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.
In Scotland there are currently three different types of tribunals:
- Those that deal with devolved issues and have specific Scottish jurisdiction and structures and supported administratively by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (such as the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland)
- Tribunals that deal with reserved issues, but have specific Scottish jurisdiction and structures (such as the tribunal that deals with War Pensions), 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 starts for some tribunals from 1 December 2016.
Organisation of the Scottish Tribunals
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. 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 but 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.
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 a tribunal uses and a role to provide independent resolution of disputes.
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 expected to sit in a new Mental Health Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal in the new structure.
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.
The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber)
The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) replaces 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 ensure 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.
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). A new Scottish benefit called the Best Start Grant will be available to apply for in early December 2018. The Social Security Chamber website will be available from that date at www.socialsecuritychamber.scot. It will provide advice about how to appeal.
When the Social Security Chamber meets to hear an appeal about a process decision it can only have one legal member. This is under section 61 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.
When the Social Security Chamber meets to hear an appeal against a decision made by Social Security Scotland (SSS) on the determination of entitlement to assistance under Part 2 Chapter 2 of the Social Security (Scotland ) Act 2018 it can only have one legal member. The only type of assistance available currently in Scotland under this legislation is the Best Start Grant.
When more benefits are devolved to Scotland as 'assistance' the composition of the tribunal will be different depending on which 'assistance' is being appealed. Additional ordinary members with disability or medical experience will be required.
The Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS)
The Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS) sits in Edinburgh. It will sit in the Housing and Property Chamber. This will transfer to the new structure by October 2018.
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.
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 will transfer by October 2018.
Police Appeals Tribunal
This will transfer by October 2018.
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.
Procedures at tribunals
The procedure at the First-tier Tribunals 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.
There are new rules for the procedures at the Upper Tribunal.
More about other tribunals and courts
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.