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Ministers to push ahead with Courts/Tribunal Service merger

15 November 2013

Legislation to create a joint administration for courts and devolved tribunals in Scotland is to be introduced next year, the Scottish Government confirmed today.

The plan to merge the Scottish Court Service (SCS) and the Scottish Tribunals Service (STS) into a single Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service was subject to a consultation which closed in September. It atttracted reservations from the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Committee of the Administrative Justice & Tribunals Council, among other bodies.

The Society said that while it was not opposed to a merger in principle, no clear case had been made out for combining the two bodies. it expressed a particular concern in relation to the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland, which it said received a "focused and expert administrative service" from STS. The Scottish Committee argued that there was "at the least a risk that without special measures tribunal users in Scotland could be directly and adversely affected".

Today, however, Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham said that the majority of responses had supported a single body.

"A joint body will ensure continued independence, with a joint body corporate chaired by the Lord President, while enabling ongoing improvement and sharing of best practice", she commented.

“It is paramount that the specialism of courts and tribunals continues to be supported by their specialist staff in a merged organisation.

“That’s why we aim to bring forward legislation early in the New Year to bring about this change and ensure a board structure which supports the business of both courts and tribunals.”

It is envisaged that the frontline operational delivery of courts and tribunals business will not be affected, as the current specialist staff and venues for tribunals and courts will remain.

Chief executive of the Scottish Court Service, Eric McQueen, said:

“The Scottish Court Service Board carefully considered the feasibility of a merger with the Scottish Tribunals Service and has approved the proposal.

“It is sensible to create a joint administration based on the current SCS model and we will work with the Scottish Tribunals Service to deliver this new organisation, recognising the unique requirements of courts and tribunals and taking account of the needs of their individual users.“

Martin McKenna, chief executive of the Scottish Tribunals Service, added: “I see this as a positive step for the Scottish Tribunals Service and those of us who work within it. This puts the administration of tribunals on the same independent statutory footing as courts whilst protecting the unique nature of tribunals for the people that use them.”

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