John Mulholland, President of the Law Society of Scotland said:
“I understand the frustration and distress amongst our members and the people they represent who are trying to conclude domestic and commercial sales and purchases this week. It is an unsettling time for everybody as we readjust to the circumstances and challenges that Covid-19 and the public health implications that has for all of us.
“The decision by Registers of Scotland on 24 March to close their offices and suspend the Applications Record of the Land Register without notice was clearly for the important reason of protecting the health of their staff and customers. However, it created a gap in the legal and financial process for property buying which takes more than a simple technical solution to resolve, and it would be irresponsible to pretend otherwise.
“I want to assure you that this is a situation we take very seriously. Since the closure was announced our staff and volunteers on the Law Society’s Property Law Committee have been working day and night with stakeholders, including Registers and UK Finance, to come up with a solution.
“We hoped that we had found a framework which would enable some transactions to proceed yesterday. However, on reviewing the guidance we’d prepared but not yet issued to our members, UK Finance identified an outstanding issue which it would have been irresponsible to overlook. We have therefore put our guidance on hold and we are now working to resolve this and hope to be able to provide updated guidance later today.
“I truly appreciate that this causes problems for people who were hoping to conclude property sales this week, and who may have already taken steps to pause or end that process. However, we cannot rely on a sticking plaster solution which may have long-term repercussions for our members and their clients.
“We continue to work to agree a way forward which meets the requirements of the law, the financial sector and Registers and which fulfils our duty to our members and defends the interests of the public they represent.”
Update: The guidance was issued to solicitors at 2.50pm on Thursday 26 March 2020.