Civil claims falling within the simple procedure will have to be submitted online – but the rules will contain safeguards to preserve access to justice, the Scottish Civil Justice Council has agreed.
The body that prepares civil court rules in Scotland has released minutes of discussions over the summer, following an urgent request from Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service to require claimants to use its digital Civil Online service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be a temporary measure to reduce pressure on court staff.
The minutes disclose that a move to mandatory online procedure was first raised in December 2019, prior to the pandemic, but was now being presented in modified form with an exception for those unable to submit forms electronically, a sunset provision so that practical effects of the change could be monitored, and with information about work on developing an interface (API) so that solicitors would be able to upload claim forms directly from their own case management systems.
After concerns were aired and discussed, and updated draft rules circulated, SCJC members agreed that:
- the exception to the requirement should present a "low bar", to avoid prejudice to any claimant that might impact oil access to justice;
- the rules will not be made until SCTS has confirmed that the API is available (there is as yet no confirmed date for this), and will be brought into force about a month afterwards; and
- there will be a sunset provision (with a likely date of 30 September 2021), to enable a period of monitoring and review.