PKI (Digital Signature) Policy
PKIs in general
A PKI is an arrangement that provides for vetting of, and vouching for, the identities of users. It enables users to be authenticated to each other and to use digital certificates to encrypt and decrypt messages travelling to and fro. Typically, a PKI consists of client software, server software such as a certificate authority, hardware such as smartcards and operational procedures.
The artl PKI
artl is Internet-based. While the Internet is readily accessible to solicitors who want to use artl, it is insecure. The artl PKI overcomes the insecurity by employing advanced encryption techniques and providing a robust, secure environment in which solicitors can interact with each other and the Land Register to submit electronic Dealings, free from interference by unauthorised outsiders. The PKI also confers another, equally important benefit. It allows solicitors to acquire digital certificates with which they can apply digital signatures to artl digital deeds.
The artl PKI was created by Trustis Ltd, a respected supplier. It is of a type known as a closed, tactical PKI. This means that the digital certificates will be issued to licensed artl users only and they cannot be used for any purpose other than the purposes of artl.
There is a very strong policy element to the artl PKI.
Firstly, there are a few high-level policy documents that have been agreed between Trustis Limited and Registers of Scotland.
Secondly, Registers of Scotland has devised lower-level policy/procedure documents that contain a great deal of information and guidance about the artl PKI. The documents intended for external release have been compiled into a single, composite publication entitled the artl PKI Registration Policy and Procedures (May 2012) which artl users, in particular Local Registration Authorities, should find helpful in dealing with PKI-related matters.
Identity validation and authentication
It is principally because of the requirements of the PKI that Registers of Scotland staff must visit law firms, mortgage lending institutions and local authorities that want to use artl and validate the identities of those persons who will act as Local Registration Authorities in face-to-face meetings. Trust is a key element of every PKI and the personal identity check is necessary for the creation of “bonds of trust” between Registers of Scotland and LRAs.
Smartcards and Local Registration Authorities
Digital certificates are installed on ‘smartcards’ resembling the Chip and PIN credit and debit cards that most people use. Registers of Scotland issue smartcards free of charge to organisations that are licensed to use artl.
The Local Registration Authority (LRA for short) is the person in a firm who has the responsibility of issuing smartcards to other users in the firm, setting those users up with digital certificates and generally managing smartcard usage.
The first time a smartcard is inserted into a smartcard reader, the user has to re-set the Personal Identification Number (PIN) on the card. This ensures that the card is within the sole control of the user. Once the LRA has completed an authorisation procedure, the user is directed to a separate website managed by Trustis Ltd, where he or she collects a digital certificate.
Smartcards must always be kept securely.
PINs must always be kept secret.
See the PKI policy page and in particular the artl PKI Registration Policy and Procedures (updated 17/05/12) for more detailed information about the use of the artl PKI.
For reasons of strict security RoS asks that artl users should create PINs for their smartcards that are at least 8 characters long (maximum 16 characters). Click here for tips and hints on creating PINs that are easy to remember please.
Signatures are required at three stages in a transaction ie:
- Signing deeds on behalf of clients (must be a solicitor)
- Approving transactions (may be non-solicitor) ie equivalent of signing Form 2
- Submitting draft applications (may be non-solicitor) ie equivalent of signing the cheque for registration dues and, when available, SDLT.
The three separate stages are allocated in artl as separate roles some or all of which can be assigned to users.
There are a number of possible scenarios for queues within firms:
- A practice queue to which everyone has access to all work, including transactions ready for signature. Only the roles assigned to users can be carried out by them.
- A shared queue to which the only signatories have access and all work to be signed is allocated to that queue when appropriate.
- A shared queue to which those creating and progressing draft applications have access and from which the transactions are allocated to the ‘signature’ queue.
- A shared queue which will be public facing and into which all incoming dispositions will arrive.
- Shared queues to reflect a departmental structure within an office or firm. This arrangement would probably remove the need for a practice queue as each department could have a queue to which all members could have access as well as the other queues as appropriate.
- Matrimonial Homes Act occupancy rights documentation,
- Civil Partnership Act occupancy rights documentation,
- the position regarding the Register of Inhibitions and Adjudications,
- confirmation that the granters of the digital deed have authorised that the deed be authenticated on their behalf, and
- executry and trust midcouples.
- Conferring functions on the Keeper to act as intermediary for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in receiving and transmitting land transaction returns and payments of SDLT,
- Providing for appropriate statutory declarations to be included in land transaction returns submitted through artl and for such returns to be authenticated by the "digital signature" issued to artl users in place of a written signature,
- Providing that the submission of a land transaction return through artl incorporating the declaration and digital signature will allow registration to take place without the need for a land transaction certificate, and
- Providing that a land transaction return submitted through artl will be treated as received by HMRC on the date of receipt within the artl system.
Terms & Conditions
Definitions and interpretations of the artl System.
The law on format, validity and evidential status of property deeds and certificates of title was contained in primary legislation that envisaged only physically signed or sealed paper documents. Changes have therefore been necessary to ensure that electronically certified digital deeds are legally equivalent to the paper documents that they will replace. Changes were also required for related matters and processes and to empower the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland to collect Stamp Duty Land Tax on behalf of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. The changes were made as follows:
1. The artl (Electronic Communications) (Scotland) Order 2006 (S.S.I. 2006/491)
The artl (Electronic Communications) (Scotland) Order 2006 amends the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979. The amendments to the 1995 Act enable electronic documents, authenticated by digital signatures, to be created and submitted within the artl system and allow the Keeper to issue directions setting the requirements for creation of such signatures. The amendments to the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 permit the Keeper to issue land and charge certificates as electronic communications, where the applicant for registration so wishes, and allows the Keeper to issue directions relating to the phased roll-out of the artl system. This Order came into force on 5 October 2006.
2. Land Registration (Scotland) Rules 2006 (S.S.I. 2006/485)
The 2006 Rules consolidate the existing Rules with various modifications and include provision for electronic registration applications to be made through the artl system by authorised users. The Rules provide for a Form 2 equivalent for artl applications, however, this will not be identical to the paper application Form 2. The artl system will only ask users such questions as are relevant to the particular transaction and the Rules contain provision for authorised users to certify certain matters within their knowledge. Also, as a result of the changes, applicants for registration will no longer have to submit land and charge certificates to the Keeper. As regards the issue of such certificates, applicants will have the option to receive those in electronic form or in paper format.
The digital application form for artl will involve an extension of the "tell me, don't show me" principle which already features in the Form 2 application for registration. The Keeper asks the applicant to certify the position in relation to the questions posed on the Form 2 application. The new questions will cover:
Digital signatures will be required to authenticate the answers to the series of questions in the application for registration using the artl system.
Solicitors should retain documents which support the application for registration using the artl system if copies of those documents cannot be obtained from a public register, for example agents should retain Matrimonial Homes Act and Civil Partnership Act evidence in answering the relevant question in the application for registration. The 2006 Rules came fully into force on 22 January 2007 (although certain artl provisions commenced earlier to enable live tests to be completed).
3. Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007 (2007 asp3)
The Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007 inserts a new Section 6A into the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995. Section 6A allows for paper office copies of electronic standard securities created in the artl system to be registered for execution in the Books of Council and Session or the sheriff court books. At present, and for the foreseeable future, the Books of Council and Session and sheriff court books are paper-only records and it is not possible to register electronic documents in them. The section 6A provision is therefore designed to ensure that there is a simple and practical method of ensuring that mortgage lending institutions whose standard securities are created electronically within artl can continue to have recourse to summary diligence procedures against defaulting debtors. The provision came into effect on 16 January 2007.
4. The Fees in the Registers of Scotland Amendment Order 2010 (S.S.I. 2010/404)
The Fees in the Registers of Scotland Amendment Order 2010 introduces new fees for the services that RoS provide. Within the Amendment Order the fees for artl applications are set at a lower level than the equivalent fee for paper applications. For transfer of title applications, the savings range from £10 to £500, depending on the value of the property passing, on each application made using the artl system. For standard securities and discharges, a flat rate fee of £60 applies for paper applications. The fee for artl registrations for these transaction types is £50. The Fees in the Registers of Scotland Amendment Order comes into force on 10 January 2011.
5. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
Part 3 of the Finance (No.2) Act 2005, the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Electronic Communications) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/844) and the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 3427/2006) (commencement 31 January 2007) give legislative authority for SDLT functions in artl by:
6. Solicitors (Scotland) (artl Mandates) Rules 2006
In artl solicitors sign the electronic deeds in place of their client using a digital signature. For this to be valid the solicitor must have the client's authority to sign the deed on the client's behalf and this is done by way of written mandate. To facilitate retention of the mandates the Keeper will maintain an archive to which solicitors will send the original mandate for copying. Completed mandates should be sent to Archive/Despatch, LP 47, Edinburgh 5 to allow the original to be copied and added to the Keeper’s archive. The original mandate will be returned to the solicitor. There is no charge for this service.
The Law Society of Scotland has made a Practice Rule to regulate solicitors' conduct in relation to mandates used for artl transactions. Please click here to see the Practice Rule on the Law Society of Scotland website.
7. Keeper's Direction No.1 of 2007
The Automated Registration of Title to Land (Electronic Communications) (Scotland) Order 2006 gives power to the Keeper to make Directions by amending the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 to allow for Directions as to the standard of electronic signature to be used within artl. The Keeper has now made the first Direction under this power with a commencement date of 2 April 2007.
Direction No.1 sets the standard of electronic signature within the artl system which will be accorded the same legal presumptions of authenticity as are accorded a hand-written signature on a paper deed. The Direction will exclude from artl technologically insecure digital certificates and legally insufficient checks on identity.
8. Keeper's Direction No.2 of 2007 and No.1 of 2008
The Automated Registration of Title to Land (Electronic Communications) (Scotland) Order 2006 also gives power to the Keeper to make Directions by amending the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 to allow for Directions as to the roll out of artl across Scotland.
Direction No.2 provides that standard securities and discharges of standard securities may be registered through the artl system on registered titles across Scotland. The commencement date of 2 April 2007 is set to validate transactions carried out through artl as part of a rigorous "fit for purpose" testing before the first stage of the artl rollout to solicitors and lenders.
Direction No.1 of 2008 completes the list of transactions that may be registered through the artl system on registered titles across Scotland. Among other things, it provides that dispositions, or transfers of title, may be registered through the artl system on registered titles across Scotland. The Direction has effect from 1 March 2008.