Land Registration etc (Scotland) Bill


The Land Registration etc Scotland Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament on 1 December 2011. As reported in Iain Doran's article published in Estates Gazette in April 2011, the Bill will revolutionise Scottish property transactions for developers, investors and funders by:

decreasing transaction times and reducing legal costs through the use of electronic conveyancing
improving due diligence by expediting the process under which properties that are not plotted on the Ordnance Survey map in the land register are required to be plotted and accessible online; and
introducing an easier and more efficient system for registering securities.

The Bill is expected to be enacted by summer 2012 but is unlikely to be brought into force before 2014.

As detailed in Iain's article, the Bill is intended to act as "conveyancing polyfilla", filling in the gaps which exist in the current system of land registration. The majority of the Bill concerns purely technical adjustments, which are important for solicitors but not so much for agents and principals. For the purposes of this Alert, we shall focus on the main changes you may see in practice.

Main changes in the Bill

Iain's article outlined four main changes introduced by the Bill. Three of those changes remain in the draft Bill as introduced into the Scottish Parliament:

developers and investors will benefit from the move towards universal registration in the Land Register, which should eventually result in the title to every property in Scotland - including an Ordnance Survey map of the property - being accessible online;
funders will welcome the system of "advance notices", which will protect parties from a competing title registered before the security documents are lodged with the land register; and
everyone involved in property transactions will benefit from the ability to negotiate, sign and register standard property documents electronically. Widespread consultation will take place before these provisions become law to ensure that the system of electronic conveyancing and registration is robust and secure. Once electronic conveyancing is available, it should make property transactions cheaper and quicker to complete.

What happens next?

The Scottish Government has issued a consultation to canvas views on the Bill, but, given that the Bill has seen an extensive consultation by Registers of Scotland before it was introduced to parliament, we don't expect this further consultation will lead to any substantial changes in the Bill.

The Bill's proposals require extensive technical upgrade to ensure the changes proposed are fully supported by IT systems and administrative procedures. The Bill is expected to be enacted in 2012 but not brought into force until 2014 to allow these changes to be implemented and tested.