Ten years ago, the Scottish Government gave the Registers of Scotland (RoS) until 2024 to map and register all land in Scotland. 

Due to the sheer scale of this ambitious target, it was perhaps unsurprising that as the clock approached midnight on Hogmanay 2023, only 52.6% of Scotland's land mass had been registered in the Land Register.

It became apparent quickly – and was generally accepted – that the 2024 deadline was not an achievable target for the RoS to attain. 

In light of this, RoS are now pursuing the aim of "functional completion" of the Land Register, which means that RoS will consider the Land Register to be completed when most of the land and property that transacts regularly in Scotland is registered.

As a result of this, rural landowners may be left wondering whether there will ever be a need to voluntarily register their land?  Nevertheless, some important benefits remain for landowners:

  • Boundary Clarification

When selling rural properties, it is not uncommon to uncover instances where the same piece of ground has been included in two different titles where those titles are recorded in the older Register of Sasines.   However, since registration in the Land Register requires an exact plan to be drawn up which does not overlap with other registered titles, Voluntary Land Registration (VLR) can therefore assist in ironing out any boundary discrepancies between neighbours without transactional pressure dictating timescales. 

Not only can this save on due diligence costs for when a property is sold at a later date, but more importantly, landowners will be provided with invaluable certainty as to the true extent of their ownership upon registration in the Land Register.

  • Succession Planning & Increased Simplification

Another advantage of VLR is that it puts your title in good and clear order for future generations. If your property is currently registered in the Register of Sasines, title to that property will exist in the form of a bundle of deeds – dated chronologically.  Often these deeds can be barely legible and, in some instances, may even be written entirely in Latin.  These deeds are not easy to navigate.  If, for example, a developer expressed an interest in your land and wanted to double check access rights, it can become a very convoluted and time-consuming process trying to accurately determine such rights when examining and analysing these historical deeds.  

In contrast, if your title is registered in the Land Register, all the information that is relevant to your property will exist within a single electronic Title Sheet and associated extract of the OS Map.  Consequently, instead of pouring over older deeds, if you are approached with a query about your property, this should be answerable with a quick review of your Title Sheet. 

With that in mind, choosing to voluntarily register your land as part of your succession plan would remove the inevitability of bereaved family members having to deal with highly complex and burdensome titles after your death.   

  • Fee Discounts

Notwithstanding that 2024 is upon us – bringing with it the deadline for RoS to complete the Land Register – there currently remains a financial incentive for landowners to pursue a VLR project.  The   registration fees for VLR remain discounted at a rate of 25% per application. 

Current fees for VLR are based upon the value of the property to be registered and can be found on the RoS website.  

Looking Ahead

Whilst VLR may not be on the top of your list of priorities for 2024, embarking on this project is a helpful tool to assist rural landowners in taking full control of the registration process at their own pace and in circumstances that are non-contentious.  Indeed, when considering that 79% of respondents, in the Scottish Government's recent consultation on "Land Reform in a Net Zero nation", agreed that eligibility requirements for landowners to receive public funding ought to include all land, regardless of size, being registered in the Land Register, VLR could therefore play a crucial role in accessing future government subsidies.

If you are interested in adding VLR to your "to do list" for 2024, then please contact Clive Phillips or your usual Brodies contact for further advice and assistance in relation to voluntary land registration.


Mure Grant

Trainee Solicitor