Scottish Law Agents
The Scottish Law Agents
The Scottish Law Agents Society is the solicitor profession’s solely representative national body. Unlike the Law Society of Scotland we are a voluntary organisation and a Royal Charter company. We are not a creature of statute and we do not possess the conflict of interest that will always bedevil any organisation that has a duty to both regulate and represent its members. In these post Roberton Review days it is more important than ever for our profession to have a truly independent representative, and our Society is much longer established than the LSS in meeting that need.
Our Society is a national body and concerned with issues that affect solicitors across Scotland. We always endeavour to be distinct and independent from the LSS in how we approach these matters. In addition, we are always keen to know about issues that arise in particular localities, such as delay in the processing of business in a specific sheriff court. Anyone with issues to raise is encouraged to contact the Secretary or a Council member.
In September 2020 we warned that moves to compel digitisation of small value claims (under Simple Procedure) in the sheriff court risks excluding those who lack the ability or confidence to engage with the system. When Civil Online was introduced in part, only two years ago, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service announced reassuringly that “there will always be an alternative available to those who cannot use or access a digital process”. The facility became fully functional only last year, and in June 2020 the tone changed, SCTS declaring that from 30th July new Simple Procedure cases “must be via Civil Online unless in exceptional circumstances and on cause shown.” Many court users do not feel confident or capable in using online processes. A lot of people sued by utilities, credit card companies or property factors are in that predicament precisely because they have disorganised lives or lack the education, intelligence or literacy to navigate their way round digitised systems – like Civil Online. Others are elderly or vulnerable. Or they may be, to use a SCTS term, “not digitally enabled”. In this context Covid 19 has metamorphosised into a red herring. The use of paper forms in court actions should present little or no risk to health. We have no difficulty with Civil Online per se but access to justice demands that it has to be optional, not mandatory, as in England. That applies even more for Respondents.
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