Highland Titles has been trading for 16 years, and we have hundreds of thousands of customers all over the world. We sell an interesting and unusual gift that occasionally raises an eyebrow…. so how does it all work? It all comes down to two things: souvenir plots of land, and Laird, Lord and Lady titles.
Souvenir Plots of Land
A “souvenir” plot of land was 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”.
“a piece of land which, being of inconsiderable size and no practical utility, is unlikely to be wanted in isolation except for the sake of mere ownership or for sentimental reasons or commemorative purposes”.
Spot the difference? It’s a small change that takes into account the fact that some tiny plots of land can actually be hugely practical in certain circumstances. One example of this would be a ‘ransom strip’ which could either prohibit or provide access to property with significant repurcussions for the value of said property.
It is entirely obvious that souvenir plots in Scotland exist, then. If they exist, and can be uniquely identified, they can also be bought and sold.
Indeed, this statement from Sir Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons was made as far back as 1971:
“A trade had grown up in recent years in order to please tourists mainly from North America … whereby they are able to purchase a ‘square foot of Old England’ for a comparatively modest sum…. It helps the balance of payments….. and it gladdens the hearts of our continental cousins and enables them to obtain a splendidly medieval looking deed of title, which, no doubt, they display at some appropriate place in their homes.”
Sir Geoffrey Howe, 1971
This proves that souvenir plots have been bought and sold for more than 50 years.
In 2003, Ross Finnie MSP answered a question on souvenir plots in the Scottish Parliament, stating
“It is not known how many such schemes there have been in the last 20 years. The Registers of Scotland have no knowledge of any problems caused by them.”
Ross Finnie MSP, 2003
It is possible that Highland Titles has sold more souvenir plots than anyone else in history. We don’t know for sure, but we have been doing it since 2006 and have seen various competitors come and go in that time.
We think (and our customers and visitors clearly agree) that it makes for an interesting and fun gift.
Rights of Ownership
So far as we know, the entire Scottish legal profession agrees that our customers obtain a personal right to a souvenir plot of land. This is a valid form of ownership which can be passed onto future generations.
Fishing rights in Scotland are sold in exactly the same way, and they often sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds!
A personal right of ownership falls short of what is known as a real right in conveyancing terms, because our customers do not become the registered owner of the land. After 16 years of trading, we can state confidently that this makes no difference to our customers whatsoever.
They do not need, want or care about being the registered owner of their plot of land, just as people who adopt a tiger do not need (or presumably wish!) to be the registered keeper of an apex predator.
In any case, part of our product offering is that we manage the land as a nature reserve on our customers’ behalf. This would be tricky if we had to obtain permission from hundreds of thousands of people every time we did something on the nature reserve.
What about Lord Lyon?
The Court of Lord Lyon in Scotland is a very strange and unusual Court. It exists in order to police the use of heraldry – that’s shields and crests – in Scotland. It was created in the 14th Century in order to stop common people from displaying heraldry. Incredibly, it still exists today! It’s a fairly controversial and questionable use of taxpayers money, but we don’t dislike it. It’s quite a cute anachronism.
You might be wondering why on earth people ask us about it?
In 2012, the Lord Lyon stated that ownership of a souvenir plot of land would not be sufficent to bring someone within their jurisdiction to apply for a Coat of Arms. In other words, you need a firm Scottish link in order to be considered for a Coat of Arms. No link = no official Coat of Arms from Lord Lyon.
We have never met a customer who could care less about this, and we suspect we would never have been asked the question if it weren’t for the Lord Lyon ‘overstepping the mark’ back in 2012 when he gave a personal opinion on whether someone with a souvenir plot of land could fairly call themselves a Laird. Needless to say, he didn’t see the funny side.
One of our lovely customers contacted the Lord Lyon, however, and kindly forwarded his reply to us.
“I have no official remit or governance over the sale of souvenir plots of land…. or the adoption of the style of “Laird” by the new owner.”
Lord Lyon, 2012
In other words, the Court of Lord Lyon is completely irrelevant in matters relating to souvenir plots and the styles of Laird, Lord and Lady, but it does bring us neatly to the next question…
Laird, Lord and Lady Titles
Laird is a Scottish word, meaning landowner.
Lord is the English translation and Lady is the female equivalent.
Is it a stretch to say that someone with a personal right of ownership over one square foot of land in Scotland is a Laird? Of course it is! That’s the fun part of our gift. That’s why most people buy it.
Some people (with a sense of humour failure – see above) think it’s an outrageous claim to make. That’s fine with us. There is an easy solution to this problem: just don’t buy it.
Other people (bless them all) think it’s a cool gift. Those are the people we’re trying to delight. After all, you can’t please everyone and it’s foolish to try.
Are these titles meaningless?
We would obviously say ‘no’, but you should make your own mind up.
Gifts are highly personal in nature. No one person is in a position to say whether a gift is with or without meaning for the entire world population. To do so would surely constitute a breathtaking feat of arrogance.
For some of our customers, our gift is fun. That fun has meaning.
For others, it’s romantic. That has meaning.
For many, it’s a way of strengthening their ties with Scotland. That has meaning.
We make it very clear on our website that our customers obtain permission to use our registered trademarks, Laird, Lord and Lady of Glencoe.
We can say without any doubt that this has helped us create a real feeling of community amongst our customers, tens of thousands of whom have visited their plots and met with our team on the land. Hundreds have attended our Gatherings. This feeling of community has meaning.
We have delighted hundreds of thousands of customers. At least half a dozen people have made marriage proposals on our nature reserve. Many more have scattered ashes of loved ones. People have travelled from the other side of the world to visit their little plot of land and help us plant trees.
Despite all this, our business model is occasionally subject to criticism from people desperate for clicks, views or some other kind of attention.
It is SO patronising to our customers – the vast majority of whom are mature, professional people – to suggest that they have been duped into thinking that in return for spending £30 on our website, they will receive the sort of title that gets bestowed by the King. It is early in the reign of King Charles III, but we don’t suppose he will be offering these services online any time soon.
For anyone who does place an order and is anything less than 100% satisfied, we have a 90 day ‘no quibble’ returns policy.
In all seriousness, we do not know of another affordable gift company that engages so well and so often with its customers.