This article originally appeared in Scottish Farmer on Friday 15th September 2017.

Sweeping changes were made to land registration in Scotland in December 2014.

There are two property registers in Scotland. The Sasine Register was established in 1617 and is a record of individual deeds. Its younger sibling, known as the Land Register, was introduced in 1979 and is an OS map based register of land ownership, designed to provide clear particulars of the property backed by a state guarantee.

A title used to make its way from the Sasine Register to the Land Register following a sale. Current Scottish Government policy is to accelerate the transfer of land to the Land Register, so that all land in Scotland is registered in the Land Register by 2024. To meet this ambitious target, the triggers for moving a title on to the Land Register have increased.

How do these changes affect the farming community?

Most owners of farms and other rural land whose titles are still on the Sasine Register will be faced with a transaction which involves compulsory registration at some point before 2024. One example is a lease for more than 20 years (such as with a wind turbine or a hydro scheme). Another example is a standard security which needs to be put in place (often at short notice) to obtain funding or to secure a contractual obligation (such as an option agreement).

In either case, the registration would only be of the part of the title let by the lease or subject to the standard security. In the case of a lease, while the landowner would usually be given the opportunity to review the land registration application the tenant is ultimately in control of the content and timing of the application.

A farm owner with a Sasine Register title does not have to wait for any such transaction to take place and can now apply to have their title moved on to the Land Register at any time. This is known as “Voluntary Registration”.

Should I consider Voluntary Registration and how can Turcan Connell help?

In most cases, it would be preferable to make an application for Voluntary Registration now, as this would mean that the farm owner can register their title at a time and pace which suits them, and when they can input their knowledge of the property into the process. This should avoid having to deal with registration when under pressure from a transaction, and result in a registered title which is more accurate and easier to deal with, benefitting both property management and future transactions.

Building on their experience of dealing with farm titles, Turcan Connell has set up a Land Registration Unit to deal with Voluntary Registration applications. We can advise on whether Voluntary Registration is appropriate for your property and the process, timing and likely cost involved. Please contact Turcan Connell at LRU@turcanconnell.com for further information.