Origins and objectives of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, which opened its doors last month
The Scottish Arbitration Centre was formally opened by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Community Safety, along with Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, on 17 March in its stunning premises at Dolphin House in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. But how did we get here, and what is the vision for the future?
As part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to provide businesses and lawyers with the infrastructure they need to make Scotland an international centre for arbitration, it brought forward the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010. That legislation provides a clear platform for the new Centre. Furthermore, the Business Experts and Law Forum, established by the Government, was clear that Scotland should be aiming to market itself internationally as an arbitration forum offering high-quality arbitrators, facilities and legal support.
A specific proposal for a Scottish Arbitration Centre was presented by Brandon Malone, solicitor advocate, on behalf of the Government’s steering group at a meeting last September between Mr Ewing and representatives of the bodies authorised to act as Arbitral Appointments Referees (AARs) under the new Act. Mr Ewing confirmed the full backing of the Scottish Government. Subsequent consultations and discussions established that there was support from all the AARs for such a Centre.
The Centre is a non-profit company limited by guarantee, made up of the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and the Scottish Ministers. All the members have nominated directors and will put in seedcorn funding, and the Scottish Government has also seconded, for a limited period, a member of staff to act as chief executive officer.
Professor Sir David Edward QC has agreed to be the Honorary President of the Centre. His distinguished career in law and academia, not least his work as a judge of the European Court of Justice, will provide the Centre with an internationally respected figurehead.
The Centre’s objects will be to:
- promote domestic and international arbitration under Scots law;
- promote Scotland as a place to arbitrate;
- increase the number of arbitrations under Scots law;
- increase the level of business for arbitration advisers; and
- increase the number of appointments for arbitrators based in Scotland.
The structure of the Centre will be based on the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. The Swedish centre is an independent arbitrator-appointing body. It maintains its own rules, and does not have a panel of arbitrators but operates through an appointments committee. However, the Scottish board will be responsible for all major decisions of the Centre, and no final decision on this has been taken.
The Centre will have a website as its “shop front”, promoting the Centre and providing information about its operation, the 2010 Act, and the different rules available, including the Scottish Short Form Arbitration Rules produced by CIArb. It will provide styles for arbitration clauses for parties, and their legal advisers. The site is being developed, but our temporary site can be located at www.scottish arbitrationcentre.org.
We have a very small budget, so the Centre will need to be a very tightly run ship. It is hoped that some funding might be secured through grants or sponsorship. However, this cannot be relied on in the current financial climate.
The Centre intends to profit from businesses using it to arbitrate in Scotland, by hiring equipment and taking a percentage of the room rental. We also hope to raise revenue through providing training.
The establishment of the Centre sees unprecedented collaborative working between the five members of the company. The commitment of the nominated directors should also be recognised, especially that of the chairman, Brandon Malone. Furthermore, we are fortunate, thanks to EDI Group Ltd and the City of Edinburgh Council, to have premises rent-free.
Over the next few months, the Centre aims to develop a sustainable business model to allow it to become a key part of the environment to support arbitration in Scotland, building on the 2010 Act. Together they put Scotland at the forefront of the international arbitration scene.
The Centre will encourage companies based in Scotland to adopt arbitration as a confidential, flexible alternative to settling disputes in court, using an expert in the relevant field, and to do so in Scotland under Scots law. It will also aim to attract international work to Scotland for arbitrators and the legal profession, particularly in areas such as energy, bringing benefits to the wider Scottish economy.
With its distinguished legal tradition, innovative legislation and the Scottish Arbitration Centre, Scotland is well placed to compete as an attractive and cost-effective venue for arbitration on the global stage.
Andrew Mackenzie, solicitor, is chief executive of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, on secondment to the Centre from the Scottish Government Justice Directorate.
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