Completing the map of who owns Scotland

All land and property in Scotland is due to move to the modern, digital Land Register of Scotland by 2024. In this guest blog, Scott Bond from Registers of Scotland outlines the work being done to complete the land register, and discusses the benefits of voluntary registration.

Scotland has a long history of land registration. The country’s first public register of property ownership rights, the General Register of Sasines, celebrates its 400th anniversary this year, making it the oldest national register of land ownership in the world.

While the sasine register has served the country well, advances in technology have brought new ways of recording ownership and making the information available to the public. The sasine register is being replaced by the modern, digital Land Register of Scotland, with all property moving to the newer register by 2024.

Unlike the sasine register, which relies on verbal descriptions of property boundaries, the land register records exact boundaries on a digital map. Once complete, it will provide a full picture of who owns what across the country, allowing anyone to find out who owns any piece of land through an online search.

A complete land register will also make buying and selling property easier, faster and cheaper.

Registers of Scotland (RoS), the non-ministerial government department responsible for maintaining public registers relating to land and property, has been charged with the task of completing the land register. Property titles on the sasine register move to the land register when a property is sold, or when the owner remortgages with a new lender. At present around 60 per cent of titles, relating to just under 30 per cent of Scotland’s land mass, are on the modern register.

In addition to the routes mentioned above, there are two major ways in which titles are being moved to the land register.

RoS is encouraging owners of larger landholdings, including farms, to voluntarily register their land. Voluntary registration involves a cost, but it also has considerable benefits. As well as reducing the cost of future property transactions, a title on the land register will help with refinancing, and will simplify succession planning. It will clarify boundaries, helping to iron out any uncertainties between neighbouring properties. And a land register title includes a state-backed warranty.

RoS has a dedicated team of advisors on had to guide landowners through the voluntary registration process, and its fees for voluntary registration have been reduced by 25 per cent until at least mid-2019.

RoS is also using a new power called keeper-induced registration (KIR) to move titles to the land register without involving the owner. But this is only being used in urban, residential areas where the organisation already has extensive information on the content of property titles.

For rural landowners, RoS believes voluntary registration is the best choice. Rural landowners are the experts on their own property, and voluntary registration lets them use this knowledge to register exactly what they own.

RoS advisors are attending a number of agricultural shows over the summer months, to talk to rural landowners about voluntary registration. They’re very happy to answer any questions or to talk through the steps to registration. Contact the advisor for your area directly, or email the team on