Who are the Members?
The Tribunal has a President who has overall responsibility for the organisation of its work, and three Members who have recognised expertise in the fields of law and surveying. The current President of the Tribunal is the Hon. Lord Minginish, who is also Chairman of the Scottish Land Court. Lord Minginish was appointed President with effect from 15 October 2014, succeeding Lord McGhie who retired after 18 years distinguished service. The Tribunal Members are Ralph A Smith QC and Andrew Oswald FRICS.
What does the Tribunal do?
The main areas of work are
- the discharge or variation of title conditions;
- tenants’ rights to purchase their public sector houses;
- disputed compensation for compulsory purchase of land or loss in value of land caused by public works;
- valuations for rating on non-domestic premises;
- appeals against the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland;
- appeals about valuation of land on pre-emptive purchase;
- voluntary or joint references in which the Tribunal acts as arbiter.
You will find more information about all of these matters on the Specific Statutory Jurisdictions page.
How does the Tribunal work?
The Tribunal works in much the same way as a court.
The Tribunal Clerk and his staff
- receive applications in appropriate form from an applicant;
- arrange for issue of an Order inviting any other interested parties to put in written Answers (objections or representations to an application);
- arrange Orders guiding and controlling the procedures.
The Tribunal itself, that is, the Members of the Tribunal
- conduct Hearings to take evidence and submissions for the parties;
- give a written decision on the case, based on the evidence put before the Tribunal by the parties.
It is important to keep in mind the distinction between the work of the Tribunal staff, namely the Clerk and his assistants, and the Tribunal itself. The decisions of the Tribunal are decisions of the Members. It is only decisions made by one or more of these Members which can be described as a decision of the Tribunal. The Clerk and his staff handle routine matters of procedure. They will try to identify the best way of dealing with each case coming in to the Tribunal. They will be happy to discuss this with parties as necessary.
The aim is to minimise formality and delay. But some formalities are unavoidable in the interests of justice and fairness to ensure that parties know clearly where they stand. The task of the Tribunal Clerk is to arrange procedures so that disputes which cannot be resolved by agreement are heard by the Tribunal Members as soon as parties are fully ready for that to happen. Parties must be allowed time to prepare properly for the Hearing. After the Hearing, Members need time to give proper consideration to their decision.
The Clerk may refer casework matters to the Tribunal Members for their consideration or guidance at any time. He will ask the members to issue certain procedural Orders, but usually the Tribunal itself will not have to consider the detail of any application until the Hearing.
Where possible, parties are invited to agree that the Tribunal disposes of disputes by considering written submissions and without hearing oral evidence or legal submission. If this is agreed the Clerk will arrange for one or more Members to consider the papers. Assuming the Members are satisfied that the case is one that is suitable to be dealt with without a hearing, it is normal to undertake an inspection of the property in question. Parties are usually invited to attend a site inspection.
This procedure is often convenient for applications that depend on the exercise of the judgment or discretion of the Tribunal — such as applications for variation or discharge of title conditions.
If the application does require to be resolved by a Hearing, parties will receive formal intimation of the date of Hearing together with a Guidance Note for Hearings.
How do I use the Tribunal?
You begin by making a written application using the appropriate form. These have been designed to help parties set out clearly the nature of the case and the dispute. (See Making an Application.) Once the application is in, the Tribunal staff will work out the appropriate procedure for your case and issue written instructions as to what must be done to progress it properly up to the stage of the Hearing.
Although the Tribunal has a formal set of rules for the conduct of its business, parties to a dispute can expect to be guided by the Tribunal. The need for careful attention to the rules arises, mainly, in relation to the statutory procedures to be followed in the earlier stages of disputes, before matters come before the Tribunal. Once an application has been received there is scope for a good deal of flexibility of procedure.
How do I know if the Tribunal can help me?
It will usually be clear from the nature of the dispute you have that it turns on the effect of a particular Act of Parliament (e.g. disputed valuation following compulsory purchase would be governed by the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1963). The Act will say whether the case is one that the Tribunal can deal with. If you are unsure, then please contact the Tribunal office. The Clerk will look at your circumstances and try to advise you. However, the Clerk and staff cannot give advice on the merits of any dispute; they can only provide guidance on procedure. Their advice cannot be regarded as a substitute for proper legal advice. If you do not have a solicitor you can get assistance in finding one from the Law Society of Scotland. You may be able to get legal aid for procedures before the Tribunal; you can find out from the Scottish Legal Aid Board.
In cases not covered by a specific Act of Parliament, the Tribunal may also be able to assist. If you and the person with whom you have a dispute both agree to asking the Tribunal to act as an arbiter you may write to the Clerk with such a request. The Tribunal will usually agree to act if the dispute is of a suitable type, similar to any of their statutory jurisdictions. They may be prepared to agree to act in other cases. The Clerk will be able to advise on this.