Civil Justice System's Pandemic Response

Published: 3 August 2023

New research commissioned by the Scottish Government explores the impacts of remote hearings and other measures employed during the COVID-19 pandemic on Scotland’s civil justice system.

New research commissioned by the Scottish Government on the adoption and use of remote hearings during the pandemic reveals a range of views on the perceived impacts on stakeholders, with no single, consistent opinion on their effect or their continued use. 

The ‘Civil Justice System’s Pandemic Response’ project was commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Justice Analytical Service and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. It sought to evaluate the changes made to civil justice processes and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide a broader evidence base to inform future decisions regarding the use of specific pandemic measures, such as online hearings.  

Findings indicate that the adoption and use of remote hearings varied considerably between different court and tribunal settings, with diverse views on the perceived impacts of remote hearings on parties, their representatives, clerks and the judiciary.  

Common challenges were identified in terms of technical problems, digital literacy barriers and challenges around communication. Remote hearings were seen as having potential benefits for certain groups of vulnerable court users, as well as advantages in terms of time, cost and comfort for involved parties and professionals.  

Suggestions for improvements to remote hearings and other pandemic measures to better ensure access to justice for service users centred around resourcing; technological issues; access to information; enhanced training and guidance; and considerations around emotional support for parties.  

The research was carried out by research teams at Ipsos Scotland and the University of Glasgow’s School of Law.  



Rachel Ormston, Dr Alice Diaz, Catriona Millar - Ipsos Scotland  

Professor Nicole Busby, Professor Jane Mair, Dr Dot Reid - School of Law, University of Glasgow 


Read the full Civil Justice System's Pandemic Response report: 


Further information on the project:  




First published: 3 August 2023