Unlocking the Sasine – your questions answered

Blog post by Alan Howie, Chief Data Officer at RoS.

After Jennifer’s recent blog outlining our new approach to unlocking Sasines we received some very insightful questions.

We have a series of blogs planned over the course of the next few months to delve deeper into the technical, and theoretical detail but thought it would be helpful to kick off the first one by answering those very good questions.

We asked Alan Howie, Chief Data Officer at RoS to answer three that were posed. Here is what he had to say.

Hi everyone, please grab a coffee… I hope you find this blog useful. Before I answer them – a quick simple recap.

Currently the vast majority of Scottish land is either registered on our 403-year-old Sasine Register (difficult to interrogate) or our current Land Register (visible on ScotLIS). We are moving land rights from old to new as land transactions happen.

For land that transacts very, very, very (that’s a lot of verys Alan!) infrequently – especially large estates and rural areas, the information is still sitting in Sasines and importantly, unlikely to move any time soon.

Our plan is to ask these land owners for indicative ownership spatial extents (show your best understanding of what land you own on a map), link that shape back to Sasines making it easier to ’unlock’ the information held there and make it accessible on a map.

This is not an alternative to doing a full registration, but a great first step for large areas of land unlikely to frequently transact.

Ok… with that said, onto the questions.

Q: ‘Given the effort of rendering some of these old, big and “leggy” Sasine titles onto maps as part of this exercise wouldn’t it be better going the extra mile and putting them onto the Land Register while you’re at it?’

A: Deep breath everyone, big answer coming up!

In the work we have done on voluntary registration (VR) over the last few years we have found that the legal cost and time to register land increases significantly, based on size of the land being registered. If I could follow your analogy – the difference for larger landowners to fully register can feel more like a marathon.

Our ‘Unlock Sasines’ strategy is to engage with relevant stakeholders, owners and holders of spatial data, ask for an indicative ownership extent. We will then link it back to Sasines providing a placeholder and an easier way to access their information going forward.

Let me pause for a second….

You will hear indicative a great deal in these blogs. It feels like my middle name at the moment, but it is key to this strategy. If the landowner tells us what they believe they own – their “indicative ownership extent”, the cost and the time to provide that best understanding is radically reduced.

There are then obviously lots of benefits: benefits to land owner in that there is more visibility and ultimately a stepping stone to the Land Register; benefits to policy makers in that they could  answer ‘who owns Scotland?’; and of course to the citizen as we make Sasine details more easily accessible on a map.

Q: ‘Could you clarify how you’ll collate the visual spatial data to unlock Sasines?’

A: hopefully a shorter answer for this one.

We’re in a prototyping phase currently, but the key steps in my mind are as follows:

  • Contact stakeholders with spatial data in principle to use their ownership extents
  • Sign a standardised data sharing agreement so all parties know what the information will be used for
  • Securely transfer the data (for the spatial geeks out there – probably shape files)
  • Spatial extents will be added to “the data hopper” a fun way of describing a database with all the collected intelligence
  • The teams in RoS will work though the hopper, identifying and matching the data and then passing it on to be linked back to a Sasines search sheet

Q: ‘Will a Sasine title map be attached to the land register to make it clearer?’

A: Last answer …

The linked indicative spatial extent will be a method to get back to the search sheet, primary ownership deed and potential deed plan. What will be exposed is still being investigated.

I am looking forward to sharing more information with you in this regular blog series. The next one up is snappily titled ‘Unlocking the Sasine: part 1’ where I will tell you more about the detail of what we are thinking in terms of the actual approach and what it could mean to you. This will be followed by some thoughts around our data principles and how we would like to use data to support Scotland.

And then… well actually, I am going to make you read the next blog to find out about early prototype plans!

We are very, very, very thankful to Alan for answering those questions and of course to those of you who took the time to get in touch and ask them, and in some cases already offered help – more to come on that later in the series.

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