Which disputes are suitable for mediation is to be the subject of a Scottish Government consultation.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham yesterday promised the further exercise in giving the Scottish Government's response to an expert report earlier this year which recommended that much greater use should be made of mediation in civil disputes.

The expert group, set up by Scottish Mediation, called for "a more proactive approach to deliver a viable pathway to mediate civil disputes". In response, Ms Denham said the Government would carry out a public consultation next year before committing to any changes, in particular on whether mediation should be used in cases involving domestic abuse, sexual violence or gender-based violence.

Referring to the report, and a consultation by Margaret Mitchell MSP on a proposed member's bill to encourage the use of mediation, the minister said: "I am clear that this matter needs to be dealt with on a whole system approach and that to normalise mediation in the civil justice system in Scotland, there needs to be systematic reform in a number of areas to overcome the structural and cultural challenges identified in the report...

"The Scottish Government considers that there are a series of questions arising out of that report that require to be resolved before legislation should be brought forward and to that end we consider it is necessary to expose those matters in a public consultation to gather views as well as bring together representatives from delivery bodies to understand the implications of the proposals before making decisions about reform."

She added: "In the months ahead we will also continue to develop our policy on a collaborative basis with key stakeholders both within a 'Collaborative Partnership on Dispute Resolution' as well as a new 'Scottish Dispute Resolution Delivery Group', which will meet for the first time early in 2020."

Welcoming the response, Jim Stephenson, convener of the Law Society of Scotland's Access to Justice committee, commented: “There is clear potential for the wider use of mediation. Simple procedure cases are an example of this, where the rules allow for diversion to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) but aren’t always supported by an effective, affordable, nationally available service. There are some disputes which may not benefit from mediation and some, such as in situations involving domestic abuse, where it would be inappropriate.

“We have been looking at ways in which ADR can promote access to justice, with a survey and roundtable event earlier in the year and look forward to working with Scottish Government and other stakeholders in the new year to consider practical proposals to promote access to justice through ADR.”

Click here to view the ministerial response.