[sonorous voiceover]: Previously, on Love and Garbage –
Your host wrote an overlong, law riddled piece on whether or not you can as a purchaser acquire ownership of a souvenir plot in Scotland. This shows, using actual law disregarded or misrepresented by our mates at Highland Titles, the following. You cannot acquire ownership of a souvenir plot. Since 1617 acquisition of ownership of a plot of land in Scotland requires registration. The Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012, following the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979, prohibits registration of ownership of a souvenir plot. Therefore, those paying thirty quid for a square foot of land are not getting ownership of that plot. At best they are getting a personal right against the seller (be it as beneficiary in a trust or under contract). And this personal right will put you at risk of subsequent sales of the property, multiple sales of the same property, the abandonment of the property, and the insolvency of the owner (among others).Given that you don’t get ownership of the plot one may ask what is the money paid actually for?
[sonorous voiceover]: Now read on…
highland Titles sells through a website. There are other sites they operate in foreign languages, but let us take the English language version as representative of the others. It proclaims on the front page the following:
You may style yourself as Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe
‘Laird’ is a descriptive title traditionally afforded to Scottish landowners or, more commonly, by those living and working on the estate. Laird is a Scottish word and is simply the Scottish form of the English ‘Lord’. The female equivalent is ‘Lady’.
When you buy land from Highland Titles, you will become the beneficial owner of the plot of land that you selected. Whilst all people are free to refer to themselves as Lairds, it is only those who own land in Scotland that have a genuine reason to do so.
Now, let’s get one thing clear. I am not a laird. I have nothing to do with clans. I find the whole thing about titles a bit odd. I stand with Charon QC on this. But some people do care, and they care a lot. And so, examination of the issue is worth a brief period of time.
So, to turn again to the site. We have seen in the previous post that there is no beneficial ownership in Scots law. The concept has been judicially rejected. But, what they claim is that “only those who own land in Scotland” have a “genuine reason” to “style” themselves as laird.. They admit you can call yourself what you like, but this is the “genuine reason”. And they make a lot of this laird thing. when you click to find out what you get when you pay your money you are told that “you may style Yourself as Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe“.
or, If you pay flipping great wadges of cash, you get no ownership of an area somewhere else and the right to style yourself as laird of Glencoe and of somewhere else. Now, they have already said on the front page of the Site that you are entitled to call yourself whatever you like so this seems a lot of money to do something you could do anyway. I, for example, have styled myself Laird Ern Malley on the twitter this week, because I can. it cost me the princely sum of bugger all.
When you get further into the Highland Titles site you reach the FAQ page. This answers some of the questions you might have about becoming a laird. There are one or two of interest.. I n answer to the question “how can you sell me a title?”
We cannot sell you a title. We are simply acknowledging your right to use the title of Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe. If you prefer not to assume a title, you will be given that option when you make your land purchase. The advice of Scottish Solicitors, Halliday Campbell is “in Scotland anyone can, subject to requirements of good faith, call themselves whatever they like, including “Laird”, “Lord” or “Lady“.” We do not know of any jurisdiction where this is not true.
So, this seems to suggest that you can call yourself what you like without paying any money. so what happened to the genuine reason mentioned on the front page? Why is It mentioned at all? who is it directed at?
When one digs (and to be honest not very far) one finds the question of the title of laird is one that has been addressed by the Lord Lyon. The Lord Lyon is the court that deals with heraldry and titles in Scotland. It is mentioned on the Scottish judiciary’s very own website. And the Lyon court has its own website and has even made a comment about lairds on it. The Lord Lyon says this
The term ‘laird’ has generally been applied to the owner of an estate, sometimes by the owner himself or, more commonly, by those living and working on the estate. It is a description rather than a title, and is not appropriate for the owner of a normal residential property, far less the owner of a small souvenir plot of land. It goes without saying that the term ‘laird’ is not synonymous with that of ‘lord’ or ‘lady’.
Ownership of a souvenir plot of land is not sufficient to bring a person otherwise ineligible within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon for the purpose of seeking a Grant of Arms.
Or in summary if you are the owner of a house you should not really call yourself laird, never mind a souvenir plot.
This guidance from the Lord Lyon was published on the Court of the Lord Lyon’s website and was also published in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland. You can read that here. It’s part of some general guidance from the Registers of Scotland on souvenir plots, issued by the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland – the woman who is in charge of property registration.
In relation to souvenir plots and their ownership the Keeper says
The Keeper is required to reject an application for registration in the Land Register, if the land to which it relates meets the description of “souvenir plot”. However, the fact that the Keeper is obliged to reject registration does not necessarily mean that “ownership” can be obtained by some other means.
A real right of ownership in land (in the sense of a right that is enforceable against third parties) can only be obtained by registration in the Land Register or by recording a deed in the Register of Sasines as appropriate
which doesn’t have all of the relevant authority I referred you to in the blogpost the other day but summarises the position accurately.
For today’s purpose though see what the Lord Lyon says about the title of lord, laird or lady, in that article:
The Court of the Lord Lyon commented: “Ownership of a souvenir plot of land does not bring with it the right to any description such as ‘laird’, ‘lord’ or ‘lady’. ‘Laird’ is not a title but a description applied by those living on and around the estate, many of whom will derive their living from it, to the principal landowner of a long-named area of land. It will, therefore, be seen that it is not a description which is appropriate for the owner of a normal residential property.
“It cannot properly be used to describe a person who owns a small part of a larger piece of land. The term ‘laird’ is not one recognisable by attachment to a personal name and thus there is no official recognition of ‘XY, Laird of Z’.
“The words ‘lord’ and ‘lady’ apply to those on whom a peerage has been confirmed and do not relate to the ownership of land.
“Ownership of a souvenir plot of land is not sufficient to bring a person otherwise ineligible within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon for seeking a coat of arms.”
The Lord Lyon is clear – you couldn’t acquire a title by buying a souvenir plot. This explains the stuff in the FAQs on the Highland Titles website saying that they’re not really selling titles, you can call yourself what you like. But it does lead one to question the accuracy and veracity of the statement on the front page of the Highland TItles website and the spiel that appears on google if you search for Highland TItles.
I am no expert on the Google but perhaps someone can explain how those little words under the bit you click to get to the website get there.
And of course the Highland Titles front page is clear.
Why is this reference to styling yourself as a Laird, Lord or Lady on the front page? Why is there the line ” it is only those who own land in Scotland that have a genuine reason to do so.” tying a right that is far short of ownership of a plot to entitlement to call yourself Laird?
This notion is one pursued by various website that may or may not be tied to Highland TItles but appear to be run by people sympathetic to the business model of charging money for no ownership and no title. There are our good friends at Highland Titles Scam. That site deals with issues regarding the title of “laird” in a page which (when you go to read it) refers to the Lord Lyon and then largely ignores what he says with a creative reading of his words. On their front for this site they also proclaim
can Scottish landowners style themselves as a Laird, Lord or Lady? YES
It is undeniably true that ‘Laird’ is a Scottish word, literally meaning ‘landowner’. Whilst it is obviously stretching the point to call oneself a Laird (or even a landowner) when all one owns is a square foot of land, it is not inaccurate and one should remember that Highland Titles sells these souvenir plots as a novelty gift. Moreover, the company also sells much more meaningful plots of land up to 1000 square feet in size.
‘Laird’, being a Scottish word, translates into English as ‘Lord’. The female variation of both titles is ‘Lady’. All these simple facts are confirmed on independent review sites.
So there you have it: owning a plot of Scottish land legitimises the claim to be a Laird, Lord or Lady in a fun, lighthearted way.
This self-styled scam site links to another site, which broadly repeats the nonsense in bigger type.
The important thing to bear in mind is the difference in Scotland between a real and a personal right. It is the real right that people recognise as ownership of a valuable piece of land and Scots law has always required registration of land to create that real right.
So if you sell me a defined square metre from your larger registered landholding, the Register would still show you as the owner, even though I have now acquired the beneficial ownership of that land. If you were then to sell the whole registered area, including your square metre, then you could do so, but you would have to refund my payment or be guilty of theft. To use an example, if I “buy” your kettle, and you take my payment, but we both agree that you will keep the kettle safe for me, that does not prevent me from becoming the “owner” even though you are in possession. If you sell it to someone else, I can sue you but the sale to the new owner would still be effective. I have a personal right of ownership but you are in possession and could pass it on to someone else. I would also call the police, because you would have stolen my kettle!
So, the fact that you don’t need to register title to a souvenir plot is proportionate and adequate. It’s not that you don’t need to: you just can’t. So, you have a reasonable expectation that the plot will continue to remain in your ownership for your enjoyment and if someone were to subsequently buy the entire estate you would be eligible for a full refund and the police would be paying a visit to the people you purchased from. In practice, most people are satisfied with this degree of protection when the payment is so small. And of course the buyer of a little piece of the Highlands gets to call themselves “Laird”, which simply means “landowner”.
For the first two paragraphs of this I refer to my earlier post. There is no personal right of ownership in Scots law. You either own or you don’t. That’s as true for kettles as it is for land, irrespective of the tortured verbiage. The example that they give displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the Scottish law as it relates to the Sale of Goods ACt 1979, ss 17, 18, and 24 and 25 – but we’ve already seen that Scottish law is not their strong point. there is no personal Right of ownership in Scots law, no beneficial ownership. The power for the non owner to confer title is a statutory exception to a general legal principle enshrined in the Sale of Goods Act, and he common law. the general principle is nemo at quid non habet, or you can not give what you do not have. It Is only an owner, the person with the real right of ownership that can transfer ownership, unless there are statutory exceptions. One of these Is that a seller who has retained possession of goods can sell them on to a third party, and if that third party is In good faith statute confers the real right of ownership on the third party. The buyer then has a personal right to recover the proceeds. To draw the analogy wit this specific statutory exception Is disingenuous.
But both the self-styled Highland Titles scam site and the final paragraph in the exceprt from this Souvenir plots site talk about the entitlement to call yourself laird being based on being the owner. And say again, inaccurately, that the buyer who has not registered land is owner.
Similar is stated on the Laird Reviews site which has an article by an anonymous Scottish lawyer that refers to the souvenir plots site as an accurate representation of the law (it isn’t as we’ve seen above and in my earlier post) . This advice from the anonymous Scottish lawyer refers in glowing terms to the excellent work of Highland Titles through a number of links and then answers the question
Dos buying a small piece of Scotland entitle me to call myself Laird, Lord, or Lady?
Correct use of the title Laird, Lord of Lady relies upon ownership of Scottish land. Technically anyone could adopt the title, but this would be akin to calling yourself a doctor without first obtaining a medical degree. When translating Laird as Lord, you should remember that Lord is a title that may be also used in England by members of the peerage and their families rather than landowners. Lairds are landed gentry (i.e. people with land). The words are interchangeable only in Scotland, because Laird just means Lord in Scots. They came from the same root laverd. Some people doubt this, but the large English and Scottish dictionaries are quite clear on the subject.
A Laird is traditionally someone who owns a sizable piece of land (usually an estate with tenants) in Scotland; the English equivalent would be Lord of the Manor, or in the vernacular, Squire. Lord in Scotland (as in England and Wales) now only refers to the nobility. Thus, it is clear that in English over the centuries the two words have been used in much the same way.
Ok, so I can be a Laird, Lord or Lady by owning a piece of Scotland?
Yes of course you can. The term Laird, according to the Lord Lyon, is not a title or dignity but a respectful description of the owner of an estate usually used by his/her tenants. In this sense, the descriptor is tied to landownership. However, Lord Lyon, being rather pompous, has given his opinion that lairds should generally own more than a square foot. Mind you, he also admits that he has nothing whatsoever to do with with the sale of laird titles, so his opinion in this instance is more of a personal prejudice than a matter of fact.
If one looks at it logically, the whole idea is simple and fun! Amuse yourself by imagining how many tenants can a one square foot of land support? But even a skinny person would encroach on their neighbours’ plots if s/he were to stand in the middle of it! The most popular size of souvenir plot is 10 square feet and perhaps this is the reason for that state of affairs.
So, by all means call yourself “laird” if you want to – there’s no law against it and it shows you love Scotland and salute its heritage and traditions – but you may end up just seeming ridiculous is you do not buy a large estate – at least 10 square feet.
We will put on one side the notion that a site of 10 square feet (just over a square yard – smaller than the surface area of some people’s dining tables and much smaller than a snooker table) is a large estate ownership of which would be less ridiculous to self style as a laird than a one square foot plot (appreciably smaller than a Subbuteo pitch).
Instead concentrate on one thing. The concept of being a laird is tied to landownership. Each of these sites, so incredibly supportive of Highland Titles, but set up by wellwishers around the world, is clear on that. To be genuinely entitled to self style as Laird or Lord, to make the front page of that Highland Titles website accurate – to ignore all the stuff from the Lord Lyon and others that says that you can call yourself what you like and to play on their terms and accept that you could have a “genuine reason” to call yourself laird if you own land in Scotland – there is one thing you need. You need to become an owner of land.
But there is one problem.
We know – from the post the other day – that the buyer of a souvenir plot can never become owner. And given that therefore no purchaser of one of these one foot square, or ten square foot plots, can ever have a “genuine reason” to call him or herself laird.
So we are left back where we started.
This is a business that takes money from people not to sell them ownership of souvenir plots of land and consequently (on their own terms) means that those individuals have no genuine reason to call themselves laird or lady. So what is the money for? Where does it go?
I’m just a lawyer. I have no answer to those questions in the law. Now, this needs to be passed on to others to look further.