There are a number of tribunals in Scotland that deal with a range of matters that require forums, outside of the civil court structure, to investigate and deal with peoples’ rights. This page is about the tribunals that cover hearings and appeals in certain areas of law that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
What do tribunals in Scotland deal with
In Scotland there are currently three different types of tribunals:
- those that deal with devolved issues and some reserved issues but have specific Scottish jurisdiction and structures. They are supported administratively by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (such as the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland)
- those that are administered by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service and are structured into First-tier Tribunal Chambers and an Upper Tribunal and
- tribunals that deal with reserved issues and have GB‐wide jurisdiction and structures (such as the Social Entitlement Chamber of the First‐tier tribunal which deals with appeals relating to Social Security and Child Support).
The transfer of tribunals in Scotland to the new Scottish tribunals structure is underway. It will not be complete for some years but started for some tribunals from 1 December 2016.
Organisation of the Scottish tribunals
Tribunals in the First-tier Tribunal Chamber and Upper Tribunal structure
The tribunal service in Scotland is split into:
- First-tier Tribunal – split into Chambers according to the topic. What this means is that each chamber has a Chamber Specialist who has expertise in that topic
- Upper Tribunal – hears appeals from a First-tier Tribunal on a point of law only and only with the permission of the First-tier Tribunal or another tribunal that may have made the decision, for example, the Pensions Appeals Tribunal. If the permission is refused the Upper Tribunal can still decide to accept the case. This part of the structure is divided into Divisions.
The highest civil court, the Court of Session, hears appeals from the Upper Tribunal but only on a point of law and with the permission of the Upper Tribunal. If the permission is refused the Court of Session can decide to take the appeal.
Complicated or controversial cases can go straight to the Upper Tribunal without first going to the First-tier Tribunal but most cases will go to the First-tier Tribunal in the first instance.
There are 5 chambers of the First-tier Tribunal:
- the Housing and Property Chamber
- the Health and Education Chamber
- the Social Security Chamber
- the General Regulatory Chamber and
- the Tax Chamber.
Upper Tribunal application form
It is possible to apply to the Upper Tribunal for an appeal against a decision of a First-tier Tribunal or to ask permission for an appeal because the First-tier Tribunal has refused permission to appeal. If you want to complete a form you should seek advice, for example from a Citizens Advice Bureau, or from a specialist on the topic.
The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber)
The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) replaced both the The Home Owner Housing Panel (HOHP) and the The Private Rented Housing Panel (PHRP) from 1 December 2016.
The First-tier Tribunal allows homeowners to challenge whether a property factor has carried out his or her duties or complied with the Property Factor Code of Conduct. Where there has been a failure, an order is put in place requiring the factor either to take certain action or make a payment. Failure to comply is a criminal offence.
It also ensures fair rents for tenants and landlords, and ensures that private rented accommodation meets the repairing standard. The Tribunal can inspect the property in question and hold a hearing. Or, if both parties agree, a mediation service can be offered, settling disputes less formally.
The First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) also hears disputes between landlords and tenants in all private tenancies that may involve civil proceedings for reclaiming rent or tenancy deposits or other financial obligations.
It also deals with enforcement of the Letting Agent Code of Practice.
The Additional Support Needs jurisdiction (the ASN Tribunal)
The Additional Support Needs jurisdiction (ASN Tribunal) now comes under the Health and Education Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal sitting in Glasgow.
The ASN Tribunal considers appeals (references) made by parents and young people against decisions of education authorities regarding the provision of educational support, and claims of discrimination because of a disability.
There are helpful guidance documents on the website of the Health & Education Chamber, Additional Support Needs jurisdiction. If you would like further help about appeals and this tribunal, you may find it helpful to contact a specialist organisation, for example, Enquire. This organisation has a helpline on 0345 123 2303.
The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Social Security Chamber)
The Social Security Chamber legally came into being on 22 November 2018. The Chamber will sit in the Glasgow Tribunal Centre but should also be available locally for someone wanting to make an appeal.
The Social Security Chamber will hear appeals from decisions made by Social Security Scotland (SSS). SSS are responsible for Scottish benefits such as the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Support Payment. The Social Security Chamber website will provide advice about how to appeal.
More benefits are being devolved to Scotland over the next period. Additional ordinary members with disability or medical experience will be required to make up the composition of the tribunal.
The Charity Appeals jurisdiction of the First-tier Tribunal
The Charity Appeals jurisdiction of the First-tier Tribunal sits in Edinburgh. It will sit in the General Regulatory Chamber.
The Charity Appeals jurisdiction deals with appeals against decisions made by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). OSCR supports and encourages charitable activity while reassuring the public that their money is being properly spent.
Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland
This deals with appeals from the charges that can be imposed for parking illegally and improper use of bus lanes. You can find out more about the Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal on the mygov.scot website.
Scotland Tax Chamber of the First-tier tribunal
The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Tax Chamber hears appeals regarding Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (a tax on the sale of land and property) and the Scottish Landfill Tax (a tax on un-recycled waste). Currently its membership of the new structure is out for consultation.
The Upper Tribunal hears appeals on decisions of the chambers of the First-tier Tribunal.
Valuation Appeal Committee
Each local authority has a valuation appeal committee. These will be transferred by 2022.
Members of the First-tier Tribunals and Upper Tribunals
Each First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal could have three types of member:
- ordinary - with expertise in the subject area
- legal – legally qualified
- judicial - from the Scottish Courts judiciary
Some judicial members of the First-tier Tribunal who are Chamber Specialists can also be a legal member of the Upper Tribunal.
All tribunals have a decision-making function that matches with the process every tribunal in the Chamber structure uses and a role to provide independent resolution of disputes.
Procedures at tribunals
The procedure at the First-tier Tribunals in the Chamber structure is set by regulation when the function of the tribunal transfers into the new structure. In most cases the rules for the procedures will stay the same as they were when the tribunal existed outside the new structure.
Some tribunals have the procedure for the hearings set in specific legislation. for example, the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland.
There are separate rules for the procedures at the Upper Tribunal.
More about other tribunals and courts
Tribunals outside the Chamber structure
Some of the tribunals that operate in Scotland dealing with devolved and reserved issues are administered by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service but do not sit within the First-tier Tribunal Chamber structure. In some cases the Upper Tribunal can be used for an appeal. They are:
- Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland
- Council Tax Reduction Review Panel
- Pension Appeals Tribunal (reserved issue of War Pensions)
- Land Tribunals for Scotland
The Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland
The Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland sits in Hamilton and deals with cases from the whole of Scotland. It is administered by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service.
This is by far the largest of the nine tribunals and determines applications for compulsory treatment orders (CTOs) under the Mental Health legislation and considers appeals. Applications for CTOs must be made by mental health officers, who are specially trained social workers. There is a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on their website which may be helpful.
Appeals against decisions go first to the Mental Health Tribunal and thereafter to the Court of Session.
Council Tax Reduction Review Panel
The Council Tax Reduction Review Panel is an independent body that will review the decision made by a local authority about someone's entitlement to council tax reduction. A person who wants to apply to the Panel has to ask the local authority for an internal review first.
There is no further appeal after the decision of the Panel.
The Pensions Appeals Tribunal
The Pensions Appeals Tribunal hears appeals from ex-service men or women who want to question a decision about not getting a war pension from the Secretary of State for Defence.
If you think the Pensions Appeal Tribunals decision was wrong on a point of law you may appeal with leave of the Tribunal. The appeal would then be heard by the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber).
The Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS)
The Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS) sits in Edinburgh.
The LTS hears disputes involving land or property. In general, it does not deal with ownership or succession issues, but covers matters such as valuations for rating on non-domestic premises, disputed compensation following compulsory purchase and appeals against the Keeper of Registers of Scotland.
You may appeal on a point of law against a Lands Tribunal decision by making a written appeal direct to the Court of Session.
Tribunals that deal with reserved matters
The following reserved tribunals are administered by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS):
- Immigration and Asylum Tribunal
- Social Entitlement (Social Security and Child Support Appeals)
- The Employment Tribunal in Scotland
Other specialist courts
The Court of the Lord Lyon
The Court of the Lord Lyon is the heraldic authority for Scotland and deals with all matters relating to Scottish Heraldry and Coats of Arms and maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies.
Scottish Land Court
It has authority to resolve a range of disputes, including disputes between landlords and tenants, in agriculture and crofting. The Court is based in Edinburgh, but holds hearings throughout Scotland.