Scottish court and tribunal services to merge

Plans to merge the Scottish Court Service and Scottish Tribunals Service have been outlined by the Scottish government.

Legislation for a joint body, to be known as the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, will be brought forward early next year.

Under the proposals, current staff and venues for tribunals and courts will remain.

The Law Society of Scotland has said it sees "no clear case" for the merger.

The plans are the result of a consultation which closed in September.

'Positive step'

Legal Affairs Minister Rosanna Cunningham said: "The majority of responses to the consultation supported a single body to serve both courts and devolved tribunals in Scotland.

"A joint body will ensure continued independence, with a joint body corporate chaired by the Lord President, while enabling on-going improvement and sharing of best practice."

The merger is part of the Justice Strategy for Scotland which plans to modernise the Scottish justice system.

The chief executive of the Scottish Tribunals Service, Martin McKenna, said he saw the merger as a "positive step".

He added: "This puts the administration of tribunals on the same independent statutory footing as courts whilst protecting the unique nature of tribunals for the people that use them."

'No clear case'

However, some legal bodies have criticised the proposals.

The Law Society of Scotland said it was not opposed to a merger "in principle", but: "Having reviewed and considered the proposals as outlined in the consultation document, we would suggest that there is no clear case made out for a merger between the STS and the SCS."

Additionally, the Scottish Committee of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council said it "does not believe that the case for a merged body is made out in the consultation paper."

In response to the criticism, a Scottish government spokeswoman said: "This merger is about protecting the administration of devolved tribunals, given them the same level of independence and statutory footing as our courts, fully independent of government."

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