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Legal Writings (Counterparts and Delivery) (Scotland) Act 2015

Execution of documents in counterpart

Section 3: Use of counterparts: electronic documents

15.Section 3 provides that sections 1 and 2 apply to both traditional and electronic documents. References to execution in section 1 therefore mean execution of a traditional document or an electronic document. This means it is competent to execute an electronic document (by means of an electronic signature) in counterpart and, if desired, to nominate a person to take delivery of the counterparts. It also follows that it is competent for a document to be signed in various counterparts some by electronic signature and some in wet ink. However, given that Part 3 of the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 as inserted by section 97 of the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, provides for execution of electronic documents by electronic signature, it is unlikely that execution in counterpart will be used frequently for transactions where the parties deal entirely in electronic documents as parties can simply apply their electronic signature to the agreed electronic document wherever it is. Execution in counterpart does not provide any advantage in this scenario. However, in applying sections 1 and 2 to electronic documents, section 3 covers the mixed situation noted above where some parties execute their counterpart on paper and others apply an electronic signature to the counterpart sent to them and return that to the nominee.

16.Subsection (2) provides that where the electronic document is one that requires to be in writing under section 1(2) of the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 (writing required for certain contracts, obligations, trusts, conveyances) the references to subscription of the counterpart in section 1 mean that it must be subscribed according to the standards of authentication for those documents set out in section 9B of the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995. Section 9B(2) sets out that the electronic signature must, amongst other matters, meet prescribed requirements. The Electronic Documents (Scotland) Regulations 2014 (SSI 2014/83) prescribe that it must be an advanced electronic signature.

17.For electronic documents that do not require to be in writing it remains for parties to determine what level of electronic signature should be sufficient to constitute subscription of the counterpart.

18.If parties nevertheless choose to authenticate an electronic document that does not require to be in writing in accordance with section 9C of the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995, they will get the benefit of the document having self-proving status. However, such a standard of electronic signature is not necessary for the valid execution in counterpart of an electronic document under section 1 of this Act.

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Text created by the Scottish Government to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills.


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