The number of civil actions raised in Scotland has continued to decline since the post-2014 reforms to the civil courts, according to the latest official statistics.
Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2016-17 reveals that 73,640 civil law cases were initiated across the Court of Session, sheriff courts and the Sheriff Personal Injury Court in 2016-17 (excluding summary applications). This is a drop of 5% from the previous year and a decrease of 44% since the beginning of the statistical time series in 2008-09, when the total was 131,600.
Compared to the previous year, the number of cases initiated in the Court of Session decreased by 48% to 2,251. This was driven by a 74% decrease in the number of personal injury cases, following the establishment of the Sheriff Personal Injury Court under the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. However, the number of cases initiated in the sheriff courts also decreased, although by the lower proportion of 5%.
This is largely explained by a 12% fall in debt cases, which made up 42% of all civil cases initiated in 2016-17 but which are down by 54% since 2008-09.
Family law cases showed a small increase of 3%, but the long term trend is a decrease of 11%. Divorce or dissolution cases and parental responsibilities and rights cases together accounted for 95% of family cases in 2016-17.
The number of personal injury cases initiated in the civil courts was 4% lower than in 2015-16, though this has fluctuated markedly since 2008-09 and the total is 20% higher than in that year. Road traffic accident cases accounted for 59% of thse actions.
However the number of other damages cases increased by 22%, though long term they are on a downward trend, having fallen by 39% since 2008-09.
Cases of repossession following a breach of a mortgage or loan secured on a property were down 6%, continuing a long term downward trend with an 83% decrease since 2008-09.
After an increase in the previous three years, initiated cases involving eviction of tenants from a rented property decreased by 3% in 2016-17. Such actions are still 28% lower than in 2008-09.
Cases disposed of fell by 6% overall to 66,895, a figure 42% lower than in 2008-09. The trends in initiations and disposals are similar.
The 2016-17 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey showed that nearly three in 10 adults were estimated to have experienced at least one civil law problem during the previous three years. The most common type of issues were disputes with neighbours (14%), followed by problems with faulty goods or services, and money and debt issues, both at 4%.