A Guide to Doing Business in Scotland Real Estate in Scotland

Having decided to establish a presence and operate in Scotland, a business will need premises from which to do so.

In Scotland, there are two ways to acquire premises: purchase, where the business owns the premises following payment of a purchase price to the previous owner, and lease, where the business has a right to occupy and use the premises for a stated period in return for the periodic payment of rent. Most often, a business will choose to lease its premises.

Businesses usually use a surveyor to source their premises and agree the commercial terms, but a solicitor will deal with the necessary due diligence and take the transaction through to its conclusion.

As the business, whether buying or leasing, will incur quite significant costs in this process, often before a binding contract is in place, parties very often enter into a short exclusivity agreement for a limited period at the outset.

Purchase

There are two legal steps to a purchase. Firstly, a contract setting out the agreed terms is concluded between the seller’s and the purchaser’s solicitors, which is binding on the parties subject to any conditions in the contract. Secondly, completion occurs about three or four weeks later, when the price is paid in exchange for title to the premises, and the purchaser takes entry.

Either as a condition of the contract or prior to an unconditional contract being concluded, a survey of the premises will be undertaken and the purchaser’s solicitor will examine the seller’s title to the property and investigate various local authority requirements.

Following completion, a transfer tax (LBTT) will need to be paid and the purchaser’s title registered in the Land Register.

Leasing

There are also usually the same two steps to a leasing transaction. A contract is concluded, in this case with an agreed draft lease attached, and completion and entry follows. The terms of the lease will vary, but nowadays commercial leases tend to be for 15 years’ duration, perhaps with opportunities for the tenant to terminate early or extend the term at the end. Rent is generally paid four times a year, and will usually increase in some agreed way over the duration of the lease.

The extent of what is being leased needs to be clearly defined, together with any common parts that the tenant will be allowed to use (often requiring the payment of a service charge), as well as the tenant’s repairing and other obligations. Breach of the tenant’s obligations can lead to termination of the lease by the landlord without compensation.

Again, a survey and title due diligence will need to be undertaken, and LBTT paid and the lease registered (if it is for more than 20 years’ duration), after completion.

Rural land & forestry

A specialist type of real estate conveyancing work in Scotland is the purchase, sale or lease of rural land. The forestry market in particular is thriving at present due to attractive tax incentives and Government grants. As in other countries, rural land is subject to legislation which protects public access rights, Community rights and agricultural tenants. Crofting is a type of small-scale farming unique to certain northerly parts of the country, and again, there are special laws in place dealing with the rights of croft tenants.

Planning, environmental and conservation laws exist to protect the countryside and manage its use. Salmon fishing can be purchased and owned separately from land. Rural land used for renewable energy projects is usually held on long leases.

Our Awards & Accreditations

  • In 2016, we became one of the first law firms in Scotland to become Living Wage accredited employers.

  • Winners of Corporate & Commercial Team of the Year and Family Law Team of the Year at the Scottish Legal Awards 2020.

  • Our Real Estate team won the Property Team of the Year Award at the British Legal Awards in 2018.

  • Winner of SME of the Year at the Scottish SME Awards 2017, hosted by Scottish Business Insider.

  • Highly Commended for Commercial Team of the Year at the British Legal Awards 2016.

  • We are a proud member of the Legal Sustainability Alliance, a network of law firms committed to working collaboratively to reduce our environmental impact

  • In 2019, MacRoberts achieved Cyber Essentials Plus certification, a UK Government entry-level information security standard. 

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO 9001:2015 certification for Quality Management, the most widely recognised quality management system standard in the world.

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO14001:2015 certification for Environmental Management, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to environmental awareness.

  • MacRoberts holds the ISO27001:2013 certification for Information Security, an internationally recognised security gold standard.

  • Business continuity is a critical element of the Business Management System at MacRoberts and we hold full accreditation with the ISO 22301:2012.

  • MacRoberts is a member of IP Inclusive, a network of intellectual property professionals working to make our community more equal, diverse and inclusive.

  • We are active members of the PRIME Programme – an organisation that focuses on ensuring a career in law is open to talent from all economic and social backgrounds.

  • MacRoberts supports the Scottish Business Pledge, a values-led partnership between Government and business that is based on boosting productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainable employment.

  • We are supporters of the Partnership for Change, a network of organisations and individuals who share a common ambition to improve diversity on boards and in senior leadership.

  • MacRoberts is a Disability Confident employer, and are committed to disability equality across our firm.

  • MacRoberts fully supports flexible working practices and supports family-friendly working practices.

  • MacRoberts became a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme in 2018.

  • MacRoberts is a member of The Glass Network, Scotland's organisation for LGBT+ allied legal professionals.
  • MacRoberts is a longstanding member of Scotland Food & Drink, the leading trade association for Scotland's food and drink industry.