About Alison Gourley

Alison graduated from Edinburgh University School of Law in 1991. She joined Mitchells Roberton in 1996 and became an Associate thereafter. Alison specialises in both commercial and residential conveyancing, advising individuals, large and small businesses, banks, charities and further education institutions on all property transactions. Having 20 years experience in property law Alison has developed excellent relationships with surveyors, independent financial advisers and banks so is ready to act swiftly and effectively to meet her clients’ needs in an ever changing property market. She enjoys getting to know her clients and is committed to giving them an efficient service and is always friendly and approachable. She is also involved with the marketing aspects of the firm and is the solicitor in the office who trains the conveyancing paralegals. Alison is married to a photographer and has one child. In her free moments she likes to keep fit. She is a talented amateur artist and loves nature and the great outdoors.

Dementia and the World of the Arts

PA-logo

I recently read a very moving and interesting article in The Observer of 16/7/2017 by Nicci Gerrard called “Say it with a picture or a song”. It resonated with me for certain  reasons, primarily because of the work we do here with adults with incapacity and our involvement with Project Ability Glasgow, an art project creating opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues.

As Nicci Gerrard explains “A few weeks ago turning on the radio, I hear a voice saying that creative writing can help wounds heal faster. Startled I turn the volume up. Volunteers were given small wounds; half were then asked to write about something distressing in their life, the other half about something mundane. The wounds of the confessional writers healed substantially more quickly. A thought or a feeling is felt on the skin. Our minds, which have the power over our bodies, are in our bodies and are our bodies: we cannot separate the two. Words, self expression, can tangibly help pain and suffering. Art can be medicine for body and soul”- potent words indeed.

An all party parliamentary group inquiry into the arts, health and well being has been gathering evidence over the last two years and has come to the unambiguous conclusion that the arts used appropriately by health professionals can help with some major social challenges of an aging population, long-term illness, loneliness and mental health ,saving money in the health service. As Lord Howarth of Newport co-chair of the all party group said “The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity. This not only makes a huge difference to many individuals but also leads to cost savings. If the onset of Alzheimer’s disease ( which accounts for 62% of dementias) could be delayed by five years, savings between 2020 and 2035 are estimated at £100bn. Those are powerful statistics, but this isn’t just about money; the arts can play a powerful role in improving the quality of life for people with dementia and for their carers”.

There are projects the length and breadth of the country in theatres, galleries, community centres hospitals and care homes. As Nicci Gerrard describes” I attended one of the monthly sessions at the Royal Academy in London where people who have been art- lovers through their life- and are art-lovers still come to talk about a particular work, led by two practicing artists. We sat in front of an enigmatic painting by John Singer Sargent and there was an air of calmness, patience and above all time and there were no wrong opinions. There are many ways of seeing. People with dementia are continually contradicted and corrected, their versions of reality denied: it’s Sunday not Friday; you’ve already eaten your breakfast; I’m your wife not your mother; anyway you are old and she is dead….In this humanising democratic space, people were encouraged to see, feel, remember and express themselves. Slowly at first they began to talk. There was a sense of language returning and of thoughts feeding off each other. They were listened to with respect and were validated.”

Nicci Gerrard also mentions in her article the film “Alive Inside”. It is a documentary which follows social worker Dan Cohen founder of the non-profit making organisation Music & Memory as he fights against a broken health care system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Nicci Gerrard points to an emotive example “an old man with advanced dementia sits slumped in a wheelchair. He drools; his eyes are half closed and it’s impossible to know if he is asleep or awake. A few times a day, soft food is pushed into his mouth. Then someone puts earphones on his head and suddenly the music that he loved when he was a strong young man is pouring into him. His eyes open and knowledge comes into them. His toothless mouth splits into a beatific grin. And now he is dancing in his chair, swaying. And then this man –who doesn’t speak any longer –is actually singing. The music has reached him, found him, gladdened him and brought him back to life.”  The arts creating a miracle of which there should be more as we realise the wonderful benefits of the artistic world.

To find out more about Project Ability, please visit http://www.project-ability.co.uk/

A Recent Report Gives Insight into Housing Market Activity in Scotland

Registers of Scotland have released a new report which gives an interesting insight into property market trends over the past ten years. It reveals that the total value of the residential sales market in Scotland from 2007-08 to 2016-17 reached over £143.4 billion.

“The Scottish property market is a significant component of the Scottish economy” explained RoS business development and information director Kenny Crawford. “In 2016-17 the total value of residential sales alone was £16.7 billion, an increase of 1.0% compared with 2015-16”

Mr Crawford further states that “We’ve also seen an increase in average house prices over the decade, up 7.7% when comparing 2016-17 with 2007-08.”

“Overall house prices remained relatively stable across each year of the decade, with the exception of a more pronounced year on year increase between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Other report findings include:

  • New-build property sales accounted for 12% of the all Scotland sales in 2016-17 with a total of 12,014 sales
  • There was a 36.2% decrease in the number of residential properties sold for over a million pounds when comparing 2007-08 with2016-17 although this should be seen in the context of a drop of 32.8% in total sales volumes between these years.
  • A drop of 30.3% in the number of sales being registered with a mortgage when comparing 2007-08 with 2016-17
  • A market value of £4.1 billion for non residential sales in 2016-17
  • A 5.3% increase in the volume of commercial leases from 905 in 2015-16 to 953 in 2016-17

Latest data from Halifax shows that there has been a 3% fall in property sales between March and April 2017 to 99,910. This followed three successive months when sales were above 100,000.

According to the Halifax supply continues to be an issue for the housing market. The number of properties coming on to the market fell for the 14th consecutive month in April which kept the average stock levels on estate agent’s books close to a historic low.

If I can help you with buying or selling a property in Scotland then please contact me Alison Gourley by email on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning 0141 552 3422.

House Price Index Reveals Annual Price Rise

According to March’s edition of the UK House Price Index UK, house prices rose by an average of 4.1% on an annual basis.

Residential sales in Scotland rose by 2.0% to 6239 compared to January in the previous year , however this was 25.4% lower than sales during December 2016. Again in Scotland the average price of a property in March 2017 was £137,139 which is an increase of 0.7% from March 2016 but a decrease of 1% compared to sales in February 2017.

There were 746 property sales in Edinburgh City making it the top local authority in terms of volume of sales. The other regions in the top five were, Glasgow City (700 sales), South Lanarkshire (396 sales), Fife (391 sales) and North Lanarkshire (305 sales)

The biggest fall in house prices was once again seen in Aberdeen City with a 6.3% drop during March of this year compared to in March 2016, taking the average price to £163,050. East Dunbartonshire showed the biggest annual price increase where the average price increased by 10.7% to £196,332. Across Scotland, all property types except flats showed an increase in average price in March 2017 when compared to the same month in the previous year. Semi-detached properties showed the biggest increase rising by 2.3% to £144,261, while flats decreased by 0.1% to £98,012.

For expert legal advice on buying or selling property in Scotland then please contact me Alison Gourley by email on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

Update on Help to Buy (Scotland) Scheme

The Scottish Government has recently announced that the price cap on properties eligible for the Help to Buy scheme will remain at £200,000 in 2018/19. The scheme helps eligible householders buy a new build home from a participating builder by contributing up to a maximum 15% equity stake in the property. The aim behind the Scheme is to help more families onto the property ladder.

The Government says that by keeping the maximum property value eligible for the scheme at £200,000 from 1 April 2017 until March 2019, the scheme will help as many people across as many geographic locations as possible.

“We want to help people get on or up the housing ladder and Scotland’s Help to Buy Scheme gives a helping hand to thousands of people” explained Housing Minister Kevin Stewart.”

“We want to make home ownership as accessible as possible- with a particular focus on helping people to buy affordable new-build homes.”

“We know, however, that prices of property-and what constitutes affordable- can fluctuate massively across different parts of the country,” he said.

“That is why I have decided to retain the price cap on homes across, urban, rural and small towns in Scotland.”

For expert legal advice on buying or selling property across Scotland then please contact me Alison Gourley on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

A Legal Update for Landlords

The private rental sector will face significant changes over the next year with the introduction of the new ‘Private Residential Tenancy’ and the ‘Letting Agent’ Regulations but there are a number of other recent legal developments that landlords should be aware of.

  • Creation of the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber

The Housing and Property Chamber which replaces the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP) and Homeowner Housing Panel (HHP) will, from December 2016, issue decisions on rent and repair issues and help landlords with exercising their right of entry. Also from December 2017 the Housing and Property Chamber will also hear private rented housing cases including eviction actions currently heard in the Sheriff Court. Landlords should note that the AT5 and AT6 forms and Tenant Information Packs have been updated to reflect the transfer of functions to the First-tier Tribunal.

  • The Letting Agent Code of Practice ( Scotland) Regulations 2016 will be coming into force on 31 January 2018

When introduced, all letting agents must comply with the Code which introduces, amongst other duties, obligations on agents to have insurance, complaints procedures and client money handling processes in place by the date of enforcement. The introduction of the Code of Practice is the first step in a wider framework of letting agent regulation which will include compulsory letting agent registration and as of September 2018 it will be an offence for letting agents to operate without being registered.

  • Immigration ‘Right to Rent’ checks to be introduced in Scotland?

The UK government has voiced an intention to introduce the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme to Scotland, the scheme already being in force in England. The scheme was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 and places a duty on landlords to check the immigration status of would be tenants to make sure they have the right to rent residential premises in the UK. Landlords must refuse tenancies to those who cannot produce the relevant identity documentation. If a landlord breaches this duty under the scheme he/she may face up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £3000.

If you would like further advice on any landlord and tenant matters then please contact Alison Gourley by email on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning 0141 552 3422

Gender Pay Gap

When you “make a bold statement”, you express an opinion in a brave way or it might be “bold” because the opinion is uncommon or controversial.

In the wake of International Women’s Day I am going to be bold.

  • There exists a gender pay gap (GPG) which the World Economic Forum predicts will not be closed until 2186. The gap currently stands at 18.1% being the difference between the average pay of men and of women. Although 2017 heralds the arrival of the GPG Reporting Regulations which require employers with 250 or more employees to publish information relating to the average pay of women and men thereby disclosing their GPG ,no sanctions for non-compliance have been imposed nor is there any requirement on employers to take positive steps to close the gap.
  • Last year the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee requested urgent action to give pregnant women and new mothers more protection. The Committee reported that over the past decade the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their job has doubled to 54,000 a year. The representatives called for a law similar to the one in Germany which prevents pregnant employees being made redundant except in extremely rare cases. They also called for the three month employment tribunal time limit for pregnancy and maternity claims to be doubled to six months.
  • Recent research from the TUC found that more than half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, including unwelcome jokes and comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes. The accusations of mistreating women made against Donald Trump sparked outrage and served as a timely reminder that harassment and sexism in the work place should not be tolerated.

International  Women’s Day made an appeal for women to be bold- bold for change and bold enough to speak up.

Voluntary Registration- Would it benefit you?

At the moment less than 30% of land in Scotland is registered in the Land Register of Scotland which is a digital map- based Register.  The remainder of land is still recorded in the General Register of Sasines which is a Register of historic deeds.

The Scottish Government has asked the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland to complete the Land Register by 2024, meaning that all Scottish land should be registered by then. This is indeed a tall order and one way the Registers of Scotland hope to achieve this goal is by encouraging private and public landowners to voluntarily register their land.

Voluntary Registration permits an owner of an unregistered plot of land to apply for registration of that plot in the Land Register at any time. No new deed is needed although a new Land Register  Plan may be required.

However not only will voluntary registration help the Land Register to achieve its aims by 2024 but there are added advantages for landowners in registering their plots of land.

  1. The Land Register requires an exact plan which does not overlap with any other registered titles thus clarifying the definitive boundaries of a piece of land providing certainty to owners.
  2. Also once a title is registered any questions from neighbours and others about boundaries can be dealt with speedily and cheaply as it avoids laborious title examination or arguments over ownership where the titles are unclear, as often they are. This can be extremely pertinent for rural estates and farms or where a landowner wishes to sell land to a developer.

Currently the Registers of Scotland are offering a 25% discount on the cost of the Voluntary  Registration application fees to landowners  who undertake the process. The fees are calculated depending on the value of the land or property involved and  range from £45 to £5625.A plans assistance service has also been set up by the Registers to help with the preparation of plans which are suitable for registration.

If you would like help in assessing whether your property would benefit from Voluntary Registration please contact Alison Gourley on 0141 552 3422 or by email ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk