From Registration of Deeds to Registration of Title: A History of Land Registration in Scotland
George L Gretton and Kenneth G C Reid, 'Land Registration' (Avizandum Publishing Ltd, Edinburgh; 2016 Forthcoming)
24 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 3, 2015
The origins of land registration in Scotland lie in a series of statutes of the sixteenth century. A later Act of 1617, still in force today, set up a national system of deeds registration. There was a choice between registration in a local register or in a central register in Edinburgh (the General Register of Sasines); and registration was constitutive of the real rights which the deeds sought to create. From the beginning the registers were open to the public. These early developments were a source of national pride. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, for example, Sir George Mackenzie commented that ‘Scotland hath above all other Nations, by a serious and long experience, obviated most happily all frauds, by their publick Registers’. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the pioneer country seemed in danger of being left behind. Beginning in South Australia in 1858, the ‘Torrens’ system of registration of title spread throughout the Australian colonies and then to many other parts of the British Empire. And in England, too, which had no national land register until the nineteenth century, the first hesitant steps were being taken for the introduction of registration of title. In the light of these developments, a Royal Commission was appointed in Scotland in 1906 to consider a switch from registration of deeds to registration of title but its members were unable to reach agreement. It was left to a second government committee, chaired by Lord Reid and reporting in 1963, to recommend the introduction of registration of title. The clinching argument was an expected reduction in transaction costs, and hence the prospect of cheaper conveyancing. Legislation to implement the Reid Committee’s recommendations was eventually passed in 1979. This paper explores the evolution of land registration in Scotland, analyses the key legal developments, and offers an evaluation of the move from registration of deeds to registration of title.
Keywords: Land registration, law, legal history, registration of deeds, registration of title, Scotland
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