World's first national public land register turns 400

Published: 14 December 2016

The world’s oldest national public register of land and property will celebrate its 400th anniversary during Scotland’s 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

Registers of Scotland (RoS) will celebrate 400 years of Scottish land and property registration during 2017 with a year of commemorative events that highlight the impact of four centuries of land registration in Scotland – and also its influence on the world stage.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 will mark 400 years since the General Register of Sasines was created by the original Scottish Parliament’s Registration Act 1617 and, to commemorate this landmark date, an exciting set of events will take place throughout the year.

Sheenagh Adams, the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, said: “Scotland has always been an innovative nation when it comes to the protection of land, property and the rights of the citizen. From the ancient ceremony of sasine to the development of legally-recorded sasine deeds in the 17th century – as seen in hit Amazon Prime television series Outlander – to our current position as a global leader in digital land registration, Registers of Scotland is unique.

“We are delighted to announce our programme of events for our 400th anniversary year, including the 44th Registrars of Title conference, which Scotland will host for the very first time and will bring together land registration leaders from across the globe along with providing a welcome boost to the country’s economy.”

Ms Adams added: “In addition, RoS has commissioned, through an open competition, a unique piece of public art to symbolise our centuries-old commitment to serving the people of Scotland. The artwork, like our registers, will be publicly available to view and will be held for the people of Scotland.

“We are also thrilled to be able to reaffirm the sponsorship of a University of Glasgow student, who is undertaking a research masters degree looking specifically at the privacy and publicity aspects of land registration. A full list of the events to commemorative our 400th anniversary will be unveiled in the New Year.

“Overall, our 400th anniversary enables us to collaborate with other organisations more than ever before, and RoS is delighted to support the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology in 2017.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “The 400th anniversary of the General Register of Sasines, making it the oldest national public land register in the world, highlights the opportunity visitors have to discover the rich heritage of Scotland and its place in world history during 2017, the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“History and heritage are among the top reasons visitors cite for exploring the country and 2017 will additionally offer a year-long programme of events that will spotlight some of our greatest assets and icons as well as our hidden gems.”


Notes to editors

  • #RoS400
  • For more information or to request an interview, please contact Jacq Kelly on 0131 528 3738 or Or write to us at: Communications, Registers of Scotland, Meadowbank House, 153 London Road, Edinburgh, EH8 7AU.
  • A detailed timeline running from the 13th century to date is available to view here:
  • The General Register of Sasines, also known as the sasine register, is the world’s first national public register of property ownership rights, dating back to 1617. Its name comes from the old French word “seizer”, which means “to take”.
  • There are four characteristics worth highlighting for the General Register of Sasines: it is the (1) oldest (2) national (3) public (register of heritable property rights) (4) that has had a continuous existence since its inception in 1617.
  • The register is a chronological list of land transaction deeds which contain written descriptions of what the ownership covers and therefore provides protection and certainty for the holders.
  • The piece of public art was designed by Edinburgh-based agency Brightside Studios at a cost of £19,000. In the same manner as renowned works such as the Angel of the North, which, for comparison, cost £800,000 in 1994, the piece of art will be free to view for the public. For more information on Brightside Studios, please visit or contact
  • The Registrars of Title Conference began in Australia and New Zealand as a forum to build on mutual experience and develop new ideas around land titles. It’s since expanded to include registrars from around the world, including the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and Mauritius. For 2017, Registers of Scotland have also extended the invitation to our colleagues from other European nations as we celebrate 400 years of the General Register of Sasines, the oldest national land register in the World.
  • Registers of Scotland is a non-ministerial department of the Scottish Administration and holds trading fund status. It is responsible for compiling and maintaining registers relating to property and other legal documents in Scotland. Registers of Scotland records and safeguards the rights of the individual while providing open access to information on the registers.
  • Registers of Scotland receives no public funds. It covers its costs by charging fees for the services it provides, with the fees being set by Scottish ministers with the agreement of Parliament.
  • Registers of Scotland maintains 17 public registers that provide for the registration of legal documents in Scotland. The two main registers are the General Register of Sasines, which dates back to 1617 and is the oldest national property register in the world. It is progressively being replaced by the land register, which was introduced in 1981, and, when completed, will provide a modern, digital, map-based register of property titles in Scotland.
  • For more information on the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 please visit:
  • Follow RoS on Twitter @RegistersOfScotFacebook and LinkedIn. Sign up for our mailing list. #RoS400