“We’re turning business around quicker than we have ever done,” said Registers of Scotland (RoS) chief executive Sheenagh Adams, looking back over the year. “When I joined the organisation there were cases sitting on the shelves that were years old, literally. Now, 80% is coming in and going back out the door again in two days.”

But the past 12 months have also been about laying the foundations for completion of the land register – an enormous and complex task – by 2024, with all public land registered by 2019. “There has been a lot of engagement with the private and public sector. For example, we now have a commitment from the Duke of Buccleuch, Scotland’s largest private landowner, to register all his land.

“And the Forestry Commission, the largest public sector owner, has also started its programme of voluntary applications. We don’t underestimate the task, but it’s good to see things moving in the right direction. Our staff have been doing tens of thousands of miles up and down the country, talking to people and they do get it; they understand the benefits of one register, a modern map-based digital register.”

In addition to the digital strategy lead by Tom Meade, RoS is setting up ScotLIS, the Scottish Land Information System which will be a platform for people and businesses to access information about land and property, and is set to go live in October 2017. As well as being central to conveyancing, it will
also provide useful information on house prices, school catchment areas and environmental issues such as the location of flood plains.

In 2017, RoS will celebrate 400 years since the creation of the General Register of Sasines under the Registration Act 1617. The sasine register is the world’s oldest register of property ownership rights; a chronological list of land transaction deeds containing written descriptions of what ownerships cover.
To mark the anniversary, Scotland is looking forward to hosting the Registrars of Title Conference, which began in Australia and New Zealand as a forum to build on mutual experience and develop new ideas around land titles. It has since expanded to include registrars from around the world, including the UK, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Mauritius.

It is one event in a series of celebrations which Adams hopes will be a showcase: “We want to show that Scotland is at the leading edge, with our digital programme for example. Our customer service, our legislation are also still world leaders. We may be a 400-year-old organisation but we have a history of innovation and we are pioneer- ing a great deal today. We continue to be very forward looking.”
AS well AS the conference, RoS has worked with Creative Scotland to commission a piece of art; the choice of RoS staff from a series of entries, it will be an innovative map of Scotland that will depict 40 decades beginning with text from the sasine register and ending with computer code. It is also spon- soring a Masters degree course at Glasgow University. And it is considering a series of ideas from staff, among them a re-enactment of a sasine ceremony.

“We’ve just done one in Lego,” said Adams. “One of our account managers is qualified in Lego Serious Play, which is used as training tool to improve business performance, and he’s done an enactment which is so cute and has been really well-liked on Twitter!”

Adams is also keen to underline the diversity and improved age profile of the workforce with RoS having just recruited for its fourth modern apprenticeship programme. She believes the focus of RoS is now where it should be: “When I came here, we did really what suited us. Now we ask: ‘What’s it like for the customer?’ It is no longer about what suits us. And that has been transformational. We are not perfect, but we are working hard and working closely with our customers to get it right for them.”