Mediation in Scotland has developed over the last two decades. This has not been a rapid process because the legal profession is conservative and cautious about new developments. However, the non-court dispute resolution landscape is changing. The Scottish Bar (Faculty of Advocates, equivalent of the Barristers in England) has been embracing change, including: an initiative on arbitration in personal injury cases, the development of an online platform, and the education of a number of Advocates (including QCs) in international arbitration (led by the University of Aberdeen). This increased interest in non-court dispute resolution has reinvigorated the discussion regarding all methods, including mediation.
In the meantime, the Scottish Mediation Network continues to expand, with dozens of mediators and organizations offering mediation services. The areas in which the Network mediators operate include: business, community, education, family, health, housing and employment. Relationships Scotland continues to use mediation to resolve family disputes, as does CALM Scotland (family lawyers-mediators). There is also a family mediation service (FLAGS).
SACRO offers community and homelessness mediation in five areas across Scotland. ACAS, an employment disputes body, offers a conciliation service across the UK. Core Mediation, a private organization, offers mediation training courses and a mediator appointment service. It operates across a wide range of dispute types.
Some legal firms offer mediation services. The Scottish regulator for lawyers, the Law Society of Scotland requires that advice to be provided on the possibility of non-court resolution of all disputes.
The Scottish Government encourages mediation both freestanding and court-annexed.
Academic institutions are playing in important role in encouraging and fostering thinking in non-court resolution theory and practice. This is crucial, since without that fundamental and underpinning knowledge, future lawyers and other legal professionals will tend to favor litigation. Universities, such as the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, University of Dundee and Strathclyde University all provide courses or initiatives in ADR. The Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee run in-house mediation services. Strathclyde University runs a student ADR clinic, with over 150 cases mediated by students from 2014-17, with a success rate of approximately 70%.
Recently, there has been increased interest among non-legal professionals in mediation, since there is a growing understanding that mediation is a sound and sensible method for the rapid, cost-effective, and amicable resolution of disputes in a range of environments.
This all offers fertile ground for a more intensive drive in both education and practice in the ADR arena. The volume of mediation in Scotland is probably still low (although increasing).
By Derek P. Auchie, Senior Fellow – Scotland, Weinstein International Foundation.