Some updates to the summary in the April Journal of changes in regulation and practice agreed by the Law Society of Scotland in response to the coronavirus restrictions

Readers are reminded to check regularly the Coronavirus Updates web page, accessed from the Society’s home page, which sets out where and how changes in regulation and practice will operate for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

What follows is a summary of some of the main changes since the article at Journal, April 2020, 42.

Client ID

Three methods have been set out for identifying and verifying clients where no physical contact is possible:

  • client identity verification software, from a reliable service provider;
  • videoconferencing tools, following a procedure set out on the web page;
  • email and third party validation, where another professional is able to confirm an established relationship with the client and is willing to review the due diligence documentation.

However, it is important to note that the regulations have not been relaxed in the current situation, and it remains the case that if due diligence cannot be completed, or any “red flags” cannot be addressed, the solicitor should not proceed with the transaction.

Court attendance

Solicitors who are willing and are able to attend at court are advised to ensure that they are aware of the terms of the protocol for court users that has agreed between SCTS and COPFS (download the PDF).

Solicitors’ own health and safety should be their primary concern and there is no requirement to attend court if, in line with current NHS and Scottish Government guidance, they feel it is unsafe for them to do so.

Specialist accreditations

In addition to the automatic extension by 12 weeks of specialist accreditations due to expire on or before 30 June 2020, the scheme for accreditation of family and commercial mediators has been amended to permit the extension of accreditations by up to three calendar months. Any mediators whose accreditation is extended during the lockdown period will be contacted and advised of the extended date of expiry of their accreditation.

Accounts certificates

Due to the accounts certificates rules and in order to protect members’ compliance, the Society will continue to request that practice units submit their accounts certificates in accordance with the timescales set out in the rules. The content and format of the certificate have recently been reviewed and the process has now been moved online for all firms.

The Society is aware “that this is an extremely challenging time and your priority must be the health and safety of yourself, your colleagues, family and friends. If, as a result of the current circumstances, you are having difficulty completing your accounts certificate, obtaining signatures or you have any other issues or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at fincomp@lawscot.org.uk”.

To speak to a member of the team, call Kerry Allan on 0131 476 8355.

Notaries public

Any document which has to be executed in the presence of a notary must be signed by the deponent when the notary is physically present. Until such time as there is a legislative change, it is not possible for a solicitor to notarise a document remotely.

Information and support for businesses, for solicitors, and for trainees and students, is available at the same page.

Elsewhere
  • The Crown Agent has published a letter outlining the updates made to COPFS processes during COVID-19. COPFS has produced a user guide and an installation guide for their Secure Disclosure System, to which the letter refers.
  • Applications to the UK Government Bounce Back Loan scheme, offering loans of between £2,000 and £50,000 through accredited lenders to SMEs affected by the pandemic, opened on 4 May. The UK Government will guarantee 100% of the loan, which will be interest-free for the first 12 months. The total term of the loan will be six years. Businesses which are already receiving support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) can transfer their funding to the Bounce Back scheme.
  • Applications for a second phase of COVID-19 funding announced by the Scottish Government opened on 30 April. Among other features this extends the Small Business Grant scheme to provide, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, a 75% grant on all subsequent properties; and offers £2,000 grants to those who became self-employed since April 2019 and are therefore ineligible for UK support.
  • Registers of Scotland has created a system to allow the electronic submission of applications to register traditional deeds in the Land Register of Scotland. This application is by way of a new digital portal on the Registers of Scotland’s website, which should be consulted for more detailed guidance including its policy to control the flow of applications.
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