Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Bill 6

This morning, I gave evidence at the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee of the Scottish Parliament as part of their Stage 1 scrutiny of the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Bill (see previous posts for further info). One question asked related to the completion of the Land Register – how long might it take and how long is desirable?

As it happens, I had, as part of a report I wrote on land value taxation (3.9Mb pdf), done some number crunching which you can see in this table. It shows the rate of progress to date and projects this forward to a (theoretical) completion date. A healthy dose of salt is required before concluding anything from this table.

First of all, it takes historic progress and projects this forward. In reality, progress will slow down as properties which change hands frequently enter the Register and the remainder, (which turn over slower) take time to be sold and thus trigger entry to the Register. (though the Bill does introduce new triggers).

Second, these figures relate to the percentage of titles and not the percentage of land cover. Currently, according to the Policy Memorandum accompanying the Bill (para 5), some 55% of titles are registered representing 21% of the land mass. The extent of coverage is shown in Figure 4, page 92 of my book, The Poor Had No Lawyers and you can download a high quality jpeg version of that here (Thank you to Registers of Scotland for this map).

It was suggested by one Committee member that the Bill might usefully contain a target date for completion. I think this is a mighty sensible suggestion. It is worth recalling that in 5 short years between 1910 and 1915, the Inland Revenue, with ink pens and paper maps, had managed to map the ownership of 19,408,700 acres of land in Scotland (99.7% of the land area) held in 1,333,200 parcels as part of the survey of landownership required by Lloyd George’s Finance Act (People’s Budget) of 1910. The rest of the whole of GB and Ireland was also mapped!

If the Edwardians can do it with pen and ink in 5 years, I suggest we set a target for 2025 which gives plenty time.