OVER the last few months there has been a great deal of discussion on the differences between Scotland and England in the lead up to the referendum in September on whether Scotland should become an independent country.
During the course of such discussion, it has frequently been acknowledged that Scotland already has a unique set of institutions and systems which have existed for many years and which have continued to prosper and grow, and which, by their very nature, have created a strong Scottish culture and identity.
These institutions include, amongst others, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish education system, and of course our distinct Scottish legal system.
Another such institution, which has flourished over many years, and which in itself has achieved national status, is that of the Solicitors Property Centre (SPC), for the sale and marketing of property in Scotland.
Over 40 years ago, Scottish solicitors got together in different areas of the country to create shared marketing services for their clients, in the form of Solicitor Property Centres, to allow their clients’ properties to be exposed to a wider market and, at the same time, to offer a greater selection of property to the buying public. The first of these centres was established in Aberdeen and became the model upon which the other centres were based.
Some may remember the first Edinburgh Property Centre in 1971, based in a small shop in George Street, where property details, supplied by the solicitors in the city, were stored in loose leaf binders and could be accessed by the property-buying public during working hours.
These property centres were a runaway success and were the envy of many groups and organisations, including the English buyer, who, at that time, was unable to access all property on the market in a particular area, all in one place.
Over the years the property centres have gone from strength to strength, evolving through the addition of state of the art showrooms, weekly newspapers, comprehensive websites and mobile device platforms.
The centres have also flourished on account of the overwhelming support and loyalty which they have enjoyed, not only from the local solicitor firms, many of whom were the founding fathers of the centres themselves, but also from the general public, who have always recognised the benefits of having a local centre, displaying local property, particularly when it is well known that eight out of ten property buyers in the market place will be planning to buy in the local area.
A particular trait of any solicitor member firm of these centres is that they are well known and widely respected within their own areas of operation; some of the firms having been marketing property for well over 100 years and every one of them governed by a strict code of conduct laid down by the Law Society of Scotland. They are staffed by local professionals, living and working in the area, with in depth knowledge of the local property markets and local property needs.
It is also acknowledged that the property centres have maintained and protected the Scottish tradition of selling property through a trusted and regulated solicitor firm as a one-stop shop, dealing with the marketing as well as the conveyancing, a tradition which in some areas has seen solicitor estate agents maintain a dominant market share in the region, in some cases, commanding over 90 per cent of the residential property market.
It was therefore only a matter of time until the majority of Solicitor Property Centres across Scotland joined forces to launch a new national property website, the Solicitors Property Centres (SPC) Scotland, www.spcscotland.co.uk, in 2011, appropriately enough on St Andrew’s Day, an important date in the Scottish calendar. This portal, listing over 15,500 properties for sale in Scotland, provides a focal point for buyers searching for property in Scotland wherever they may be based.
At a time when change is in the air in the lead up to the referendum, the development of such a portal is simply proof that the Solicitors Property Centres have again played to their strengths by staying relevant, dynamic and ahead of the game.
Whatever the result on 18 September, one thing is sure – Scotland has established some fine institutions over the years of which she is justly proud and which cannot be taken from her. The Scottish Solicitor Property Centre is just one such institution.
• Dianne Paterson is a partner in Russel + Aitken LLP www.russelaitken.com