More than 260 people attended a conference on Scottish tribunals held virtually yesterday, to consider future developments as the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland enters a period of substantial expansion.

The conference discussed the ways in which the Scottish tribunals, both devolved and reserved, have adapted to the challenges raised by the pandemic and how these achievements might inform change, including the future use of both virtual technology and in-person hearings.

In his keynote speech the Lord President, Lord Carloway, said: “I hope that this is the start of a process in which we can all work together on developing, enhancing and promoting a tribunal system of which we can be justly proud. The past 18 months have demonstrated the resilience, adaptability and commitment of all those involved in the tribunals. Those qualities stand us in good stead for the challenges ahead.”

President of the Scottish Tribunals, Lord Woolman, stated: “Over the past 18 months, tribunals responded admirably to the constraints imposed by COVID restrictions. I acknowledge the fine work of all those who ensured the through-flow of tribunal business. When the pandemic hit, members and staff switched quickly and effectively to new ways of working. Innovation and adaptability have been the watchwords.”

Lord Hodge, Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court, spoke about his involvement in the creation of the Scottish tribunals and also about how experiences during the pandemic might shape models for the future, particularly in less complex cases where legal representation may not be required. He maintained that “remote hearings, electronic documents and a sympathetic judge can assist the unrepresented citizen to advance his or her case before the tribunal at proportionate cost”. Lord Hodge also explored the potential for online dispute resolution methods. 

A courts website page will be set up to host the keynote speeches presented by Lord Carloway and Lord Hodge. A report summarising the conference presentations and Q&A sessions will be published in due course.