Scotland gets new e-signature guidance

Out-Law News | 25 Mar 2020 | 10:09 am | 1 min. read

New guidance on electronic signatures (e-signatures) can help businesses continue to transact during the coronavirus crisis, an expert has said.

The Law Society of Scotland (LSS) published a 'beta' version of a new guide on the use of e-signatures on Wednesday. Publication of the guide in an unfinished state was recommended by the working group that had been developing the guide, as they felt it "would be of use to the profession given the current practical difficulties they face at the present time".

The guide is to be updated over time.

One member of the LSS working group, Fiona Alexander of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "Using electronic signatures to complete formal legal contracts has been something of a slow burn. We had expected a greater uptake after EU regulation in 2014 sought to harmonise the legal framework across member states. However it didn’t really take off and for formal legal contracts, wet ink and paper has remained the default."

"With Covid-19 impacting businesses in so many ways, getting things signed is just another thing that becomes a little more difficult. Electronic signatures can very much help here and the Law Society of Scotland’s guide is timely and practical," she said.

The new guide explains the difference between simple, advanced and qualified e-signatures, which provide different levels of assurance of authentication and, from a signatory perspective, offer different standards of security.

The guide reflects on both the relevant statute in Scotland that governs e-signatures, the use of e-signature platforms, requirements around the signing process and witnessing, and how to verify e-signatures.

The guide also reflects on the differences in the law on e-signatures in Scotland compared to the law on e-signatures in England and Wales.