From 28 November 2016, the Scottish courts are bringing in a new table of fees aimed at making the Scottish Courts self-sufficient. While many fees have remained unchanged, or subject to a relatively meagre uplift, there are a few surprising increases. With Qualified One Way Costs Shifting on the horizon, the impact will be greater for insurers.
The Court of Session (Scotland's High Court) has been particularly affected; a result, no doubt, of the moves to restrict the Court of Session to higher-value cases.
Thankfully, the Sheriff Courts have avoided most of the increased fees; fees in the All-Scotland Personal Injury Court have remained entirely unchanged; but parties should be aware that elsewhere across the Sheriff Courts certain items have risen in price, if not to the same extent as we have seen in the Court of Session.
The Scottish Government estimates that these changes will increase the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service's income by around £6 million per annum. This, however, is not guaranteed: a similar increase in court fees in England and Wales ultimately resulted in a significant shortfall in income due to "unpredicted volume changes"in claims.
The Forum Of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) had opposed the increase in fees as an obstacle to the Government's stated aim of increasing access to justice, and in some measure this objection received a positive response as small claim and simple procedure sheriff court claims have escaped relatively unscathed. FOIL had suggested as an alternative the implementation of a staged increase over a number of years. However, the Scottish Government has opted for a targeted increase, with the aim that those services which are most commonly used would subsidise the less common ones.
It remains to be seen whether the changes in fees will have a similar effect in Scotland. In the meantime, however, parties and practitioners ought to be aware of the most significant increases, in order to avoid being caught by surprise.
A few of the more significant changes are below; the rest are available here.
Court of Session
|Hearing fee- 1 judge, per 30 min beyond initial 30 min
|Hearing fee- 3 judges, per 30 min
Sheriff Court (not ASPIC)
|Simple procedure summons