Economy and Fair Work Committee
Registers of Scotland - Quarterly Progress Update
Letter from Registers of Scotland, 29 October 2021
Dear Ms Baker
REGISTERS OF SCOTLAND – EFW QUARTERLY PROGRESS UPDATE
As mentioned in my letter dated 30 August 2021, RoS have historically kept the Committee updated on our work by the means of a quarterly written update. I haven’t heard back from you in relation to your preferred means of receiving updates from RoS going forward, so I thought it would be helpful to continue to provide you with a quarterly written update for now. For ease of reading, I have outlined the latest updates against relevant headers below.
The latest performance metrics for RoS have been published on our website. In summary we are ahead of the targets we have set for: clearing the arrear, processing 60% of new dealings with whole and first registrations within 35 days, and customer satisfaction. We are very behind target on processing 60% of new transfers of part (TP) within 35 days but this is as a result of having to process more arrear cases than anticipated to enable new TPs to be processed – so is offset by overachieving on our arrear clearing target. As a result of this insight we are considering an alteration to our TP target to reflect the different balance of cases we are seeing. We are slightly behind target on our quality metric, and work is underway to resolve this. The Civil Service People Survey is live at the moment and so there is no measure yet available for this metric.
We continue to work closely with Scottish Government colleagues on progressing those elements of the Covid emergency legislation which we would like to become permanent. Our stakeholders are strongly supportive of that, as evidenced by the consultation which we ran on behalf of Scottish Ministers earlier this year.
Land Register Completion
We continue to make good progress with adding land and property onto the land register in our quest to achieve functional completion of the Land Register by 2024. We estimate we have already registered over 80% of addresses that regularly transact, and this represents around half of Scotland's land mass. Further detail on our work in this area can be found on our website.
In September we were delighted to win the Scottish Legal Technology Award for our new Digital Submission Service. The Scottish Legal Awards aim to recognise excellence in Scots Law and are judged by a panel of independent experts drawn from across the sector, to recognise the achievements of the legal industry across Scotland. Securing this award means recognition, on a national level, that RoS as an organisation has continued to focus on supporting customers, throughout the pandemic and beyond, utilising digital transformation and innovation. The swift move to the Digital Submission Service revolutionised the way in which conveyancers interact with land registration. Our new systems did not just replicate the old paper ones, they improved on them. It is now faster, easier, more environmentally friendly, and more secure to submit a registration application to RoS than ever before.
In May 2021, RoS launched Register Land and Property (RLP), our next step towards Digital Registration. RLP reduces the time and effort required to protect and register deeds, building upon the move from paper to online services introduced by the Digital Submission Service, and enabling the reuse of data. We are currently working on the creation of digital deeds and their signing using digital signatures.
We recently hosted a workshop aimed at bringing together interested parties within Scottish conveyancing to identify how we could work together to progress digital registration enabled by digitally signed deeds. We aim to produce a proof of concept early in 2022 allowing the first digitally signed disposition to be registered in the Land Register.
The Register of Inhibitions (RoI) was migrated to a sustainable cloud-hosted format on 30th September 2021, only 8 months after development began. The ROI plays a crucial role in diligence against heritable property and is also routinely searched in relation to property transactions in Scotland - it identifies individuals whose ability to enter into property transactions (for example, due to bankruptcy) is restricted. The 25- year-old technology underpinning this register could no longer evolve to meet the demands of the industry. Rather than simply move the existing register to the cloud, we took the opportunity to entirely re-imagine the register based on business and customer demand. We built upon our successful digital submission service, and the recently re-imagined Registers of Judgments, using state of the art cloud technologies to underpin this work.
Geovation Scotland concluded recruitment of cohort 3 of the accelerator programme in October, selecting three early stage tech start-ups from across Scotland to receive 12 months of bespoke support, access to RoS and Ordnance Survey data and up to
£15k of grant funding.
Cohort 3 of Geovation Scotland will consist of the following companies:
The Student Bubble Founder: Olivia Dovernor
The Student Bubble is a web-based property marketplace targeted at the student rental market. The platform lists private rentals in each university location (UK) which will have been preselected based off the input preferences of each student user. Students can use the platform to search through listings to find potential housing, book viewings and apply directly.
The Property Price Hub Founder: Nick Lade
With UK property price, information and geolocation data, Property Price Hub uses intelligent data science to produce the most accurate property prices available for use. Through a website and app, Property Price Hub will publish their UK price index for all users, with options for more targeted modelling and analysis coming at a price to the user.
EOLAS Insight Ltd Founder: Douglas McNeil
EOLAS Insight are a tech company who use emerging data science techniques to provide information on the natural world, previously only available through disparate sources. EOLAS will expand its AI based ecological monitoring tools before creating a platform for georeferenced ecological data. This platform will act as a marketplace for ecological data, allowing ecologists to benefit from their studies and consolidating information within a single location.
Cohort 3 of the programme will launch officially at the beginning of November and will work within a virtual Geovation Scotland environment until it is deemed safe to move to a blended in person/virtual delivery model later in the programme.
Following our recent Investors in People assessment, our assessor has confirmed that we continue to meet the requirement of the Investors in People standard and that we have been awarded the GOLD standard of accreditation. This outcome is the result of several years of hard work from many colleagues across RoS, and I am delighted that we have been able to deliver this level of progress.
Aligned to our Corporate Plan and strategic workforce planning, the Grow Our Own programme we have developed will seek to re-skill and re-train existing colleagues to allow them to develop digital skills through participation in tailored training programmes. By building on existing talent, we can provide colleagues with the skills
and capabilities to progress their careers in line with the roles that we’ll require in the future. With a view to becoming effective and productive members of our in-house digital teams, Grow Our Own will help us to become a sustainable business while retaining expert knowledge and skills within RoS.
During this pilot year, three strands of the programme will be offered to 23 colleagues for roles in data engineering, platform engineering and software development in collaboration with CodeClan. Other opportunities include roles in business analysis, user research and product management.
We published an Equality Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for RoS earlier this year and have established the necessary governance structures to drive forward action in this area. Our vision is for: an inclusive working environment where everyone feels equally valued and respected, everyone can communicate effectively, and everyone can work to the best of their ability; an engaged and high performing diverse workforce that reflects modern Scottish society; high quality delivery on the needs and expectations of our diverse customer base, for all. Our initial action focus is on improving the completeness of the data we hold on the diversity within RoS, so we can target appropriate action to close any gaps.
We hosted a series of MSP/MP breakfast briefings in June and September to introduce the work of RoS and explain how we could support them in supporting their constituents. These events were well attended by MSPs/MPs and their caseworkers and a number of follow-up discussions and correspondence on more detail around our community registers, crofting, mapping etc have since occurred.
Our Annual Report and Accounts have now been published and we hosted a well- attended virtual public facing Annual Report and Accounts event on the 30th September to provide customers and citizens the opportunity to ask questions about our performance in the previous financial year.
The Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land is due to go live in April 2022. Good progress is being made in development of the register and accompanying guidance.
Climate change: We have published our updated Sustainability and Climate Change strategy for 2021-2026. This sets out our commitment to achieve net zero for our direct emissions by 2040 and our indirect emissions by 2025. The strategy was featured in an article in The Herald.
Return to offices: RoS continue to have a number of essential workers on-site in the Edinburgh location, averaging around 40 colleagues that work to deliver business- critical activities.
Throughout September and October we welcomed back a small number of early returners of around 25 to the office workspaces offering these colleagues limited
access to the building each week to help with any challenges they were facing working from home such as lack of space, privacy or wellbeing. Both office sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow are only around 10-15% of the capacity. Risk assessments have been put in place as part of the return to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the colleague. On-site guidance has been created to explain our protocols and guidance on what to expect. Both offices sites have been made covid secure with restricted office hours to allow for a heightened cleaning regime to take place at end of each working day.
We are also set to run a series of experiments across the business to determine what the optimum hybrid working model for RoS will potentially look like in its future state.
Our approach to hybrid working set out above does mean that we are likely to have space in our offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We are working with a range of organisations to explore the possibility of sharing spaces in our offices.
I hope this update is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact me if the Committee would like any further information on any aspect of our performance. I would be grateful if you could confirm if you are content to continue to receive this quarterly written update, or if you have any alternative preferred means of receiving this information going forward.
I would also like to re-iterate my invitation to any members of the Committee, who would find it helpful, to come for a visit to RoS and get a more hands-on demonstration of the work we do and the various digital systems we are developing. Please do not hesitate to contact me if any Committee members would like us to arrange a visit for them.