Minutes for The Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Law Agents Society 2018
5:30pm on 21st June 2018 at the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow.
1. Sederunt and apologies:-
A Sederunt was taken of the members present and a quorum was confirmed..
Apologies were received from Rod Maclean, Ken Swinton, Ian McLeod, James Hotchkiss,
2. Minutes of AGM 2017 had been published in the Gazette of June/July 2017 and were unanimously approved by acclamation with no contrary voices.
3. The Society’s Accounts as previously approved by the office bearers were presented to the meeting and duly noted and meeting confirmed the appointment of Messrs Geoghegans of Edinburgh as independent examiners. The President, Fiona Dalton went on to present the annual report to 31st December 2017 as follows:-
Scottish Law Agents Society
For the year ended 31st December 2017
2017 was the 130th year of business for the Society and the usual wide range of business was carried out. Council meetings were convened each calendar month with the exception of January when a meeting was convened of the President’s Committee and July when people are supposed to be on holiday but, this year, when a Presidents Committee meeting was convened also. A full complement of quarterly Scottish Gazettes was issued along with the Annual Memorandum Book. However, due to various pressures, the December 2017 edition was not issued until January 2018. The Scottish Solicitors Benevolent Fund meetings were convened in May and November leading to about 10 awards in each case and a number of awards were also made through the Tod Foundation.
These were generally convened at 166 Buchanan Street Glasgow but the May and November meetings were convened at the Law Society offices in Edinburgh by reason of the convenience of carrying out the SSBF meetings jointly with the Law Society on the same day. In addition, The June meeting was held at the Royal Faculty of Procurators at Nelson Mandela place for convenience along with the Annual General Meeting and the December meeting was also held at Nelson Mandela Place for convenience along with the Christmas party. The October meeting was held in Dumfries and this was a convivial function which was extended to include some local non council members which added to the value of what is a meeting of a national body.
Scottish Law Gazette.
The topics which were addressed in the Gazette during 2016 included land registration problems with reference to the Cadastral map, the presumption of regularity, the amendment of pleadings after proof on appeal, alternative business structures in 2017, gratuitous alienation and the CML Handbook, an item on the Law of Rugby, Brexit and the separation of powers, the availability of heritable securities in 3D, demolition orders, and invocation to kill all the lawyers, reflections on a lifetime in country practice, an AML update, the creation of an effective trust, employment tribunal fees, the law of midges, incapax executors, the court fees consultation, the Independent Review of Regulation of Legal Services and Scottish Law commission publications. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly difficult to publish four editions of the Gazette each year and all members are requested to give urgent consideration to the submission of matters that may be of assistance or interest to their colleagues in the profession. In this world of electronic and fake news the Gazette remains as an indelible record of both the contributions not to mention the very existence of individual members and of our Society as well as of key events in our professional undertaking and members are urged to keep this invaluable organ alive and kicking because it can be seen sometimes to be struggling.
Production in paper format continues as reflects the will of the majority of the membership. The now current format of the memorandum book is more of a legal update than a repository of reference wisdom. Previous year’s appeals for input from the membership as to the future contents, function and design of the memorandum book has met with an extremely muted response and Council has to carry forward these issues for further discussion and consideration in the future. Is that future electronic? Will there be a memorandum book at all? These are some of the questions
Meeting with Law Society of Scotland and Registers of Scotland 6th March, 2018
Perhaps the most significant event of the year was our meeting with the Law Society and the Registers of Scotland, at Edinburgh on 6th March, 2017. This meeting was in response to our having claimed that there were serious difficulties arising from the operation of the Land Registers etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, particularly with regard to the imposition of the cadastral map. Our main suggestion was that this resulted in the rejection from registration of many existing property rights which had been registered at the Register of Sasines or recorded in the new Land Register. The Keeper of the Land Register was quite clear that there were no such problems but advised that if we were prepared to identify individual problems then these would be looked at. Although we had previously, and subsequently, circulated membership for the identification of specific problems, very few such problems were identified to us and it was clearly difficult to persuade members that there was any purpose in undertaking the further work of registering their land register problems with this society (see the note below concerning the October meeting at Dumfries) (it later turned out, during 2018, that there were 40,000 unregistered applications at the Land Register and the keeper has issued an apology for the state of affairs). Our society’s policy remains that the Keeper should not be obliged to create a cadastral map in parallel to the operation of a land register and because the former objective appears to frustrate the latter.
The October Meeting at Dumfries
There was a reasonable turn out of Council members and also some local representation and also a number of apologies from local solicitors who indicated interest in the meeting but were unable to attend due to business commitments.
This meeting addressed the current problems of land registration arising, at least, in part, from the Land Register having extended its function from registration of title to include the formation of a Cadastral map which latter objective appeared to bring about delays and rejections of applications. The meeting confirmed Council’s findings that, while solicitors were prepared to complain about these things at face to face meetings, they were generally unwilling to register their difficulties with SLAS. One member was kind enough to volunteer that he simply could not face filling in the SLAS enquiry form. This meeting addressed also the problems arising from General Data Protection Regulation and from the prospect of Alternative Business Structures which latter topic had now brought a state of uncertainty to the profession and the public for about the past seven years. Members whose accounts were in perfect order were nevertheless having difficulties with Guarantee Committee inspections from the Law Society, there was difficulty in reconciling the operation of English and other foreign companies in Scotland with what was understood to be a prohibition or at least a discouragement of Scottish solicitors sharing fees with other persons and businesses.
There was concern about a number of litigations running between the Law Society and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in which Scottish solicitors were paying for both sides of multiple actions. There was concern also about the extent to which conveyancing practice was now subject to regulation by CML rather than by the Law Society of Scotland. The meeting confirmed Council’s policy to promote a general meeting prior to the next AGM of the Law Society with a view to raising some of these concerns at that AGM
A reflection upon the year of 2017 reveals that the undertaking and even the very existence of the solicitors’ profession and the essential service that it provides to the Scottish public are under threat from, at least, the prospect of alternative business structures and the unfolding problems of land registration. However, neither of these issues is recognised as a problem at the Law Society. Nearer to home, there is little purpose in the Scottish Law Agents Society becoming vexed about these issues if there is no support from the wider profession or even from its own membership. That, perhaps, is the first issue which the new Council should address even to the exclusion of other issues.
An extended version of this report statement shall be issued in the June 2018 Gazette which will probably be published in early July.
4. .Election of office bearers and Council members.
The secretary advised the meeting that the following nominations had been duly proposed and seconded in terms of the constitution and, there being no opposition or other nominations, office bearers and Council members were duly confirmed.
SLAS Council 2017 - 2018
Members of Council::-
JOHNNIE A M CUTHBERT
Ian C Ferguson
ROD K MACLEAN
David P H MacLennan
IAN R McLEOD
MARY B Pirie
CHRISTOPHER P SHERIDAN
Kenneth W Swinton
5. Discussion topics
- Alternative Business Structures
The meeting was satisfied that the Society’s position had been stated clearly and accurately in recent papers including the submission to the Scottish Government’s Independence Review in to the provision of legal services. Meeting agreed that we should now simply keep a watching brief on further developments and, in particular, to keep under review the influence in Scotland of foreign jurisdictions.
Meeting was uncertain whether the existing regime of ABS under the 2010 ACT was likely to be revived or whether the Scottish Government would produce a new statutory regime. In the latter case, the Society would have to decide whether to challenge that new regime.
- Proxy voting at Law Society meetings.
Again, the meeting agreed that the Society’s position was properly stated in the Secretary’s speech to the AGM of the Law Society. And that this item should be kept on the Agenda with the recommendation that the new Council should renew this application to the Law Society and seek to have the matter raised as a Motion at the Law Society AGM of 2019.
- Land Registration Problems
Secretary advised the meeting that there had been virtually no response from the membership to repeated enquiries for specific examples of difficulties arising. Ian Ferguson suggested to the meeting that we should proceed with this issue as being a consumer issue and a matter of importance to the membership and the wider public. If neither the Law Society nor the Keeper will undertake a risk assessment then we could carry out our own risk assessment and consider submitting a Freedom of Information request to the Keeper for details of the numbers of applications for registration rejected even after the Sift. Meeting enquired whether this information might be already available. The meeting was particularly concerned about the prejudice to lenders’ interests when a transaction was completed, loan money applied, title application complete and not rejected at Sift but then, at a later date, the title is rejected. Secretary suggested that this is a complete departure from the traditional and established function of the Keeper i.e., to record applications for registration of title and thus complete the real right of ownership.
. Perhaps an enquiry could be directed to the OFT. Meeting was reminded that current news appeared regularly on SLN and there was also AAM Legal; matters and items could be raised on both of these channels. We should seek, for example, that the date of acknowledgement should be the date of registration of title and therefore of the creation of the real right of ownership. The Keeper should be required to distinguish between subtle, technical failures as opposed to blatant mistakes in applications. The title application might be suspended for sixty days during which any corrections can be made and the title registered from the commencement of that period.
(d) The meeting considered the standing of A Non Domino applications which have now been abolished and wonders whether these might be reinstated subject to a period of 20 years of title and possession. Otherwise, it was uncertain how holes in the title might be filled.
(e) Conversion of Sasines to Land Register.
This was now operating without reference to the immediate owners and therefore without any checking on their behalf as to whether their new titles were consistent with the previous title. It is possible to check your title free through Scotlis. If such checks are not carried out in advance of sales of the properties then there might be unexpected and possibly fatal problems at the time of sale.
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The Scottish Law Gazette
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