also propose introducing new rule making procedures and new arrangements for the selection and appointment of tribunal judiciary. 

“We are now embarking on the most radical reforms of our courts and tribunals systems for at least a century through our Making Justice Work programme.  Our justice system needs to be better connected and make more effective use of modern technology to ensure a service that is high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs. 

“The character of tribunals has changed over recent decades; they are no longer considered to be administrative bodies but are now rightly perceived to be an integral part of the judicial system. These proposals underpin and strengthen that development.

“The current system is complex and fragmented, and important questions have rightly been raised by third-party expert reviews around tribunal independence, system coherence and the quality of service provided to users.

“We want to retain and build on a tribunal system that puts its users at the centre.  We want the public to have confidence in a system that treats them fairly, quickly and with respect. 

“These changes require primary legislation and we are committed to bringing forward a bill within this parliament. 

“The tribunals system we are proposing will make structural and organisational improvements but I am very clear that we must retain all the service benefits of the current, specialised system of tribunals with their particular jurisdictionally specific ethos.

“The particular needs of tribunal users remain central to this process. That is why I have ensured that appropriate measures are in place to protect each tribunal’s distinctive culture and specialist nature.

“I look forward to hearing the views of our valued stakeholders throughout this consultation process as we move forward with building a stronger, more responsive and supportive tribunal system for Scotland.”

The consultation is scheduled to run for 12 weeks. The coherent tribunal system proposed through this consultation supports a clearer, simpler and more effective way of resolving citizen to state and party to party disputes. The proposals seek to improve the effectiveness and quality of service delivery to users and secure better value for public money. 

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