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Prescription and Title to Moveable Property

A consultation paper was issued by the Scottish Government  to seek views on the content of a draft Bill recommended by the Scottish Law Commission on Prescription and Title to Moveable Property.

The Report on Prescription and Title to Moveable Property (Scot Law Com, No. 228, 2012) was published by the Scottish Law Commission following a Discussion Paper of the same title (Scot Law Com DP No. 144, 2010).

This Bill was drafted by the Scottish Law Commission rather than by the Scottish Government. Government Bills introduced into the Scottish Parliament are generally drafted by the Scottish Government’s Parliamentary Counsel Office. Therefore, the draft Bill is subject to further revision by Parliamentary Counsel on behalf of the Scottish Government before being introduced into the Parliament. The introduction of any Bill, and the precise contents of it, depends on the outcome of the consultation.  Any Bill is for the next session of the Scottish Parliament.

The draft Bill has two main provisions. The first of these would introduce a general rule of positive prescription for corporeal moveable property. Under this rule, a person would gain ownership of any such property which had been in that person’s possession for 20 years, dependent on certain conditions being met, in particular the person being in good faith and lacking negligence. Thus, thieves and looters would not be able to become owners.

The second provision would allow the holders of corporeal moveable property deposited with or lent to them to become owner of that property if the owner (or the owner’s successor) has not been in contact for 50 years. This is aimed primarily at museums and other cultural institutions to let them deal with property which they hold for an owner who cannot be traced.

The draft Bill has a number of other provisions. Section 3 provides for the ownership of corporeal moveable property to be acquired by the Crown if no person possesses the property during a continuous period of 60 years. The draft Bill also makes clear that the Crown may disclaim ownership of the property.

You can find the consultation, responses here.  The analysis of this consultation will be available in due course.