Courts in Scotland

There are several different types of courts in Scotland, all of them deal with different kinds of cases and have different powers.

Courts in Scotland

There are four main types of courts in Scotland:

  • Justice of the Peace courts

  • Sheriff courts

  • The Court of Session, and

  • High Court of Justiciary.

As well as these courts, a few cases go to the UK Supreme Court in London. These cases are usually high profile cases involving complex legal issues, so it's unlikely to affect you if you have a housing problem.

You might also come across the Scottish Land Court. It's a court of law that deals exclusively with arguments about agricultural tenancies and crofting law. It's easy to confuse the Land Court with the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. There are some similarities between the two (for example, they share the same offices and the same person is head of them both) but they deal with totally different types of cases. For more information have a look at our section on alternatives to court action and also the page on 

Which court will my case go to?

If you've got a housing problem, your case is most likely to be dealt with by your local sheriff court.

However, the type of court you go to will depend on:

  • what your case is about

  • where you live

  • where your opponent lives

  • how much money is involved.

If you're unsure about which court your case will go to you might want to take a look at our courts of Scotland guide or speak to an adviser.

Sheriff courts

If you have a serious housing problem, such as a problem with your landlord, your rent, housing benefit or antisocial behaviour in your neighbourhood, your case is most likely to be dealt with in your local sheriff court. These courts deal with both civil and criminal cases. Housing cases are covered by civil law.

Sheriff courts deal with most cases that go to court in Scotland. The main types of housing cases are:

There are three different kinds of court procedure that can be used in civil cases in the sheriff court. These are:

There may not be a sheriff court where you live but there will be one in a town near you. There are 49 sheriff courts in Scotland split between six areas called 'sheriffdoms'. You can find out where your nearest sheriff court is by going to the Scottish Court Service website.

Justice of the Peace courts

If you have a housing problem, your case probably won't go to a Justice of the Peace court (or 'JP court') because they deal with minor criminal matters such as traffic fines. However, if you've got noisy neighbours (or if your neighbours are complaining about you being noisy), or there have been other minor problems in your neighbourhood, your case might go to a JP court as a 'breach of the peace' case. So, it's worth knowing about JP courts and what they do. You can find your nearest JP court on the Scottish Courts Service website.

Court of Session

The Court of Session in Edinburgh is the highest court in Scotland that deals with civil law. It covers the whole of Scotland and mostly deals with appeals cases and cases in which people are suing others for lots of money.

In housing law, it's important because it deals with cases against public bodies such as councils and the government. So if, for example, your solicitor thinks that the council has acted unlawfully, your case could go to the Court of Session in an action for judicial review. However,

If your case is going to the Court of Session, you'll need an advocate or solicitor-advocate to stand up in court to speak on your behalf, as well as your solicitor. Our section on legal representation explains more about the different roles of these solicitors and our section on legal costs has more details on what it will cost you, including how you can get financial help.

High Court of Justiciary

This court deals with criminal cases and is the highest criminal court in Scotland. It deals with the trials of people for serious crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. It also also deals with appeals where people who have been convicted disagree with the court's decision or are trying to get their sentence reduced. It has two permanent buildings in Edinburgh and Glasgow but it also travels round Scotland, setting up temporarily in sheriff courts in different towns and cities such as Aberdeen, Inverness and Perth.

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Last updated: 29 December 2014

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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