After years of saving, months of back and forth between solicitors and weeks spent securing a mortgage, we had been due to sign the deeds the very next morning, but with that meeting no longer possible, just three signatures stood between us and home-ownership.
This was the first chapter of our family’s lockdown story, a chapter of bricks and mortar. For other families, the start of their story was the loss of an income, of access to free school meals, or a parent’s decision to return to nursing. Our problems were inconsequential, but they were still our problems.
To complete the sale, it would take a further three weeks and a bit of improvising when it came to posting contracts back and forth, after a neighbour Claire kindly stepped in to witness from a safe distance. If there was ever a case for introducing legally binding digital signatures in Scotland, it is trying to complete a house sale during a global pandemic.
A large part of what made the sale possible was the fact that Neilsons Solicitors and Estate Agents use ID verification software from the very tech company I work for, Amiqus.
Having been referred to Neilsons by a family member, this was at first nothing more than a pleasant surprise, enabling my husband and me to prove our identities and source of funds from home, but, in the context of a near-total economic shutdown, it was the difference between being able to contribute to the economy or not.
Since the start of lockdown, like many tech companies, Amiqus has actually seen an increase in enquiries about our services, as businesses of all sizes adapt to the unfolding situation and work to contribute to the national effort against Covid-19.
One of those is Roseisle Luxury Campervans based near Edinburgh. Having shut its doors temporarily to holidaymakers, Roseisle is now using Amiqus to review driving licenses remotely so that they can insure key workers while they maintain domestic broadband networks and make structural repairs to supermarkets.
Louise Hislop, rental team leader at Roseisle, told me: “It’s been heartening to see how our team has rallied together to ensure our vehicles are safe for the engineers that need them and it’s been a big morale boost that the majority of our spring customers have chosen not to cancel with us, but to move their rental dates to next year.
“No matter where they’re from, the sense we’re getting from customers is that people are still optimistic about the future and hopeful that they can enjoy their campervan holiday in Scotland soon.”
According to Hislop, lockdown has been a reminder of how important it is to think about the kinder, more sustainable future to strive for after the pandemic.
Niall Dolan, chief executive of the John Byrne Award, an online exhibition and art competition exploring personal and societal values, agrees. “The number of people entering and viewing our competition has actually gone up, though our marketing budget has gone down,” he said.
“Entrants are asking big questions like, ‘What is it that makes my life meaningful?’, ‘When I go back to work, do I want it to be the same?’ and ‘Do I still value the things I did before?’
“I think that, right now, we’re all aware that we’re in this together, experiencing the same thing, but differently. We’ve noticed that the comments on our social media posts have become more thoughtful and constructive. It’s like we’ve all been reminded that we’re the ones with the power to make things better.”
Laura Westring is the creator of Vocalcoach, leads public affairs at Amiqus and is a judge of the John Byrne Award 2020
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