Scottish Diligence Statistics 2020-21


Released: 08 September 2021
Next update: September 2022 (exact date to be confirmed)

Authors: Catherine McAuley and Ken O’Neill

Responsible statistician: Ken O’Neill ()

Data used in this release: Scottish Diligence 2020-21

Media enquiries: AiB Communications team ()

Twitter: AiB_updates; ScotStat

Official Statistics Label: Official Statistics

Note: these statistics are for the period 01 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (inclusive), therefore the data relates to diligence during the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland.

We want your feedback: We welcome any feedback on any aspect of these statistics and invite you to complete our survey.


 

Main Points

Total diligences executed, for all warrant procedures and diligence processes, decreased by 56.6% from 291,535 in 2019-20 to 126,665 in 2020-21. The 2020-21 figure is the lowest figure reported in the last 10 years.

The majority (90.4%) of total diligences executed in 2020-21 were served under the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts. Diligences executed in respect of council tax debts decreased by 52.4% when compared with the previous financial year.

For the Non-Summary Warrant procedure, diligences executed decreased by 76.2% to 10,730 in 2020-21.

The number of Charge for Payments decreased from 275,080 in 2019-20 to 165,035 in 2020-21, a decrease of 40.0%. The majority (83.5%) were served in respect of council tax debts.

 

Chart 1 shows the total number of diligences executed and the number of Charge for Payments Served between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows that total diligences executed and Charge for Payment served both significantly decreased in 2020-21.

About this release

This report presents annual statistics on diligences and Charge for Payment based on information submitted by officers of court for the 2020-21 financial year. The use of inhibition supplied by Registers of Scotland is also reported.

The data in this release relates to the period 01 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (inclusive) and therefore relates to diligence during the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland.

The statistics are compiled by Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), an executive agency of the Scottish Government.

Diligence is the term for various forms of legal processes taken by creditors to enforce repayment of overdue debts. This is the first year that diligence statistics have been published by AiB as Official Statistics in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

 

Things you need to know about this release

Transition from Experimental Statistics to Official Statistics

Experimental statistics are a type of official statistics that are undergoing development. Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) has previously published diligence statistics where the experimental statistics label has been used with the aim for compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

These statistics were classed as “experimental” and over the previous year a work programme to continuously evaluate and improve the existing output has been undertaken. More specifically, the work programme for the financial year 2020-21 had focused on four areas: User needs; Completeness of the data collected; Quality assurance processes and Accessibility. More details on the work programme can be found here.

Given the work programme undertaken to develop these statistics and their publication, this will be the first year where the Scottish Diligence statistics publication has been published under the Official Statistics label. These official statistics provide key information on diligence in Scotland and are produced by professionally independent statistical staff.

Section 6.1 of the 2007 Statistics and Registration Service Act defines official statistics as statistics produced by the UK Statistics Authority, government departments (including executive agencies), the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, any other person acting on behalf of the Crown or any other organisation named on an Official Statistics Order.

Under the Act, official statistics should comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics and fall within the scope of the Office for Statistics Regulation, which assesses their compliance against the Code of Practice.

Further information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland is available here

 

How are diligence statistics collected?

In accordance with Section 84 of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987, officers of court are required to collate and return to the Lord Advocate information regarding their official function. The Lord Advocate may, in whichever form they see fit, publish the information submitted by the officers of court. However, information must be published in such a way that the individuals who are subject to diligence or officers of court cannot be identified.

This function is now fulfilled by AiB following an agreement in September 2009 to transfer responsibility for the collation of diligence statistics from the Scottish Government’s Justice Analytical Services division.

The published statistics are subject to disclosure control in accordance with Section 84 of the Debtors (Scotland) 1987 and the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Officers of court are identified through the The Society of Messenger-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers (SMASO) member’s directory. For 2020-21, data collection returns were received by all members. Completeness in terms of receipt of all possible quarterly returns for each officer of court was 100%.

Thank you to all officers of court for collating and returning diligence data used in the publication and the assistance provided by SMASO.

It is important to note this publication does not include criminal court fines. Instead, the Fines Enforcement Officers are responsible for pursuing payment of fines and these statistics are collated by The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, which is made available in the following link: SCTS Official Published Statistics

What is diligence?

Diligence is the term for various processes of debt enforcement in Scottish law.

A person or organisation (the creditor) can use diligence if someone who owes them money (the debtor) has failed to pay a sum due. The creditor must have a decree (court order) enforceable in Scotland, or a document of debt such as a Summary Warrant before they can carry out diligence.

The court order gives the creditor authority to recover money due to them using whichever method of legal debt enforcement they choose. In most cases, the creditor must also serve a Charge for Payment (a formal demand for payment) and issue a Debt Advice and Information Package (providing information for debtors to help them deal with their creditors) before using diligence.

 

Diligences executed by warrant procedures

The total number of diligences carried out in 2020-21 was 126,665, a 56.6% decrease on the previous year.

There are two warrant procedures used to pursue diligence: Summary Warrant and Non-Summary Warrant. Summary Warrant is granted in respect of central and local government debts, and Non-Summary Warrant for all other types of debt. The Summary Warrant procedure is further disaggregated to show those granted for the enforcement of council tax.

Further comparisons on warrant procedures can be found in Table 1 below.

 

Table 1. Diligences executed by warrant procedures (all diligence processes)
Warrant procedure 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Annual Change
Summary Warrant (council tax) 239,535 240,890 114,545 -52.4%
Other Summary Warrant 6,315 5,600 1,390 -75.2%
Non-Summary Warrant 26,840 45,040 10,730 -76.2%
Total diligences executed 272,690 291,535 126,665 -56.6%
Source: Officers of court

 

The majority (90.4%) of total diligences executed in 2020-21 were served under the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts. Diligences executed in respect of council tax debts decreased by 52.4% compared with 2019-20. Since 2011-12, diligences executed in respect of council tax debts have decreased by 46.4%.

For other types of local and central government taxes, duties and levies (shown in the Other Summary Warrant procedure), diligences executed decreased by 75.2% in 2020-21 when compared with the previous year.

For the Non-Summary Warrant procedure, diligences executed decreased by 76.2% from 45,040 to 10,730 in 2020-21.

Chart 2 below shows that the Non-Summary Warrant procedure has been subject to fluctuation in recent years owing to legislative changes and customer requirements of officers of court.

 

Chart 2 shows the number of diligences executed by warrant procedures between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows that the total number of diligences executed in 2020-21 decreased across all warrant procedures.

Warrant procedures

Summary Warrant: a procedure for central and local government to recover unpaid taxes, duties and similar levies. Used mainly by local authorities and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The process involves an application to court in respect of debts due by several different debtors. No hearing is held, however statutory notices are provided to the debtor prior to application.

For the Summary Warrant, the returns divide into two categories: warrants raised for the pursuit of payment of council tax, and all other Summary Warrant debt. Diligence on the dependence is not available for Summary Warrant actions.

Non-Summary Warrant: all executions of diligences that are not part of the Summary Warrant process. This encompasses all other types of debt, including consumer debt (for example, personal loans or credit card debt).

 

Community Charge

From 1 February 2015, local authorities no longer have the ability to collect Community Charge debts. Diligences executed in respect of Community Charge debts before this date are included in the ‘Summary Warrant (council tax)’ category.

 

Diligences executed under Summary Warrant and by diligence processes

Non-earnings arrestments were the most used diligence process for the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts. Together with earnings arrestments, these accounted virtually for all diligence processes.

In 2020-21, there were 82,505 non-earnings arrestments served under Summary Warrant in respect of council tax debts, a 53.0% decrease when compared with the previous year. Overall, 72.0% of all diligences executed served under this warrant procedure were non-earnings arrestments.

Earnings arrestments were the second most used diligence process (27.9%), which has decreased by 50.7% when compared with the previous year. A very small number of other diligence processes were also used for this warrant procedure, mainly attachments.

Chart 3 below shows a comparison between non-earnings arrestments and earnings arrestments for the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts over time. This chart shows that non-earnings arrestments remain the most used diligence process since 2011-12.

For diligences executed in pursuit of other forms of central and local government debt served under the Summary Warrant procedure, non-earnings arrestments were again the most used diligence process. In 2020-21, out of 1,390 total diligences executed by Other Summary Warrant, 1,060 (76.3%) were non-earnings arrestments with the remainder mainly being earnings arrestments (23.3%) or attachments (0.4%).

Table 1 within the Diligences executed by warrant procedures section showed that 1.1% of total diligences executed in 2020-21 were served under the Other Summary Warrant procedure. Diligences carried out using this procedure for other types of local and central government taxes, duties and levies have decreased by 75.2% when compared with the previous year, with any change coming from the changes in non-earnings arrestments.

 

Chart 3 shows the number of diligences executed by diligence process for Summary Warrant (council tax) procedure only between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows the top two processes only, Non-Earnings Arrestments and Earnings Arrestments. From this chart we see that non-earnings arrestments remain the most used diligence process despite a sharp fall in 2020-21.

Diligence processes served under Summary Warrant procedure:

 

  • Attachment

  • Exceptional Attachment

  • Money Attachment

  • Earnings Arrestment

  • Non-Earnings Arrestment.

A short guide to these diligence processes can be found in the Guide to diligence processes section.

 

Diligences executed under Non-Summary Warrant by diligence processes

There were 10,730 diligences served under the Non-Summary Warrant procedure, 8.5% of total diligences executed in 2020-21.

Chart 4 below shows selected diligence processes served under the Non-Summary Warrant procedure. The majority of diligence processes used were either non-earnings arrestments (79.2%) or earnings arrestments (18.2%). The remaining diligences in 2020-21 were attachments (1.4%) and other diligence processes (1.3%).

Chart 4 also shows that Current Maintenance Arrestments are now rarely used after the introduction of Deduction from Earnings Orders, which allows the Child Support Agency to take payments for child maintenance directly from income.

Non-earnings arrestments decreased significantly in 2020-21 after having reached the higher levels seen prior to 2020-21 and the COVID-19 pandemic. As mentioned earlier in this report, the non-summary warrant procedure has been subject to fluctuation in recent years owing to legislative changes and customer requirements of officers of court.

 

Chart 4 shows the number of diligences executed by diligence process for Non-Summary Warrant procedure only between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows the following selected processes: Non-Earning Arrestments, Current Maintenance Arrestments, Earning Arrestments and Attachments. From this chart we see that non-earnings arrestments remain the most used diligence process despite a sharp fall in 2020-21.

Diligence processes served under Non-Summary Warrant procedure:

 

  • Attachment

  • Exceptional Attachment

  • Money Attachment

  • Interim Attachment

  • Earnings Arrestment

  • Non-Earnings Arrestment

  • Current Maintenance Arrestments

  • Diligence on the Dependence (Non-Earnings Arrestments).

A short guide to these diligence processes can be found in the Guide to diligence processes section.

 

Diligences executed by Sheriffdom

In 2020-21, the largest number of diligences executed were granted in Tayside, Central and Fife followed by South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway.

The number of diligences carried out decreased in across all six Sheriffdoms with the largest decrease in Glasgow and Strathkelvin (72.6% decrease) followed by:

  • Grampian, Highlands and Islands (60.7%)
  • Lothian and Borders (57.5%)
  • North Strathclyde (55.1%)
  • Tayside, Central and Fife (55.1%)
  • South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway (39.5%)

Chart 5 below shows diligences executed by Sheriffdom for all warrant procedures and diligence processes between 2011-12 and 2020-21 (diligences executed under warrants granted in the Court of Session or other warrant types are not shown).

 

Chart 5 shows the number of diligences executed by Sheriffdom for all warrant procedures and diligence processes between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows that the largest number of diligences executed in 2020-21 were granted in Tayside, Central and Fife.

Sheriffdom

There are 39 Sheriff Courts in Scotland which cover a particular Sheriff Court district. These districts are separated into six Sheriffdoms each comprising the various courts in its area.

The 6 Sheriffdoms in Scotland are:

  • Glasgow and Strathkelvin

  • Grampian, Highlands and Islands

  • Lothian and Borders

  • North Strathclyde

  • South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway

  • Tayside, Central and Fife.

The information provided by the officers of court allows the information to be reported on by Sheriffdom based on where the warrant was granted. Further information on Sheriffdoms is available from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

 

Charge for Payment

In 2020-21, a total of 165,035 Charge for Payments were served, a 40.0% decrease on the previous year.

Chart 6 below shows that the majority (83.5%) of Charge for Payments were served under the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts. Overall, a total of 137,780 Charge for Payments were served under this warrant procedure, a 34.9% decrease when compared with the previous year. This is the first time there has been less than 150,000 Charge for Payments served under this warrant procedure since 2011-12.

 

Chart 6 shows the number of Charge for Payments served by warrant procedure between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows that the majority of Charge for Payments served in 2020-21 were under the Summary Warrant (council tax) only procedure.

The decrease in Charge for Payments served relate to council tax debts enforced under the Summary Warrant procedure. This downward trend was also supplemented by decreases in Charge for Payments served for Other Summary Warrant and Non-Summary Warrant procedures.

Further comparisons on Charge for Payments served by warrant procedures can be found in Table 2 below.

 

Table 2. Charge for Payment Served by warrant procedures
Warrant procedure 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Annual Change
Summary Warrant (council tax) 201,025 211,760 137,780 -34.9%
Other Summary Warrant 9,085 6,590 1,170 -82.2%
Non-Summary Warrant 50,725 56,730 26,085 -54.0%
Total Charge for Payment Served 260,835 275,080 165,035 -40.0%
Source: Officers of court

Charge for Payment

For most diligences, the creditor must serve the debtor with a Charge for Payment before a debt can be recovered. It is a formal demand for payment of the amount owed to the creditor, including any interest and associated costs, and generally gives the debtor 14 days to make payment. If the debtor does not satisfy the debt within the period specified, the creditor may then use diligence to recover what is owed.

Difference in count between Charge for Payments and Diligence processes

While it is necessary to serve a Charge for Payment in most cases before diligence is carried out under any warrant procedure, it is possible that multiple years of debts owed (for example, council tax arrears) may be included within one Charge for Payment rather than individual Charge for Payments.

Furthermore, a number of different diligences can then be pursued afterwards – in other words, one Charge for Payment may lead to at least one diligence process being executed afterwards.

 

Charge for Payment by Sheriffdom

In 2020-21, the largest number of Charge for Payments were served in Tayside, Central and Fife, for all warrant procedures (see chart 7).

Charges for Payment served decreased year-on-year in 2020-21 for across all six Sheriffdoms (excluding Court of Session and Other). The largest decrease in Charges for Payment served year-on-year in 2020-21 was in Lothian and Borders (51.2% decrease) followed by:

  • Grampian, Highlands and Islands (50.2%)
  • Glasgow and Strathkelvin (44.8%)
  • North Strathclyde (36.9%)
  • Tayside, Central and Fife (30.0%)
  • South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway (25.9%)

 

Chart 7 shows the number of Charge for Payments Served by Sheriffdom for all warrant procedures and diligence processes between 2011-12 and 2020-21. This chart shows that in 2020-21 the largest number of Charge for Payments served were served in Tayside, Central and Fife.

Further Information

Charge for Payment Served by warrant procedure for each Sheriffdom are available here (tables 3, 4 and 5).

 

Inhibition

Table 3 below shows that Notices of Inhibition decreased by 56.8% in 2020-21 when compared with 2019-20. There were 2,151 Schedules of Inhibition in 2020-21, a 19.2% decrease on the previous year. Schedules of Inhibition on the Dependence decreased by 43.9%.

 

Table 3. Inhibition Statistics
Nature of action initiated 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Annual Change
Notices of Inhibition 309 220 95 -56.8%
Schedules of Inhibition 2,828 2,663 2,151 -19.2%
Schedules of Inhibition on the Dependence 180 187 105 -43.9%
Source: Registers of Scotland

 

Note that an inhibition does not provide a direct means of debt recovery. However, it does prohibit a debtor from dealing with their heritable property after the inhibition takes effect, providing a safeguard to prevent the disposal of the assets. If an inhibition is registered against a debtor, they will not have the right to sell the property or to take out a secured loan (such as a second mortgage) against it.

Inhibition

A personal diligence which prohibits a defender (debtor) from dealing with their heritable property after the inhibition takes effect. Heritable property is land and other immoveable property (houses, commercial premises etc.)

Statistics on inhibition are supplied by Registers of Scotland.

 

Guide to diligence processes

Attachment

Attachment allows a creditor to seize a debtor’s moveable property as a means of recovering money owed. Unlike arrestment, which is used against property held by a third party, attachment can be used to seize property owned by the debtor and in their possession. Attachment cannot be used to seize goods in the debtor’s dwellinghouse, unless an order for exceptional attachment has been granted by the Sheriff.

 

Diligence on the dependence

Diligence on the dependence is a provisional measure which can be used to secure funds, goods or property to prevent the debtor from disposing of them whilst the action is ongoing. A creditor may, at any time while a court action is ongoing, apply to the court for authority to carry out arrestment or inhibition on the dependence of the action.

 

Earnings arrestment

Earnings arrestment is used to make a deduction from a debtor’s earnings for enforcement of a single debt. A creditor must be in possession of a decree (or relevant document of debt) and must have issued the debtor with a Charge for Payment, which must have expired, before proceeding with diligence against earnings. However where the debt is being pursued by a Fines Enforcement Officer for an unpaid court fine, no Charge for Payment is required. Where the debtor is an individual, creditors, including Fines Enforcement Officers, must also have provided a Debt Advice and Information Package.

 

Non-earnings arrestment

Used on a debtor’s moveable assets which are in the hands of a third party. If the assets were in the debtor’s own hands the diligence of attachment would need to be used. Although it is not exclusively used against money held in banks or building societies this is by far the main type of action for this type of arrestment. Although a creditor could arrest goods that were held in storage by a third party (e.g. furniture).

 

Exceptional attachment

There is a special procedure for the attachment of non-essential articles kept in a dwellinghouse. The procedure, known as exceptional attachment, can only be used in exceptional circumstances.

An exceptional attachment order authorises the attachment, removal and auction of non-essential assets belonging to the debtor and kept in a dwellinghouse. Before granting an order the sheriff will take a number of matters into consideration including the nature of the debt, whether the debtor resides in the dwellinghouse, whether they have had money advice and whether there is, or has been, any agreement between the debtor and creditor for the payment of the debt.

 

Interim attachment

Interim attachment is a provisional diligence, similar to diligence on the dependence. Interim attachment protects the interests of creditors whilst a court action progresses. It effectively restricts the debtor’s ability to deal with attached moveable assets in their possession pending the outcome of the action, but does not allow the creditor to remove or sell the attached items. The court may, upon application any time after interim attachment, make provision for the security of attached articles.

 

Money attachment

Money attachment allows a creditor to attach money (cash including coins and banknotes in a foreign currency, postal orders, banking instruments etc) which is held on a debtor’s premises although money in a dwelling house cannot be attached.

 

Inhibition

Inhibition is a personal diligence against the defender. While it is in place, it prevents the defender from selling, transferring or otherwise disposing of their property. It also prohibits the defender from securing any new loans against the property.

Inhibition can also be used when an action for the payment of debt is under consideration by the court but a decree has not yet been granted. This action is used to secure the debtor’s property pending the outcome of the court action and is a form of diligence on the dependence.

A creditor must have a decree (or relevant document of debt) before proceeding with inhibition. A Schedule of Inhibition must be served on the debtor and, where the debtor is an individual and the action is in respect of debt, the creditor must also provide a Debt Advice and Information Package.

 

Background information

Official Statistics label

These official statistics provide key information on diligence in Scotland. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff.

Section 6.1 of the 2007 Statistics and Registration Service Act defines official statistics as statistics produced by the UK Statistics Authority, government departments (including executive agencies), the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, any other person acting on behalf of the Crown or any other organisation named on an Official Statistics Order.

Under the Act, official statistics should comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics and fall within the scope of the Office for Statistics Regulation, which assesses their compliance against the Code of Practice.

Further information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland is available here

 

Data Sources, strengths and weaknesses of the data

The statistics in this report are based on the information submitted by officers of court, along with general data on the use of inhibition supplied by Registers of Scotland, for the period 01 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 during the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland.

Officers of court are currently required to submit diligence information on a quarterly basis, beginning in April each year. Each quarter, information is provided on the number of Charge for Payments served, the number of diligences executed by warrant type, and the number of diligences executed in each Sheriffdom.

Officers of court are identified through the The Society of Messenger-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers (SMASO) member’s directory. For 2020-21, data collection returns were received by all members. Completeness in terms of receipt of all possible quarterly returns for each officer of court was 100%.

The published statistics are subject to disclosure control in accordance with Section 84 of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 and the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

 

Relevant legislation

Diligence in Scotland is covered by the following legislation: the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987; the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002; and the Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007. The Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Act 2015 provides that, from 1 February 2015, local authorities no longer have the ability to collect Community Charge Debts.

 

Quality

Relevance

Relevance is the degree to which statistics meet the current and potential needs of users.

The diligence statistics produced by AiB are based on the information submitted by officers of court in accordance with Section 84 of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987. They include both Summary Warrant and Non-Summary Warrant procedures. In addition, diligence statistics can be broken down separately, by Sheriffdom (geographical districts in which each comprising the various courts in its area) and type of diligence processes. It is important to note that this is the only available geographical dimension for this analysis.

The diligence statistics presented here do not include criminal court fines. Instead, the Fines Enforcement Officers are responsible for pursuing payment of fines and The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service produced and published official statistics on criminal court fines: SCTS Official Published Statistics (scotcourts.gov.uk).

The inhibition statistics produced by AiB are based on the information supplied by Registers of Scotland.

AiB itself is a key user of AiB’s diligence statistics, which are used to inform policy decision and development, for ministerial briefing and to answer public enquiries. Outside AiB, the statistics are used by officers of court, the insolvency profession, debt advice agencies, local authorities and other government agencies, and the general public.

In late 2020, AiB launched an online survey asking users for feedback on the experimental statistics release, which remains available indefinitely. AiB continues to use this survey to address user feedback in order to investigate how well the current set of statistics meet user needs.

 

Accuracy

Accuracy is the closeness between an estimated result and the (unknown) true value.

Officers of court are currently required to submit diligence information on a quarterly basis, beginning in April each financial year. Each quarter, information is provided on the number of Charge for Payments served, the number of diligences executed by warrant procedure type, and the number of diligence executed in each Sheriffdom.

Officers of court are identified through the SMASO member’s directory. For 2020-21, data collection returns were received by all members. Completeness in terms of receipt of all possible quarterly returns for each officer of court was 100%.

Data validation processes are in place to identify and resolve erroneous data inputs when collecting data from officers of court, in order to ensure the accuracy and consistency of diligence statistics within tables and between related tables.

 

Timeliness and punctuality

Timeliness refers to the time gape between the publication date and the reference period for the statistics.

Punctuality is the time lag between the actual and planned dates of publication for the statistics.

Historically, the Scottish Diligence Statistics for a specific financial year were published every December following the end of the financial year being reported. This meant there was an approximate nine month time lag between the end of the financial year and the publication of the diligence statistics. These statistics were classed as “experimental” statistics with the aim for compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This is the first time where these statistics have been published as Official Statistics. It is important to ensure all Official Statistics are released on a timely basis that meet the needs of users as far as practicable. The time lag has reduced from nine months to approximately six months. As part of the ongoing work programme to evaluate and improve the diligence statistics, AiB will investigate the possibility of releasing diligence statistics on a more timely basis that meet the needs of users as far as practicable.

The exact publication date will be pre-announced through a 12-month release calendar, giving a specific release date at least four weeks in advance where practicable – Official statistics: forthcoming publications - gov.scot

 

Accessibility and clarity

Accessibility is the ease with which users can access the statistics and data. It is also about the format in which data are available and the availability of supporting information.

Clarity refers to the quality and sufficiency of the commentary, illustrations, accompanying advice and technical details.

The Scottish Diligence Statistics are available free of charge to the end user on the AiB website. They are published as HTML and PDF via the website and ScotStat. The accompanying tables are also published in the Excel format. We continue to aim to make our publications and accompanying tables as accessible as possible, if there are users who wish to receive our publication in a specific format please do not hesitate to contact us. Contact details can be found at the beginning of our publication report for any specific data requests.

It is important to ensure that statistics are presented in a clear, unambiguous way that supports and promotes use by all types of users. To this end, we have adopted the use of plain language as much as possible. The main findings are presented using a series of text and charts. Technical terms, acronyms and definitions are defined and explained when this is appropriate. These approaches would ensure that the statistics can be used effectively.

However, AiB does want readers and users’ feedback on any aspect of these statistics, and encourage them to complete our online survey or get in touch with us. Contact details and link to the online survey can be found at the beginning of our publication report.

 

Comparability

Comparability is the degree to which statistics can be compared over time, region or another domain.

Diligence statistics can be compared between different type of diligence processes, type of warrant procedures, and Sheriffdom. They can be used to identify trends over time since the financial year 2011-12.

However, changes in legislation and policy may affect the extent to which comparisons can be made over time for individual data series. Such change might cause breaks in time series so that statistics from before and after the change are not comparable. Where such changes are known, they have been highlighted in the commentary and in the general background notes along with the implications for use made clear.

 

Coherence

Coherence is the degree to which the statistical processes that generate two or more outputs use the same concepts and harmonised methods.

Currently, the annual Scottish Diligence Statistics reports are the definitive source of statistics for diligences executed and Charge for Payment served in Scotland. These statistics included all warrant procedures and diligence processes.

As mentioned earlier, all officers of court that are identified through the SMASO member’s directory are required to submit diligence information. To this end, they are required to fill in the diligence information record template, which is consistent for all officers of court. This ensures internal harmonisation and coherence, and thus the data to be consistent over time, and comparable between Sheriffdoms (only the available geographical dimension) within Scotland.

Currently, these are the only (experimental) official statistics on the number of diligences executed and Charge for Payment served in Scotland. Due to the operational, policy and legislative changes in all nations of UK, currently it is not possible to make direct comparisons. While users should be mindful of this caveat when making comparisons with other parts of the UK, the Money Advice Trust published their research on local authority debt collection practices in England and Wales: Money-Advice-Trust-Stop-The-Knock-2019-report-September-2019.pdf

 

Revision Policy

In general, the figures reported in this publication should be final and should not be revised in future, since they are based on the information submitted by officers of court.

However sometimes, when quality assuring the data for the latest years, errors in term of data classifications applied to any type of warrant procedures may come to light in which case we may correct the erroneous data classifications in previous years. Any revisions that occur will be clearly marked with ‘r’ and an explanatory note in the relevant table. As is the current policy, revisions made for any other reason will be highlighted separately.

Prior to the Scottish Diligence Statistics 2020-21 report, we received late data returns from one officer of court for the financial year 2019-20, and therefore the 2019-20 figures are now updated. Also, we identified a few minor errors in related to data classifications for 2014-15, 2016-17 and 2017-18. The impact of these changes can be found in two tables titled “Revision Table 1” and “Revision Table 6” within the accompanying Excel file.

 

Corrections to historic Scottish Diligence Statistics

It is useful to remind users that corrected diligence statistics for 2016-17 and previous years were published on Wednesday 28 November 2018 along with a note explaining the correction, available here.

The overall effect of the error was to over report the number of diligences executed and Charge for Payments served in Scotland since 2011-12. The size of the correction was large: between 2011-12 and 2016-17 the corrected data showed that in total there were 45% fewer diligences executed and 37% fewer Charge for Payments.

 

An Official Statistics publication for Scotland

The figures released today are classed as Official Statistics though these were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics; they undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs.

 

Correspondence and enquiries

For enquiries about this publication please contact:

Ken O’Neill, Lead Statistician, Accountant in Bankruptcy
Email:

For general enquiries about Scottish Government statistics please contact:

Office of the Chief Statistician
Telephone: 0131 244 0442
Email:

 

How to access background or source data

The data collected for this statistical bulletin are available on the AiB Statistics webpages at https://www.aib.gov.uk/about-aib/statistics-data/diligence-statistics

Complaints and suggestions

If you are not satisfied with our service or have any comments or suggestions, please write to:
The Chief Statistician, 2W, St Andrews House, Edinburgh, EH1 3DG
Telephone: (0131) 244 0302
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If you would like to be consulted about statistical collections or receive notification of publications, please register your interest at: www.gov.scot/scotstat

Details of forthcoming publications can be found at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/official-statistics-forthcoming-publications/