The Scottish government has brought forward proposals for what it calls the ‘biggest modernisation of courts in a generation’.
The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill introduced in Holyrood will increase the threshold for civil cases dealt with in the sheriff court from £5,000 to £150,000, leaving the Court of Session to hear only the biggest civil disputes.
A new personal injury sheriff court will be created with specialist sheriffs, with a new national sheriff appeal court set up to deal with summary criminal and civil appeals.
New procedures for judicial review cases in the Court of Session include a three-month time limit and new procedures for appeals to the UK Supreme Court.
The reforms are based on many of the recommendations of a review led by Lord Gill, which called for substantial changes to modernise the courts.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: ‘This bill takes forward our commitment to ensure that Scotland’s civil justice system becomes more accessible, affordable and efficient for those people who need to resolve civil disputes.
‘At present many lower-value personal injury cases are raised in the Court of Session, costing the parties a disproportionate amount and clogging up the court.
‘In future, most of these cases will be able to be raised in the specialist personal injury court, with specialist sheriffs and procedures designed to achieve settlement swiftly and at a proportionate cost to the parties.’
The Law Society of Scotland welcomed plans for the PI court, as well as proposals to reintroduce juries to civil cases in the sheriff court.