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Tribunals system

Tribunals are a central part of the Scottish justice system and play a vital role in protecting people's rights. People can go to a tribunal if they want to challenge a decision that affects them. Tribunals tend to be less formal and more accessible than the courts.

Some tribunals deal with matters that are reserved to the UK Parliament, like employment and immigration. Other tribunals deal with matters that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, such as mental health and housing.

Specialist panels deal with these cases which include amongst others, the compulsory care and treatment of people with mental health disorders; disputes between tenants and landlords; disputes involving land and property; and cases concerning children and young people with additional support needs.

Tribunal reform

Over the years, tribunals were created and developed independently of one another, so their practices and procedures can vary significantly.

We are restructuring Scotland's tribunals to make sure they are easier to understand and more user-friendly.

This will also promote more consistency across the tribunals landscape, particularly in their practices and procedures.

The Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 paved the way for tribunals to be brought under one umbrella – the Scottish Tribunals.

This has two-tiers. A First-tier Tribunal, which makes decisions on cases previously heard by the individual tribunals, and an Upper Tribunal that hears appeals against decisions of the First-tier.

The First-tier Tribunal is divided into Chambers, each of which hears cases relating to particular subjects, like housing and property or tax.

Each of the existing tribunals will over time transfer into the appropriate Chamber - this diagram shows the Chamber structure. This means that none of the expertise the tribunals built up before the reforms started will be lost.

Administrative support for the Scottish Tribunals is provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

Timeframe for reform

The tribunals listed below have been transferred into the appropriate Chambers of the First-tier Tribunal:

Tribunal Chamber Transfer date
The Private Rented Housing (prhp) and Homeowner Housing Panels (HOHP) Housing and Property December 2016
The Scottish Tax Tribunals Tax April 2017
Private Rented Sector (PRS) and private Residential Tenancies + Housing and Property December 2017
Letting Agents ++ Housing and Property January 2018
Additional Support Needs Tribunal for Scotland (ASNTS) Health and Education January 2018
Scottish Charity Appeals Panel (SCAP) General Regulatory January 2018

+Private Rented Sector cases were transferred to the First-tier Tribunal from the Sheriff Court. Private Residential Tenancies is a new function reflecting changes to the legislation about tenancy agreements.

++Letting agents is a new function arising from a new framework for the regulation of letting agents introduced through Part 4 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.

The transfer programme will continue until 2022. Below is a list of the remaining tribunals and their proposed transfer dates:

Tribunal Chamber Proposed transfer date
Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland (MHTS) Mental Health November 18
Police Appeals Tribunal General Regulatory April 19
Parking & Bus Lane Adjudicators General Regulatory April 19
Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS) Upper Tribunal October 19
NHS Tribunal Health and Education April 20
NHS National Appeal Panel for Entry to the Pharmaceutical List Health and Education April 20
Education Appeals Committees (EACs) Health and Education April 21
Valuation Appeals Committees (VACs) Tax April 22
Social Security Appeals Social Security 2018 to 19

People who already have a case before a tribunal when it transfers to the new structure will not notice the change as the case will still be dealt with by the same tribunal members.