In 1979, the Modern Land Register system was introduced in Scotland as an additional way of registering land along with the ancient pre-1979 General Register of Sasines.
The General Register of Sasines dates back to 1617, being the oldest land register in the world. “Sasine” deriving from the French word to “seize or take” describes the symbolic act of transferring and giving legal possession of heritable property/land. This historic land ownership in Scotland was based on a feudal relationship between the monarch and the nobility; deriving from the Latin word “feodum” meaning granting land in exchange for service of labour.
For nearly 400 years, this land tenure system remained unchanged. It is only now in the 20th and 21st Centuries that Scotland’s Land Laws are being reformed, coinciding with the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. From 1979 to 2012, 23.3% of the land in Scotland was registered on the Land Register with the other 76.7% still on the Sasine Register.
“The Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012” came into force in December 2014; with the aim of replacing the chronological list of written descriptions of land deeds under the Sasine Register with the electronic map-based Land Register, producing a single register.
Scotland was once owned by a few large Estate owners, but with the recent Land Reform Update the Government are keen to increase the number of people who own or lease land along with promoting community owned land. Furthermore the Act proposes to have all land in Scotland registered in the next 10 years. Therefore the need for a modern way of registering land was inevitable.
Currently, the transfer of property from the Sasine format to the Land Register is slow and the new Register is unable to cope with the key principles of Scots Law that governed the General Register of Sasines. The 2012 Act hopes to act as a catalyst to rationalise these niggles and trigger the evolution of land registration in Scotland meanwhile reducing transaction costs.
However, the 10 year time frame proposed may be a little optimistic with all solicitors, clients, agents and parties needing time to adjust and manage their new power of transferring titles to the new Land Register from the old General Register of Sasines.
It appears the 21st Century has taken Scotland by its Highland horns and is shaping up the way land is owned, registered and transferred. Perhaps, gone are the days of hand written land descriptions and detail drawings and in are the days of electronic maps and title deeds.