What is a plans settler… And how do we map Scotland’s land ownership?

Recently, Jennifer — the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland — spent a morning with the First Registration team to learn about ‘plans settling’. But what exactly is plans settling, and what does a ‘plans settler’ do? One of our registration team has lifted the lid for us on what their role involves and how they’re using digital technology to map Scotland’s land ownership.

What do plans settlers do?

I joined Registers of Scotland in 2015 and prior to then I could not have answered that question either! The first day I came into the building, I entered the training room to see a desk covered in strange looking rulers, measuring devices and coloured pencils. I began to realise that my day job was going to be slightly different from what I was used to.

Jennifer Henderson, the keeper, using the digital mapping system
Jennifer Henderson, the keeper, using the digital mapping system

Plans settlers are required to interpret plans from deeds and plot the property onto the cadastral map (our digital map).

Some plans are old, some are new, some definitely look borrowed and others you wonder what they’ve been through… The settler learns to work with black and white plans from the 1800s to the multi-coloured murals of today. My wife cannot believe I do a job involving identifying colours because I cannot tell the difference between magnolia and beige.

Plans can vary in complexity from a simple red edge to large tenement steadings with multiple colour references, shopping centres and large areas of land. One case can be relatively quick to map while the next one can take you a number of days. A colleague recently had to put circles round 36 historic monuments to complete the mapping of a case.

What a paper plan looks like before it's digitised
What a paper plan looks like before it’s digitised

I am involved in mapping Transport Scotland property, mapping large swathes of the A9.

I receive shape files from Transport Scotland which I transfer onto QGIS (one of our mapping tools) and then import onto our digital mapping system (DMS) so that they are available for plans settlers to use. Carrying out this task digitally saves a lot of time in mapping large complex areas.

The learning curve in the last three years has been enormous; challenging but interesting. I learn something new every day. I was recently was promoted within the same department, so the new challenges and learning just keep on coming.

Want to know more?

Follow the team via @RegistersOfScot on Twitter and on FacebookLinkedIn and YouTube for more updates. If you liked this article or have more questions, make sure to comment below!

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