The final instalment of our series of updates on the (now passed) Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill has finally arrived. This update will consider the new procedures for appeals to the Inner House of the Court of Session and to the Supreme Court.
Appeals to the Inner House
The Bill provides that the Court of Session may make special provision for a single judge, by reference to whether or not the grounds of appeal are arguable, to sift out unmeritorious appeals. At present, such a decision can only be made by three judges.
Parties will have the right to be heard prior to any decision being made, and the single judge's decision may also be reviewed by the Inner House. The Court will also have the power to allow an initial consideration of the appeal by a single judge, even after leave or permission to appeal has been granted.
Appeals to the UK Supreme Court
At present, appeals to the Supreme Court can be made without leave from the Inner House, provided that the Note of Appeal is signed by two Scottish counsel, certifying that the appeal is reasonable. The Bill modifies this process by providing that appeals may be made to the Supreme Court with leave of the Inner House, or if the Inner House refuses, the Supreme Court may itself grant leave to appeal. However, in some cases the Inner House alone will have the competency to grant leave to appeal.
The Inner House or the Supreme Court may only grant leave to appeal to the Supreme Court if the appeal raises an arguable point of law of 'general public importance' that is worthy of consideration by the Supreme Court.
These reforms aim to promote efficiency at both Inner House and Supreme Court level and should prove to be a useful way to ensure that appeals with no prospects of success are quickly disposed of.
The Supreme Court has previously noted that some Scottish appeals were an inefficient use of court time as they did not raise significant legal issues of genuine public importance. These reforms should ensure that only cases which involve significant legal issues reach the Supreme Court.