Notaries public play an important legal role in Scottish life where the legal validity of a document requires the swearing of an oath. Only solicitors/notaries in possession of a practising certificate can act as notaries in Scotland. The Law Society is responsible for the admission and registration of notaries.

If you are a new member who is being admitted as a solicitor you will be automatically be admitted as a notary public at the same time (unless you opt out on the admission form). The fee is £45.

For existing practising solicitors who are not notaries and now wish to become one, the fee is £236. Please complete the application form below.

For all solicitors who wish to carry out notarial functions, please read the guidelines below.

Please keep a record of all documentation sent to you. Note that administrative charges will apply for the following:

  • Replacement Notary Confirmation of Admission Letter: £25
  • Reminder of Notary Public Oath: £50

Looking for a notary? See our Find A Solicitor page and click on the advanced search on the individual solicitor tab.

 

General information

Historically, the notary public in Scotland has performed an important function in the legal life of the country. From the 13th Century, the notary developed distinct from the lawyers branch of the profession but in comparatively recent times these functions have enjoyed a resurgence. The influence of the Civil or Roman Law on Scotland is clear in this separate development of the notary public in Scotland. In many other jurisdictions the distinction remains today. In England, for example, the profession of notary remains separate from that of Solicitor and although many notaries in England are also Solicitors not all are, and there are firms comprising notaries only.

In Scotland, the historical importance and functions of the notary have been well documented.* Following the Law Agents (Scotland) Amendment Act 1896 which provided that only enrolled Law Agents could become notaries and the Conveyancing (Scotland) Act 1924 which extended notarial execution to solicitors (Law Agents) and others, the importance of notaries declined until recently, but changes in the law and increased international activity have breathed new life into the notary profession.

Today, the responsibility for admission and registration of notaries lies with the Council of the Law Society of Scotland under the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. Education, Training and Admission A petition to the Court of Session for admission as a solicitor can include an application for admission as a notary public and, in practice, usually does. Since November 2007 only solicitors/notaries in possession of a practising certificate can act as notaries in Scotland: Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 Section 62.

Some of the traditional functions of a notary have continued throughout the centuries but reforms such as the Affidavit Divorce Procedure and Feudal Reform legislation have extended the work of Notaries.

  1. Oaths, Affidavits and Affirmations - One of the traditional functions of the notary Public in Scotland which remains today is the acting where the legal validity of a document requires the administration of an Oath or the receipt of an Affidavit or solemn affirmation. Under the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980, in such cases the Oath may be administered or the affidavit or affirmation received by a notary Public. Such affidavit or affirmation should not relate to any matter in respect of preservation of the peace; a prosecution; trial or punishment of an offence; or any proceedings before either House of Parliament or any Committee thereof.
  2. Affidavits in Undefended Divorces - Following the Divorce (Scotland) Act 1976 it is no longer necessary to have parole evidence in undefended divorces. Instead, appropriate affidavit evidence can be used. The Court of Session practice note “Affidavits in Family Actions” (1 June 2004) and Sheriff Court Practice Note no.1 (2012) contain details about the procedure to be followed in such cases. Such affidavits or affirmations are made before notaries public, which has increased the work undertaken by notaries in recent years, as noted in the introduction.
  3. Affidavits under the Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003 – Notices of termination of real burdens under s20 of the 2003 Act must be sworn before a notary.
  4. Protests - where a protest is made in maritime matters, e.g. against poor wind and weather conditions a sea captain on arrival in a port, this is done before a notary Public. Some notaries retain protocol books for this specific purpose. In addition, when a protest is required for bills of exchange or promissory notes, this is also done before a notary.
  5. Foreign Documents - Many documents for use in foreign jurisdictions require execution or certification before a notary and notaries are frequently consulted by clients requiring documents authenticated in such matters, e.g. in the winding up of estates or in Court actions abroad. Powers of Attorney for use abroad often require to be executed before a notary to constitute their validity.
  6. Notarial Execution - Since 1540 notaries have been empowered to sign documents on behalf of persons who are blind or unable to write. This has been a useful power frequently used by notaries. The requirements and procedure involved have been simplified by the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995.
  7. Miscellaneous - Other less frequent functions can be noted including the entry of a person to overseas territories; completion of the documentation required for the registration of a company in certain foreign jurisdictions and drawing for repayment of Bonds of Debenture.

*For the authoritative exposition of the law relating to notaries Public see Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia of the Law of Scotland - Vol. 13, p. 485.

For the historical position see, for example, Brown - Origin and Early History of the Office of notary 1935 47 JR201, 335: the N.P. 1923 SLT (News) 77: and D.M. Walker - A Legal History of Scotland: John Findlay “The History of the Notary in Scotland in the Handbuch zur Geschichte des Notoriats der europaischen Traditionen. (2009)

For queries about applying, please contact davidmacdougall@lawscot.org.uk

Tel: 0131 226 7411 (Switchboard): 0131 476 8173 (Direct)