Small businesses have welcomed plans to make debt recovery quicker and cheaper in the hope it will prevent big firms using them as a source of free credit.

Civil cases up to £150,000 will be dealt with by the Sheriff Court if the new Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill is approved by MSPs.

The bill is designed to reduce costs and delays for litigants, who currently have to take civil cases over £5000 to the costly Court of Session for resolution. The publication of the bill yesterday followed the recommendations of Lord Gill, lord president of the Court of Session.

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Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland said: "Pursuing a debt through the courts can be a prohibitively lengthy, uncertain and expensive slog for a small business. Many larger companies know this and use their small suppliers as free credit with impunity."