Registers of Scotland has opened a consultation on making permanent the digital solutions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the nationwide lockdown last March forced the closure of its paper-based applications service, Registers launched a series of secure digital solutions that enabled property transactions to complete and the Scottish property market to resume.

Keeper of the Registers Jennifer Henderson says the view has been expressed very strongly by Registers' customers and stakeholders, including the Law Society of Scotland, that they would like to continue dealing digitally in the future.

Registers' experience is that submission of applications and supporting deeds through an intuitive digital portal has improved speed, efficiency, and reduced risk in preparing and submitting documents.

However the digital processing of applications in respect of the property registers, the Register of Inhibitions and the Register of Judgments rests in part on the two emergency Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts of 2020. If digital submissions are to be placed on a permanent footing, and become the default method, permanent legislation will be required.

Ms Henderson recognises that the successful implementation of the digital solutions was made possible by close partnership working and engagement with customers and stakeholders, and Registers wants to hear their views before taking the next step.

The paper points out that there would be "significant operational challenges" in allowing parties to choose between paper and digital submission, and proposes that digital submission should be the default method in future, except for example where scanning of large plans is impractical (the system already allows for this), or the small number of cases where people carry out their own conveyancing.

It also covers the status and format of extracts, registration of judgments (digital submission should again be the default), and registration in the Books of Council and Session (where paper registration should continue to be required, except that the register should be opened to true electronic documents, executed by qualified electronic signature).

Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for submissions is 1 February 2021.