The Scottish Government recently outlined plans for the Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation Bill, which will mirror the Jackson reforms implemented in England and Wales through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in April 2013.
It has been indicated that the bill will:
- allow damages-based agreements to be enforceable by solicitors;
- introduce qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) for personal injury cases and appeals, including clinical negligence;
- introduce sliding caps for success fee agreements in personal injury and other civil actions; and
- create new court rules for third party and pro bono funded litigation, requiring lawyers to bear the cost where their conduct in a civil action has caused ‘needless cost’.
The reforms have been described as "an important part of the Scottish Government's commitment to making the civil justice system more accessible, affordable and equitable".
The adoption of both QOCS and DBAs in Scotland has been anticipated since the 2014 publication of the Taylor report, with the government emphasising the desire to give court users parity with England and Wales to prevent them litigating south of the border.
The Scottish Government has stated they will seek to increase the use of digital technology and proposals by April 2017 as they intend to create an 'information-sharing capability that will transform how evidence is shared across the justice system'.
Furthermore, the lobbying for legal aid reforms appears to have been met with a favourable response as the Scottish Government has promised to reform the legal aid system to maintain access to public funding in both civil and criminal cases. Eilidh Wiseman, president of the Law Society of Scotland, has said 'it is essential that people can access the legal advice and services they need regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances and that those who provide that advice can continue to afford to do so’.