Up until 27 April 2020, Scotland had a paper-based land registration system - impractical in the current lockdown. To help ensure land registration can continue, Registers of Scotland (RoS) has introduced a digital submission service for land register applications.
A system of digital registration was always on the cards for RoS, but the events of the last six weeks have brought plans forward at pace. Unlike England, Scottish transactions without a means of registering deeds had been, largely, left in limbo since lockdown down measures came into effect on 24 March 2020.
We're pleased to report that RoS has now launched its digital submission service for registration of deeds in the Land Register of Scotland. This is a hugely significant step towards opening up the land registration process in Scotland.
The new measures will:
- allow solicitors to complete the final stages in transactions which have already settled - but where the deed in favour of the purchaser/lender has not yet been registered;
- allow some new transactions to settle – provided that doing so does not put any of the parties in breach of current Scottish Government Coronavirus legislation and guidance.
In Scotland, up until now, land registration required signed paper deeds and paper envelopes. With the new system, signed paper deeds are still required. However, RoS is providing what can be called a digital envelope into which the solicitor making the application for registration puts scanned copies of the paper documents that would normally be sent to RoS.
Stepping forward for registration by seat number
To manage the anticipated flow of applications, RoS has introduced a queuing system akin to that used when boarding a plane.
Most applications will be protected by an advance notice registered in the Land Register (either before the Land Register closed on 24 March 2020 or since then under emergency measures).
As a starting point, RoS has limited the applications that can be made digitally to those where the date of lodging the advance notice was on or prior to 19 February 2020. That date will be moved forward, to allow more applications on a rolling basis.
RoS recognises that there may be compelling reasons for a transaction to be submitted for registration in advance of the rolling programme and in that case the submitting solicitor should contact RoS customer services as soon as possible.
Transactions not yet completed
The initial focus is on registering deeds relating to transactions which have already completed. New transactions will require an advance notice and the date of that will determine the date on which the application can be submitted in line with the rolling programme. Again, where there are compelling reasons for a transaction to be taken ahead of its seat number being called, the submitting solicitor should contact RoS customer services as soon as possible.
Practice will evolve as the system is used and there will inevitably be wrinkles to be ironed out. However, through our work on the pilot scheme, we have been impressed by RoS’ willingness to adapt and collaborate to achieve a system which allows the land registration process – and its vital economic contribution - to continue where possible in line with current Scottish Government legislation and guidance.
We expect this to be a significant stepping stone towards a fully digitised Land Register of Scotland in the not too distant future.
For full details, please see the RoS website and the guidance issued by the Law Society of Scotland (LSS).