2012 Act: two years in

John King and Charles Keegan look back at the arrival of the 2012 Act and how it has shaped future land registration.

It has been a quick two years since the 2012 act arrived with a bang on 8 December 2014.

Overnight the world of land registration was turned on its head. The 2012 Act, or to give it its full name, the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act of 2012, did not simply tinker with the land registration system already in place. Quite the contrary. At long last we were finally taking delivery of a sophisticated, well-thought-out legal framework; an Act that runs to some 124 sections, almost 100 more than the Act it replaced.

Readying ourselves and our customers for go-live brought many challenges; this time two years ago was both frantic and exciting in equal measure. Our role changed – from quasi-conveyancer and determiner of title to registrar – as did that of the solicitor, recognising they were best placed to examine title and so placing them under a duty of care not to make the register inaccurate. Long held processes such as ‘standover’ disappeared and our traditional reports products had to change. New concepts and terms emerged. So the one-shot rule, tell me don’t show me, the cadastral map, shared and sharing plots and Keeper-induced registration are now all common parlance within RoS.

The early challenges were met and over the course of 2015 we and our customers gradually grew in to this new world. The completion of all the old 79 Act casework was a major milestone in this regard. Two years on we look back and realise we have received and processed around one million 2012 Act applications with almost a quarter being wholly end-to-end digital applications through the advance notice system. We have improved service standards, developed yet more products, grown our commercial income and we have worked hard to listen and respond to our customers’ wishes.

But we have done so much more than that, and therein lies the twist with the 2012 Act. For although commencing the Act was the culmination of much planning and preparation, it was also, in a more accurate sense, simply the start of a much more fundamental change process. The ambition of the 2012 Act goes way beyond delivering a more just and effective land registration landscape. It also envisages a completed land register and one which, reflecting how consumers and businesses increasingly interact, is digital.

Working to deliver on the challenge of a completed land register we have commitment to voluntary registration from many large private landowners such as the Crown, Buccleuch Estates and the Church of Scotland as well as from the public sector. In the last few weeks we have commenced our Keeper-induced registration pilot through which some 700,000 properties will transfer on to the land register over the next three years.

Our business transformation programme is ensuring we deliver our services using up-to-date technologies and solutions, now supported by a highly effective in-house digital directorate and a cutting-edge innovation centre. It is apt that as we mark the two year anniversary of the 2012 Act we are launching our digital discharge service, our application form API and also our consultation on digital registration.

And next year we can look forward to the launch of the Landlord and other new registers, the arrival of ScotLIS which will for the first time enable universal access to our land and property information, more digital channels and a much more customer-centric registration process on the back of new mapping and case management technology as applied to the ‘capture once’ philosophy the innovation centre is driving.

We have achieved so much in the last two years (and we haven’t even touched on the achievements in other areas such as planning the move of our Glasgow office to new offices at St Vincent Plaza, development plan approval, records management, IIP and much more) and can look forward to 2017 with real positivity!

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