Justice Committee gives Civil Litigation Bill qualified backing

MSPs on Holyrood’s Justice Committee have unanimously backed the proposed law which changes the costs for people bringing a civil claim to court in Scotland.

The Civil Litigation Bill aims to improve access to civil justice through a range of measures. It includes regulating ‘no win, no fee’ agreements and means that most people who bring a personal injury claim will not have to pay the defender’s costs, even if their claim fails. Additionally, the bill allows group proceedings to be brought in Scotland for the first time.

Although backing the general principles, the committee has stated that the Scottish government must commit to reviewing the law in practice. In particular, it wants the government to reassess concerns that the changes may lead to a rise in fraudulent claims or a compensation culture.

The committee also wants to see changes to the bill that provide more safeguards for people when a solicitor takes on their case through a no win, no fee arrangement.

The committee is also urging the Scottish government not to bring the new law into force until claims management firms in Scotland are regulated. This is an area which the Scottish government has already moved on following correspondence from the Justice Committee.

Justice Committee convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said: “This bill will directly affect the rights of many thousands of people in Scotland, and seeks to remove some of the barriers which have prevented individuals accessing civil justice

“Finding redress through the courts is a fundamental aspect of the justice system. The Justice Committee’s scrutiny of this legislation will help to ensure that process is as straightforward and free from pitfalls as possible.

“The committee welcomes the open approach the Scottish government has taken during stage 1 scrutiny of the bill to address outside concerns.

“In supporting the general principles of the bill, the committee has made a number of detailed recommendations in its Stage 1 report suggesting ways in which the bill should be improved. The committee hopes the Scottish government will be open minded to these recommendations as well.”