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Ministers launch Tribunals Bill

9 May 2013

A bill to bring in a simplified structure for Scotland’s tribunals has been put before the Scottish Parliament.

In place of the present ad hoc system, the Scottish Government's Tribunals (Scotland) Bill will create a simple two-tier structure – a First-tier Tribunal for hearing first decision cases, and an Upper Tribunal Scotland primarily for appeals from the first-tier.

It will also 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; and establish new independent appointment arrangements.

The distinctive nature and culture of each particular tribunal will be preserved.

A consultation on proposed reforms took place last year.

Minister for Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham said: "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."

She added: “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.”

The Law Society of Scotland, while supporting the proposed system, raised concerns that the bill would fails adequately to safeguard the continued existence of a specialised Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland. Adrian D Ward, Convener of the Mental Health and Disability Committee said: "The Tribunal’s place within the proposed chamber structure ought to be enshrined in primary legislation which could only be amended by a further Act of the Scottish Parliament. This would ensure full parliamentary and democratic scrutiny of any change to the Tribunal’s status."

However Dr Donald Lyons, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said the Commission was "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”.

Click here to access the bill.

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