If you have a court award or judgment for payment of a sum of money in your favour, which was granted in a court outside the UK against a person or company based in Scotland, how do you enforce it? Here is an overview of the five main steps you need to take, in conjunction with advice from a solicitor. This represents the position as of September 2021.

Step 1: If your court award was issued in an EU member state, check the date the original court proceedings started. If the court proceedings commenced between 1 March 2002 and 9 January 2015, the 2001 Brussels Regulation applies. If the court proceedings commenced between 10 January 2015 and 31 December 2020 the relevant regime is set out in the Recast Brussels Regulation. If the proceedings commenced after that date, then the regime differs depending on the country in accordance with step 2 below.

Step 2: Check which enforcement regime applies. Different enforcement regimes apply depending on the country in which the court award was issued. Some countries are covered by more than one regime, in which case there are rules about which regime has priority over the other, and the rules are subject to change, so legal advice should always be taken about which regime should be used.

Relevant regime

Applies to judgments from courts of the following jurisdictions:

Administration of Justice Act 1920

Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Jamaica, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, Sri Lanka and many small United Kingdom Overseas Territories. A full list can be found in the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments (Administration of Justice Act 1920, Part II) (Amendment) Order 1985/1994 , although this Act no longer covers Hong Kong.

Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933

Norway, Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Pakistan, Suriname, Tonga, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

2001 Brussels Regulation

EU member states where the proceedings were commenced between between 1 March 2002 and 9 January 2015.

Recast Brussels Regulation

EU member states where the proceedings were commenced between 10 January 2015 and 31 December 2020.

HCCH Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005

Judgments arising from proceedings in EU member states, Singapore, Mexico and Montenegro, but only if designated in an exclusive choice of court agreement in a contract between the parties.

The common law regime (raising an action in the Court of Session for decree conform)

All other countries except where otherwise mentioned above. If the judgment is from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, or the Netherlands, however, specific advice should be taken, as there is currently some debate regarding whether the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933 may be used.

Step 3: Register your foreign court award with the Court of Session in Scotland. For each of the regimes set out above, except the common law regime, a foreign court award can be registered by means of a petition (application) to the Court of Session following the rules set out in Chapter 62 of the Rules of the Court of Session. If the petition is granted, the Court of Session will grant an order which allows the foreign court award to be registered in the Books of Council and Session (formal registers held by the court).

If the common law regime is being used, you must raise a whole new court action in the Court of Session. If that is granted, the court will issue a Scottish decree-conform (judgment) which matches the terms of the foreign court award, and can then be enforced in the same way as any Scottish court award or judgment (see 5 below).

Step 4: Obtain formal authority to enforce the judgment. Once a foreign court award has been registered in the Books of Council and Session, you will need to obtain formal authority to enforce it. This is done by obtaining what is known as an 'extract' of the registered judgment together with a 'warrant for execution'. Once you have these documents you can proceed to step 5.

Step 5: Enforce the court award. Once you have completed steps 1 to 4 above, the steps for enforcement are the same as for Scottish court awards. This is because the process of registration (or obtaining a decree conform) has the effect of "converting" the foreign court award to a Scottish one. The first step is often to serve a formal 'charge for payment' on the debtor. This is in a prescribed form and must be done by authorised officers of the court called Messengers at Arms or Sheriff Officers. If no payment is made within 14 days, you can take further steps to enforce the award, such as attachment (seizure) of property other than land, or commencing insolvency proceedings against the debtor. Alternatively, some forms of diligence (enforcement) are available without the need to serve a charge for payment first. The most commonly used of these are arrestment of money in the debtor's bank account (discussed further in this blog), and preventing the debtor from selling or dealing with their own land (known as 'inhibition' and discussed further here).


Fiona Chute

Senior Associate