Frequently Asked Questions
What does the SCJC do?
The functions of the SCJC are:
(a) to keep the civil justice system under review;
(b) to review the practice and procedure followed in proceedings in the Court of Session and in civil proceedings in the Sheriff Appeal Court or sheriff court;
(bb) to review the practice and procedure followed in inquiry proceedings under the Inquiries into the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016;
(c) to prepare and submit to the Court of Session,
(i) draft civil procedure rules,
(ia) draft fee rules,
(ib) draft inquiry procedure rules,
(d) to provide advice and make recommendations to the Lord President on the development of, and changes to, the civil justice system; and
(e) to provide such advice on any matter relating to the civil justice system as may be requested by the Lord President.
In doing so the SCJC must have regard to any guidance issued by the Lord President and the following principles:
(a) the civil justice system should be fair, accessible and efficient;
(b) rules relating to practice and procedure should be as clear and easy to understand as possible;
(c) practice and procedure should, where appropriate, be similar in all civil courts; and
(d) methods of resolving disputes which do not involve the courts should, where appropriate, be promoted.
When was the SCJC established?
The SCJC was established on 28 May 2013.
Why was the SCJC created?
The Scottish Civil Courts Review chaired by the then Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, reported in 2009 and made a total of 206 recommendations for reform of the civil court system. A combination of legislative and administrative measures is needed to implement the recommendations. Implementation of civil courts reform is being taken forward in phases under the Scottish Government's Making Justice Work programme. Many of the Review's recommendations will need new rules of court. To prepare those, the Review recommended a single body should be established with oversight of the entire civil justice system.
The new Scottish Civil Justice Council replaced the Court of Session and Sheriff Court Rules Councils. It continues the functions of those bodies with regard to the preparation of court rules and has an additional policy function to make recommendations for the development of the civil justice system.
Who is on the SCJC?
The SCJC is to have not more than 20 members and is to be comprised of:
(a) the Lord President
(b) the Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
(c) the principal officer of the Scottish Legal Aid Board
(d) 1 member appointed by the Scottish Ministers
(e) at least 4 judges (“judicial members”), including a minimum of—
(i) 1 judge of the Court of Session, and
(ii) 1 sheriff principal or sheriff,
(f) at least 2 practising advocates (“advocate members”),
(g) at least 2 practising solicitors (“solicitor members”),
(h) at least 2 persons (“consumer representative members”) who, between them, appear to the Lord President to have:
- experience and knowledge of consumer affairs
- knowledge of the non-commercial legal advice sector, and
- an awareness of the interests of litigants in the civil courts
(i) up to 6 other persons considered by the Lord President to be suitable to be members of the Council (“LP members”).
The current membership can be found here.
How are members appointed?
Judicial members are selected by the Lord President.
The founding legislation provides that the Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the principal officer of the Scottish Legal Aid Board are members by virtue of the offices they hold.
One member of staff of the Scottish Government is appointed by the Scottish Ministers.
The remainder of appointments are made by the Lord President.
Advocate, solicitor, consumer representative and LP members were selected in accordance with the Statement of Appointment Practice.
How long do members hold office?
The Lord President, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the principal officer of the Scottish Legal Aid Board are members of the Council by virtue of holding their respective positions.
The Scottish Ministers' appointee holds office until the Scottish Ministers appoint a replacement member.
Judicial members hold office for a period of 3 years unless the Lord President replaces them with another judicial member, or requires them to leave office.
All other members hold office for 3 years.
Who is in charge of the SCJC?
The Lord President is Chair of the SCJC.
What does the civil justice system include?
There are two main branches of civil law – public law and private law.
Public law governs the actions of public bodies. It concerns the activities of the UK and Scottish parliaments, the Scottish Government, the UK Government, courts, local government and public bodies and their relationships with private individuals. Issues governed by public law include:
- human rights
- asylum and immigration
- social security
Private law deals with rights and obligations of citizens and legal entities such as companies towards one another. The main areas covered by private law in Scotland include:
- the creation and enforcement of contracts
- divorce and separation
- contact with, and residence of, children
- the ownership and use of property – both heritable (ie land and buildings) and moveable (eg furniture and money)
- wills and inheritance
- enforcement of debt
- claims for negligence
- bankruptcy, insolvency and sequestration
- consumer goods and services
- company and commercial matters
In addition to providing rules and law related to the above the civil justice system covers the administrative and procedural framework for raising court actions as well as the Judiciary, courts and court staff.
What are court rules for?
Rules of court govern the practice and procedures of the Scottish courts. For example, rules regulate matters such as how and in what form proceedings may be initiated, what happens when a final decision is taken, and how decisions may be appealed. Rules can be general, or may make provision for certain types of proceedings (for example, applications to courts under new legislation may require specific provision to be made).
Rules of court do not cover matters such as when proceedings may be brought before a court, what remedies are available, or which court has jurisdiction. Such matters are regulated by legislation or common law.
How are court rules made?
The SCJC has the function of reviewing the procedure and practice followed in civil proceedings in the Sheriff Court and Court of Session, and of preparing draft rules to govern such proceedings. These draft rules are then submitted to the Court of Session to be passed as an Act of Sederunt, subject to the Court's approval, and with any modifications which the Court considers appropriate.
Where can I find court rules?
Rules of court can be found in a number of places, including:
Current versions of the rules of court are also published commercially. The Sheriff Court and Court of Session rules can be found in the Parliament House Book.
Rules for the Sheriff Court and Court of Session can be found here.
How do I make a suggestion for changes to the rules?
Any suggestions for rule changes should be submitted to SCJC@scotcourts.gov.uk in line with the following guidance.
Where can I get advice on an issue in a court case?
The SCJC is unable to provide legal advice or intervene in any civil action or dispute (whether on-going or not).
If you are considering raising or defending a court action, you may wish to seek independent legal advice. You can find contact details for solicitors and law firms in Scotland through The Law Society of Scotland’s solicitor database and information on a range of free advice services is available at the Citizens Advice Scotland website.