1. Executive Summary
The number of civil law cases initiated has decreased overall and for most case types since 2008-09.
There were 77,721 civil law cases initiated across the Court of Session, sheriff courts and the newly established Sheriff Personal Injury Court in 2015-16 (excluding summary applications  ). This is a rise of 1% from the previous year but represents a decrease of 41% since 2008-09  . The reasons behind this overall decrease are not known, but possible factors include increasing use of alternative methods of dispute resolution and concerns over costs for litigants should they lose the case. The number of cases initiated in 2015-16 was similar to the previous three years, in contrast to the downward trend observed over the years prior to that.
Compared to the previous year, the number of cases initiated in the Court of Session decreased by 16%. This overall decrease was driven by a 30% decrease in the number of personal injury cases initiated in the Court of Session, as a consequence of the establishment of the Sheriff Personal Injury Court by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. In contrast, the number of cases initiated in the sheriff courts increased by 1%.
The number of family cases initiated has been decreasing since 2008-09 (by 13%). Divorce / dissolution cases and parental responsibilities and rights cases together accounted for 95% of family cases in 2015-16.
Debt cases made up 45% of all civil court cases initiated in 2015-16. There were 3% more debt cases than in 2014-15 but 47% fewer than in 2008-09.
The number of personal injury cases initiated in the civil courts was 5% lower than in 2014-15, but the number of personal injury cases has fluctuated markedly since 2008-09. Cases resulting from a road traffic accident made up the majority of personal injury cases (56% in 2015-16).
The number of damages cases initiated decreased by 2% compared to the previous year. This continues a long-term downward trend (50% decrease since 2008-09).
There was a 43% drop in initiated cases of repossession  following a breach of a mortgage or loan secured on a property, compared to 2014-15. This continues a long-term downward trend (82% decrease since 2008-09).
Initiated cases involving eviction of tenants from a rented property rose in 2015-16 for the third year in a row, but are still 26% lower than in 2008-09.
All sheriffdoms in Scotland have seen an overall drop in the number of cases initiated and disposed of since 2008-09. Between 2014-15 and 2015-16, Lothian and Borders saw the largest decrease in initiated cases (-4%), while South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway saw the largest rise (+9%).
The 2014-15 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows that around one in five adults experienced at least one civil law problem during the previous three years. The most common type of issue was disputes with neighbours, followed by problems with money and debt, and faulty goods or services.
Email: Jeremy Darot