23. Processes relating to VAC functions continue to be subject to review ahead of their transferring into the Scottish Tribunals structure at a later date, which may take effect at the time of the 2022 revaluation. In the meantime, the Government proposes certain changes to take effect at the time of the 2017 revaluation.
24. The consideration of venues for appeal hearings must balance a number of considerations, such as cost, convenience and the perceived neutrality of the location, and in practice local hearings take place at a range of different venue types. The Scottish Government feels VAC hearings should not be located at offices of the Assessor, as this is not necessarily conducive to a neutral setting, and proposes to preclude this.
25. Panel secretaries are already required to notify parties of details of a hearing, and separately must advertise hearing details at certain locations and make available a list of appeals to be heard. In practice these are already often advertised online, and to consolidate this the Government proposes requiring that details of all hearings and associated lists of appeals be advertised online, and dispense with the need for in situ advertisements.
26. Some hearing decisions are already published online, but this practice varies between areas, there being no associated statutory requirement. To consolidate this good practice, the Government proposes to require that decisions and associated statements of reasons be published online in respect of all substantive Committee hearings ( i.e. excluding dismissals).
27. Currently, once grounds are exchanged in advance of a hearing  , nothing in legislation prevents a party from founding on other grounds at the hearing. Such an arrangement is open to abuse, and indeed is abused by some parties. However, this is avoidable, and the Government therefore proposes that parties cannot at the hearing found on grounds other than those exchanged in advance, unless with the consent of the other party or at the discretion of the VAC.
28. Currently, in advance of a hearing either party may share with the other a list of properties on which they propose to found by way of comparison at the hearing, and when doing so may request such a list from the other party, in which case that party must share a list in return  .
29. The Government proposes amending this, so that any such comparisons to be referenced in evidence by a party at the hearing must have been shared in advance with the other party. The appellant will have to share a list of any comparisons with the assessor, and the assessor will have to reciprocate. The substance of the current provision relating to a party founding on comparisons other than those in its shared list, either with the consent of the other party or at the discretion of the Committee, will remain.
30. So that no extra time pressure is generated for appellants by the proposed changes regarding grounds and comparisons, and also to extend the period for negotiation and preparation, the Government proposes extending the current 70-day notice period for a VAC hearing to 105 days.
31. The Government is considering whether any productions (such as maps, photographs, or other materials) on which a party proposes to found at a hearing must be shared in advance with the other party. Currently the VAC may require a party to furnish the other with productions by a certain date, in which case it is not competent for evidence to be led at a hearing other than in accordance with the material provided  .
32. The current deadline by which the Assessor must provide a written statement of grounds to the appellant, and may request confirmation of intent to proceed, is within 14 days of receiving the appellant's statement  . The Government proposes amending this deadline to 21 days before the hearing. In practice this will often be the same date, but it provides a more reasonable deadline for the Assessor in cases where the appellant's statement is submitted early.
33. The Government is considering whether confirmation of intent to proceed should instead be required as part of the appellant's statement specifying grounds and any alternative value  , rather than in response to any subsequent request from the assessor for such confirmation, as is currently the case  .
34. The Government will finalise its decisions on productions and on confirmation of intent to proceed when bringing forward legislation.