Covid-19 updated information

Dear Tribunal Users,

First of all, if it doesn’t sound rather hollow, may I wish you all a very happy New Year. We all earnestly hope that, to adopt the First Minister’s metaphor, the vaccines win the race against the virus and that the summer and subsequent months of the year see a return to the freedoms we once took for granted.

However, that is emphatically not where we are at the moment, with the country firmly in the grip of the second wave of the virus which was apprehended when this guidance was last updated, on 11 November. This downturn in the situation has led to the introduction, by the Lord President of the Court of Session (Scotland’s senior judge) and the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, of a new set of rules to govern how courts and tribunals conduct their business. In short, the effect on the Lands Tribunal is that in-person hearings (hearings where parties, lawyers, witnesses, members of the Tribunal and Tribunal staff are all physically present in the same room) cannot take place unless absolutely necessary (and then only where social distancing is possible). Instead, wherever possible, cases will be heard on Webex, a platform akin to Zoom and one with which most litigation lawyers have become familiar over the last few months. Although not as good as in-person hearings in many ways, hearing cases “virtually” has advantages. Assuming access to a laptop or tablet and a good internet connection, parties, lawyers and witnesses can participate from their homes or offices. Where that sort of connectivity is not available at home it will probably be available at lawyers’ offices or it might be possible for us to arrange a link from the local Sheriff Court. Where a physical inspection of the land is necessary, it would be our intention to do that separately, either before or after the case has been heard on Webex and with no requirement for parties or their representatives to attend.

Administratively, we continue to strive to operate a blend of home-working and working in George House, where the office of the Tribunal will continue to be staffed on a daily basis, subject to any changes directed by Scottish Government (in respect of the opening hours of George House), the Lord President or the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. Mail received in the post is being processed but it continues to be the case that parties should also, if possible, send in applications and pleadings in digital, as well as hard copy, form.

Notwithstanding, however, it should be borne in mind that while the Tribunal continues to try to maintain the quality of service that it has provided in the past, this may not be possible given the current and ongoing situation. There may be inevitable delays in the processing and progressing of applications. I would simply ask for your forbearance during these difficult times.

These arrangements are to be in place until at least 28 February.

Lord Minginish
15 January 2021