Scotland’s top judge calls for new ‘energy court’ to handle renewables and shale gas disputes


Lord Gill
Lord Gill

A feasibility study is to be launched by Scotland’s top judge into setting up a Scottish ‘energy and natural resources’ court.

Lord Gill, Lord President, said that although this would be part of the Edinburgh-based Court of Session, the new court could also sit in Aberdeen or Glasgow as necessary.

He said: “Our legal system should be a driver for economic progress in Scotland. Our courts and our judges can and should contribute to the prosperity of our country.

“We can do that if we make Scotland a forum of litigation that not only retains litigations that at present go elsewhere but also becomes a forum of choice for litigations from abroad.

“In the 1960s and 1970s the economy of Scotland was transformed by the discovery of North Sea oil. The judges and lawyers of that time were not alert to the opportunity that Scotland could be an international forum for resolving disputes in the oil and gas industry. We paid a price for our complacency when the international oil and gas industry passed us by.

“Now – 50 years later – we should look at Scotland’s economic opportunities and see how the courts can best serve them. In recent years a commitment to renewable energy has brought wind power to the fore as an energy source. Other forms of renewable energy may follow.

Our resources of energy may be increased by the retrieval of shale gas, if that should be allowed. It seems to me therefore that the opportunity that our natural resources present should be served by the court system.

“It is therefore my intention to launch a feasibility study into the creation of an Energy and Natural Resources Court in the Court of Session to provide a specialist forum for litigations in these fields.”

Lord Gill’s eponymous review of Scotland’s legal system has been the driver for a series of recent court reforms aimed at improving access to and the administration of justice, and – potentially – opening up the legal services market to free-market competition.

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