Key aspects of the wide-ranging Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill – which is aimed at reforming the Scottish civil court processes – have been questioned by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee in a report published on 9 May.
The Bill contains a range of measures, including the creation of a new judicial office of Summary Sheriff to cover a more restricted range of civil and criminal matters, and the establishment of a specialist Scotland-wide court, initially intended to deal with personal injury cases.
However, in welcoming the general principles of the Bill, the committee raised concerns about the proposals to increase the monetary threshold for an action in the sheriff court from £5,000 to £150,000.
Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said: “There can be no doubt from the evidence we heard that reform of the Scottish civil court system is long overdue. However, our committee is not convinced that some of the measures in the Bill will necessarily achieve what is hoped.
“Improving access to justice is a key part of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. Freeing up the Court of Session to deal with the most complex and serious cases is a step in the right direction. However, raising the monetary threshold from £5,000 to the proposed £150,000 raised questions about whether this is too great a leap.
“Not only would these reforms perhaps restrict access to counsel, but there are concerns about the capacity of sheriff courts to deal with the increase in cases. Our committee recommends that the Scottish Government give serious consideration to lowering the monetary limit.”