Update of developments at the registers

Registers Direct

The second phase of the Registers Direct service was released on 26th November 2001. In addition to the Sasine and Chancery and Judicial Registers which have been available since January, customers now have access to Land Register information, including the Application Record, Title Sheet Records and Title Plans. The service also includes access to an Index Map facility to access information about registered interests through a map-based search.

The system has been subjected to intensive testing and trialling. In the course of this year over 1,000,000 searches of the system have been carried out by both customers and Agency staff. Responses from existing customers have been very encouraging and access is being made available on a staged basis to all those customers who have applied to become account holders.

Automated Registration of Title to Land (ARTL)

The ARTL pilot system has been operational since January 2001. To date some 83 parallel registrations have been successfully completed on the system. A further 84 have been started and are at various stages of completion. The total number of firms with access to ARTL is now 54. Following feedback received as a result of firms using the pilot, the ARTL system has been updated in a number of respects. For instance, aside from a large number of cosmetic changes, a comprehensive set of stamp duty screens has been added, as has an interface with Companies House.

We hosted a reception at the Glasgow Hilton in November to demonstrate the new updated ARTL system with over 80 solicitors and other interested parties attending. The keynote speaker was Jim Gallagher, Head of Scottish Executive Justice Department, who delivered a speech on behalf of Iain Gray, the then Deputy Justice Minister. Mr Gallagher spoke of Scottish Ministers’ commitment to expanding e-commerce in Government services in Scotland and how ARTL was an important strand in that. Solicitors were encouraged to become actively involved in the project. Indeed following the reception we have had eleven enquiries from firms seeking information on the pilot as well as from one local authority and these are being progressed with a view to offering enquirers the opportunity to become actively involved in the pilot.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has now become formally involved in the project and have appointed a representative to sit on the ARTL Steering Group. In addition the CML have outlined in writing to us those aspects of lending practice which ARTL will have to take cognisance of.

The pilot still has approximately 4 months to run and it is to be hoped that solicitors will use this time to use the system and offer feedback.

Timeshare Salmon Fishings

When difficulties over the registration of timeshare rights in Salmon Fishings were identified a couple of years ago the Conveyancing Committee under the Convenership of Stewart Brymer took on the role of facilitator and encouraged positive dialogue between ourselves and solicitors acting for some of the fishing schemes. That dialogue has continued to date with beneficial results.

The original idea was to put together a stated case for the Inner House which would settle for once and for all whether or not a grant of a pro indiviso share in salmon fishings, subject to conditions which were intended to give the user exclusive right to fish with a given number of rods in a particular week of the year while preventing occupation at any other time, was an effective conveyance of an interest in land which could be registered. That idea was not pursued, but the dialogue was continued and it can be reported that we have been in discussions with solicitors acting for the holders of timeshare salmon fishing rights in a particular scheme to identify possible other ways forward. The debate has focused on methods of converting the scheme into a certificated one where title to the fishings as a whole is vested in trustees or a nominee company and each proprietor of a fishing period receives a Certificate as evidence of his right to fish with however many rods at a set time. These certificates will not be registrable, but can be traded.

It appears that agreement is close with regard to the particular scheme which will involve certain remedial conveyancing recorded in the Sasine Register. This is not an appropriate place to set out the full detail, but any solicitor acting for clients in another scheme who wishes to discuss a similar approach should contact John Glover at Meadowbank House (telephone no 0131 659 6111 ext.3029)

Crown Copyright – Title Plans

In my capacity as Keeper, I think it politic to draw to the attention of conveyancing solicitors Paragraph 4.23 of the Registration of Title Practice Book (2nd edition), which warns that unauthorised copying of Ordnance Maps and/or Land Register Title Plans is a breach of Crown Copyright.

We have seen numerous examples of such breaches of Crown Copyright. It appears that many solicitors have been photocopying Ordnance Maps and Land Register Title Plans for use as deed plans etc., without official permission.

Ordnance Survey asserts that it has intellectual property rights in its maps and mapping data that are protected under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 from unauthorised copying by Crown Copyright. The protection extends from the publication date to the end of that calendar year and then 50 years from the end of the year when they were first published.

Land Register Title Plans derive from digital Ordnance Maps and are made by us under Ordnance Survey license. It is likewise a breach of Crown Copyright to copy Title Plans, unless a license has been obtained from Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey takes a very firm line against unlicensed copying. In that regard, it has successfully pursued court actions against a number of persons in recent years.

Information about licenses should be obtained directly from Ordnance Survey. Unfortunately, the contact details given at Paragraph 4.23 of the Registration of Title Practice Book are now out-of-date. The current contact point is:

Copyright Licensing

Ordnance Survey

Romsey Road

SOUTHAMPTON

SO16 4GU

Telephone: 023 8079 2913

Fax: 023 8079 2535

E-mail: copyrightenquiries@ordsvy.gov.uk

Additionally, Ordnance Survey’s website (www.ordsvy.gov.uk) provides outlines of  licensing arrangements and intellectual property policies. On the website’s home page, at the foot, there is a link marked “© copyright and trademarks” that leads straight to these outlines.

Review of Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979

As part of their sixth programme of law reform, the Scottish Law Commission will undertake a detailed review of the Act. It is now more than 20 years since the commencement of the Land Register in Scotland with the launch of the county of Renfrew as an operational area on 6 April 1981. To inform the Commission’s work, my staff are currently preparing a submission for the Commission outlining the areas where we consider the Act stands in need of revision. The submission will be wide-ranging. It looks in some detail at the principles underlying the rectification and indemnity provisions and their practical application, taking into account litigation involving the Keeper. It deals with operational issues as diverse as the coverage of the Land Register and the ‘triggers’ for first registration; matters relating to title descriptions and identification on the Ordnance Map; and whether Land Certificates should continue to be a feature of the registration system. The new legislation will also need to take account of developments in technology to ensure the process of registration enables electronic registration. The submission will be distributed to representatives of the Law Society through the Joint Consultative Committee.

Data Integrity

Data Integrity is becoming a key issue for all organisations, as more use is made of the data they hold on-line.  We are also aware of the emergence of a number of quality problems associated with land and charge certificates.  This, together with the increasing exposure of data via the on-line Registers Direct Service, has led to concerns about the quality and consistency of some elements of the data held by us.

Within the Sasine Register 19,000 paper volumes have been scanned on to an electronic imaging system including 9,000,000 individual images.  In the Land Register there are more than 700,000 individual digital Title Sheet Numbers, each with an associated Title Plan and various underpinning data sets.  The Land Register database changes on a daily basis as applications are processed.  Last financial year around 550,000 deeds were given effect to in each of these registers.

One of our principal objectives is: “To provide ready access to up to date and error free Registers, thereby ensuring that the public can have faith in the information that they contain.”  The quality and sustained integrity of Agency data is, therefore, a key target for us and we are working hard to improve in this area.

The profession expects accurate, consistent, complete and current data.  Feedback from the profession is helping to shape and inform our procedures and practices.  This will lead to regular improvements in the quality of services provided in the future.  Regular Customer Surveys have also highlighted areas of concern.  In response, a structured Quality strategy is being developed and a dedicated Data Integrity Team established to monitor and promote a number of Quality initiatives. Further reports on this topic and on progress made will be included in regular updates.

The Keeper will be delighted to receive any feedback either on the series itself or individual issues covered

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