While arbitration featured on the last government’s agenda, around the world the really significant development is in the field of mediation as a non-adjudicative form of dispute resolution. The Ministry of Justice recently issued a Dispute Resolution Commitment in which mediation features prominently: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130128112038/http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/mediation/dispute-resolution-commitment.htm. Many others countries are following the same route, both in the context of more efficient use of resources and in the context of better dispute resolution for parties.
In Scotland, we have the potential to attract and retain more business if we can keep up with what is happening elsewhere – and improve on it. The reforms to civil courts on the back of the Gill report may help to provide a platform for this.
Perhaps what we need in Scotland is a rolling review process for commercial dispute resolution. How about an Advisory Committee on Dispute Resolution comprised perhaps of representatives from professional bodies and services, the courts, academia, business and users, with an independent chair, to be serviced by civil servants and using interns for research and analysis? It could meet six-monthly and have a lifespan of say ten years.
To consider the range, quality, process and benefits of commercial dispute resolution in Scotland in order to provide Government and others with a rolling programme of recommendations designed to bring about enhancements across the board, so that within ten years Scotland’s provision will match that of anywhere in the world.
Can Scotland, with its wealth of intellectual and commercial resources and with an internationally recognised legal and problem-solving culture, bring this about?