The Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament held a round table discussion on the availability of Alternative Dispute resolution (ADR) which includes mediation in Scotland. Scottish Mediation were delighted to be one of the organsiations giving evidence to the committee and participating in their discussions.
Those discussions were wide ranging and shone a light both on current provision but also started a discussion on how Scotland could have a more effective, person centred justice system through a greater integration of mediation.
One of my jobs was to produce a briefing paper for the committee and as it had been a while since I had done such a paper I was actually pleased to see the wide ranging use of mediation in Scotland whilst at the same time being able to identify the areas of our society that would benefit from improved access to mediation and the skills involved.
When I looked at where mediation has become well established, two areas stood out immediately. They were family mediation and in court mediation services. Family mediation services are provided across Scotland by Relationships Scotland through a number of local centres. CALM Scotland trains lawyer mediators and the law society holds a register of lawyer mediators who are based in legal practices across Scotland.
There are services in a number of courts in central Scotland providing mediation for Simple Porcedure cases. At present these are provided on a pro-bono basis with some support for administration by the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the University of Strathclyde Mediation Clinic. There is use of mediation in the commercial courts too and recently there has been more encouragement for its use. A wider use in the courts will require a change in culture and the rules and better integration of resources.
Perhaps one of the areas where mediation has become most well established is that of in employment mediation. Cases can go to mediation directly, via ACAS and as a resut of tribunal proceedings. There has also been a growth of mediation in the area of administrative justice where bodies such as the NHS and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) have schemes that encourage complaints to be settled through mediation. Through model complaint handling procedures for public service bodies the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman reference mediation as a tool to help in resolving complaints too.
Scottish Local Authorities and SACRO provide community mediation services designed to help resolve community and neighbour disputes. In recent years
these and organisations such as the Cyrenians/Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution have successfully used mediation as an intervention to prevent
homelessness. Many local authorities have taken innovative approaches using their in-house mediators to assist in resolving workplace disputes, pupils’ attendance at school and to support multiple owner repairs enforcement.
There is a current call for the greater use of mediation in the planning system through the planning bill, currently at stage 1 in the parliament. Mediation is being
used to resolve disputes over land and in recent work by WWF Scotland to broker agreements on fishing quotas between key stakeholders.
Peer mediation is used in Scottish schools to resolve disputes and in the process help tackle bullying and harassment. Scottish Mediation provide training in this
area and are currently undertaking a Big Lottery funded project to examine how the resilience of peer mediation can be enhanced. The skills imparted to young
people practicing mediation are vital life skills around active listening, questioning, re-framing; all of which support better conversation.
Launched by Scottish Mediation and SCVO on 1 October 2015, the Third Sector Mediation Project provides free or low-cost mediation to small charities and voluntary organisations. Mediations are provided by 45 volunteer practitioners including 35 from the Scottish Mediation Register and 10 from the Department of Work and Pensions and Scottish Power under their community engagement programmes. In 2017 there have been 45 enquiries and 13 mediations.
At the round table Scottish Mediation commented on the success of mediation in areas such as Additonal Support Needs mediation for education disputes and the work of the SLCC where the provision of mediation is established in statute. This supports experience in other jurisdictions where high usage of mediation follows either legislation or embedded rules of procedure that encourage people to use mediation, as it is part of the system. I’m looking forward to working with the Justice Committee and others to develop such an approach for Scotland so that everyone get’s the opportunity to benefit from mediation.