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Caution the souvenir hunters

16 April 12

Registers page: Clients seeking a "souvenir plot", perhaps believing it will confer the right to a particular title, should be warned that they may not get what they hope for

by Registers of Scotland

There have been a few articles in the media recently about companies who are selling off tiny pieces of land, known as “souvenir plots”, in the Highlands. Some websites suggest that ownership of the plot carries with it the right to use the title of laird, lord or lady.

Given that some websites claim that the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 “removes the normal requirements to register your land… thus permitting the sale to take place under Contract Law”, the Keeper would like to clarify her position on the subject.

A souvenir plot is defined in the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 as “a piece of land which, being of inconsiderable size or no practical utility, is unlikely to be wanted in isolation except for the sake of mere ownership or for sentimental reasons or commemorative purposes”.

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.

Solicitors who are consulted by a client in relation to the purchase of a potential souvenir plot should bear in mind that in some cases, the land in question might not be of “inconsiderable size”; in such cases, no exemption from registration applies.

No title with your title

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.”

Have your say

Your comment

John McCabe

Thursday July 26, 2012, 14:35

Is it not about time there was a very clear statement as to whether or not internet buyers of souvenir plots actually really own the plots they think they have bought? It should be very clear whether or not the vendor retains title to these plots and could sell the whole lot legally without fear of prosecution. If I buy a souvenir plot on the internet is it mine with full rights or not? Could the vendor legally sell my plot without informing me? What happens if, say, the company I bought from goes into liquidation? IMO it is about time the whole thing was made clear, so that potential buyers of these plots can make informed decisions.

W R B Cunninghame Graham

Saturday July 28, 2012, 13:17

I have been concerned about this issue for some time. It is good to have clarification of the legal position from the Registers of Scotland. To my mind, they compound their calumny by misleading their customers into believing that they are purchasing a title (because Arms are not involved, they claim that the Lyon's opinion is irrelevant) and worse still that Lord and Laird are equivalent titles to be used before one's name. However, it seems that these companies, many of which are based outside of Scotland, have little respect for Scottish history, culture or law. Perhaps it is time for the Scottish Parliament to legislate against this dubious trade.

Laird John Duncan

Thursday August 2, 2012, 13:42

Scotsmen should not sell pieces of our land to foreigners. Our ancestors fought for this land and we should keep it. If it is misused to permit ordinary people to use a Scottish title then this makes our ancient titles mean less. These people must be crushed and the Scottish Parliament must pass laws to make it illegal to use the title Laird if they choose not to petition Lord Lyon for Arms.

Paul Darrow Watson

Thursday September 13, 2012, 16:34

As a Scottish born resident of Nova Scotia I bought into this not so much for the title (which was only ever for fun) but on the understanding that this was for CONSERVATION. When I discovered the truth I asked numerous times for the (rather substantial) purchase I made for the Watson Clan to be canceled. In response I received much waffle but the payment was taken anyway AFTER I asked for it to be canceled pending my own investigations into the truth of these matters. I may well have decided in their favor if my requests had not been deliberately ignored. Indeed this seems to be a confidence scam not conservation.

Andrew (Laird of Dunans)

Thursday April 10, 2014, 00:33

I’d still use my Laird title just as a way of making a radical mockery of so called Nobility. I mean let’s face it some thousand years ago or more some big lads on boats head across to the UK and kick the seven bells out of the locals, steal their land, livestock and place the locals under perpetual servitude with no legal rights and to add insult to injury they call themselves Noble Barons/Lords and do so under the power of their chief thug and legitimise it by the power of the Church and Law. As the Pythons had it: "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony." I think you can see where I’m going with this and that's what I see in these Scottish Laird titles: it's a very subtle mockery of the absurdity of the aristocracy itself. There's more than one "real" Lord sat in Westminster who purchased their title similarly, albeit in a much more underhand fashion. Others of course, have inherited "the real thing" by dint of being descended from the bastard of one of the kings throughout history.

So if you have purchased your Laird title use it with pride, with satire and with two fingers raised to the establishment. The only people who will object are the people who want to maintain the corrupt system of so called Nobility, Peers and conferred Honours. Laird is a fairly harmless title; whatever it meant historically bears no relation to its modern meaning. Laird=Esquire. The Oxford dictionary explains ‘Esquire’ as a landed proprietor or country squire; it also explains ‘Laird’ as (in Scotland) a person who owns a large estate. No one objects to people using the prefix Esq after their name instead of Mr, it seems unlikely any one will object to Laird being used in front of your name instead of Mr. If anyone does object to your title just make it clear that your title has nothing to do with that thieving murderous lying scum riff raff known as the Nobility.


Friday September 5, 2014, 14:52

I was born and bred in Scotland. I moved to the United States with my husband and made a home here with my family. My daughter purchased a small piece of a castle, of no real size, but it filled my heart with joy. At my age now I probably will never get back to my home in Scotland, although it will always be home to me. To know that my daughter in my name has contributed a small amount of money to help restore an old castle brings me so much joy. All this nonsense about titles it is just that, "nonsense" and nobody thinks that they own the whole castle. Please give us credit. We are not stupid, just generous.


Thursday January 7, 2016, 10:56

How big does a piece of land have to be to no longer be considered souvenir land? Is it anything over 1000sq ft?