Last month, the UK Supreme Court announced that it will sit in Edinburgh in June 2017. This is a historic first: it will be the first time the Court has sat outside of London.

From 12 – 15 June 2017, the Court will sit at Edinburgh City Chambers, the home of Edinburgh City Council. This historic building is located off the Royal Mile in the heart of the Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the usual way, public seating will be available for those interested to watch the proceedings in person and for those further afield, the proceedings will also be relayed live online via the UK Supreme Court website.

The appeals

On this occasion, the three cases, to be heard over the four days, are all Scottish appeals:

Monday 12 June, 11am – 4pm
Sadovska and another v Secretary of State for the Home Department
This appeal relates to the evidential burden on the state when disrupting ‘sham marriages’.

Tuesday 13 June, 10.30am – 4pm
Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Planning Authority v Elsick Development Company Limited
This appeal relates to the correct legal test to be applied when assessing planning obligations, and the extent to which planning authorities are bound to comply with national planning policy.

Wednesday 14 June, 10.30am – 4pm and Thursday 15 June, 10.30am – 1pm (1.5 day hearing)
Brown v The Scottish Ministers
This appeal relates to the obligation on the state to assist the rehabilitation of determinate sentence prisoners.

Comment: A Supreme Court for the whole of the UK?

This announcement follows an indication given by the outgoing president of the Court, Lord Neuberger, late last year. In his Bar Council Law Reform lecture, given on 21 November 2016, Lord Neuberger noted his concern that the public perception of the Court may be that it is too England-orientated and London-focused, when it is in fact a Court for the whole of the United Kingdom. He identified that this perception may be exacerbated by the Court always sitting physically in London. One way of changing this perception, Lord Neuberger identified, would be for the Court to sit outside London and hear appeals in the capitals of the devolved jurisdictions forming part of the UK: Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. This ambition will now be realised.

Interestingly, Lord Neuberger identified in his lecture that, ideally, the Court would hear appeals from across the UK, even when sitting outside London. For example, when sitting in Edinburgh, it might not hear only Scottish cases, but cases from England and each of the devolved jurisdictions. This would involve travel for London-based counsel and solicitors in these appeals, but that of course, as Lord Neuberger identified in his lecture, is what lawyers acting from the devolved jurisdictions have absorbed for many years.

On this first occasion, all appeals selected to be heard in Edinburgh do emanate from Scotland, however observers of the Court will no doubt watch with interest on how this trend develops and whether the Court does in future truly “tour” the devolved jurisdictions.