IN what will be seen by some as a blow to Scotland’s independent law system, but by others as a victory for people seeking better maintenance payments from former spouses, the UK Supreme Court has ruled that so-called divorce tourism is legal.

In a case that started with a divorce action in Dumbarton Sheriff Court six years ago and has now gone to the highest court in the UK, Charles

Villiers argued that his estranged wife Emma did not have the right for an English court to hear her case for maintenance payments.

Old Etonian Villiers, a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall, filed for divorce in 2014 at the court in Dumbarton near to Milton House, where he and his wife spent almost all of their married life

The following year Emma Villiers made an application under section 27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in England seeking maintenance payments.

A High Court judge ordered £5500-a-month interim payments, but Charles Villiers, a successful publisher and racehorse owner, argued at the time that England would become “the maintenance capital of the United Kingdom” if his wife’s claim was allowed.

Villiers appealed last year against the High Court ruling. The issue was complicated by EU legal rules – another facet of Brexit which still requires to be sorted.

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled by three votes to two that it was possible to have proceedings both north and south of the Border, Lord Sales saying: “A judgment in the wife’s maintenance claim would not be irreconcilable with a divorce decree in Scotland.”

In a dissenting judgment, Lord Wilson said an adverse consequence of the decision “will be the untrammelled licence given to a wife to go forum-shopping, in other words to put her husband at an initial disadvantage unrelated to the merits of her case”.

Lawyers have warned that the victory by Emma Villiers may encourage other Scots to seek court proceedings in England, where maintenance awards in particular are seen to be more generous.

Caroline Holley, partner in family law at Farrer and Co, said the decision in Emma Villiers’s favour gives the green light to so-called “divorce tourists”.

She said: “The door to the English court remains firmly open to those wanting to bring financial claims in England upon a divorce.”

Alex Carruthers, of Hughes Fowler and Carruthers, said: “Although close geographically, Scotland and England are worlds apart in their treatment of parties on divorce. This case opens up the possibility of exploiting that gap even more in the future.”

Neither of the couple was available for comment.