UK: How Long Do I Have To Make A Damages Claim Under A Contract In Scotland?

Last Updated: 28 April 2017
Article by Gillian Craig

A review of the current law relating to damages and the potential changes that the Prescription (Scotland) Bill may bring.

Legal Background

Contractual claims governed by Scots law are subject to the time limits found in the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 ("the Act"). In general terms (there are a few exceptions), under section 6 of the Act, if a "claim" (as defined) is not made within 5 years of the "appropriate date" then time bar will operate to extinguish obligations will be extinguished.  This 5 year deadline is known as "the prescriptive period".

When is the "appropriate date"?

In damages claims, the appropriate date is usually the date when the loss, injury or damage occurred. However, in relation to such claims, section 11(3) provides that the "appropriate date" could alternatively be the date from which the claimant became, or could with reasonable diligence have become, aware that such loss, injury or damage has occurred.

What this meant in practice changed radically in 2014, with the Supreme Court decision in David T Morrison and Co Limited (t/a Gael Home Interiors) v ICL Plastics Limited and Others.

Prior to ICL Plastics, section 11(3) was applied to the effect that the appropriate date was the date from which the claimant became aware (or could have become aware) that both (i) loss had occurred and (ii) that loss had been caused by the fault of someone. This second part typically had the effect of delaying the appropriate date.

In ICL Plastics, neighbouring property was damaged by an explosion at a plastics factory in Glasgow. The action was raised more than 5 years after the explosion. The Supreme Court held that the appropriate date was simply the date that the claimant knew that they had suffered loss i.e. the date of the explosion – there was no need for the claimant to know that the loss was due to the fault of someone. As such, the claim was time barred as more than 5 years had elapsed.

The Supreme Court's decision was followed by Linda Anne Gordon and Others v Campbell Riddell Breeze Paterson LLP, a professional negligence claim against a firm of solicitors. The defenders were instructed by the pursuers to draft and serve notices to quit on the tenant of an agricultural property. The tenant failed to remove in terms of the notices and on 10 November 2005 the solicitors advised the landlord that a conflict of interest had arisen. Clearly, something had gone awry and in 2008 the Land Court held that the notices served were defective.

When then was the appropriate date for the purposes of section 11(3)? The date when the solicitors advised of a conflict, or the date of the Land Court decision?

The Inner House held that the appropriate date was November 2005; the pursuers had by that date incurred loss in the form of legal fees which, coupled with the solicitor's letter anent conflict clearly indicated that something had "gone wrong".

More recently, in 2017, James Clark and William Clark v Sandra M L Turnbull and Mark Robertson held that the appropriate date was the date upon which losses were incurred – even when the claimant was not aware that the loss was the result of an actionable wrong.

The Prescription (Scotland) Bill and the possible changes it could bring

The consultation draft of the Prescription (Scotland) Bill was recently released by the Scottish Law Commission. The Bill makes a number of changes to the 1973 Act. One of the most prominent issues raised in the Discussion Paper was the Supreme Court decision in ICL Plastics and the effect of this decision on the law in Scotland.

The Bill seeks to amend the current position by re-introducing the "discoverability provision" i.e. that the claimant must be aware that the loss was caused by the wrongdoing of another party before the prescriptive period will begin to run. The Scottish Law Commission have insisted that this is not an attempt to reverse the law to the position it was in prior to the Supreme Court decision but to remedy the current position which they describe as an "unhappy blend" of requiring both knowledge of the loss and an understanding of the law- which, the Commission state, was not envisaged by the drafters of the 1973 Act. The Commission was also minded to align the point with other comparable jurisdictions.

With this Bill only being at the consultation stage though, it may be some time before the Commission see their recommendations come to pass and for the law on prescription to re-introduce the discoverability provision.


In summary, the current position on the "appropriate date" for prescription to start running is from the moment the claimant becomes, or ought to have become, aware that they have suffered a loss. It matters not that they knew or ought to have known that the loss was caused by another. Mere knowledge of a loss is all that is required.

© MacRoberts 2017


The material contained in this article is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any particular matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.