Twitter Abuse

I have been the victim of twitter abuse, and I have reported this fact both to Fort William police and the Scottish Parliament. Some of the abusers are known and some have wisely sought to stay anonymous. However this may not save them from legal consequences.

Yesterday, Alison Saunders, head of the CPS announced that Hate Crime would be a new priority and I welcome that.

Prosecutors will be ordered to treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face in plans announced by the director of public prosecutions. Alison Saunders said the Crown Prosecution Service will seek stiffer penalties for abuse on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions on hate crime

Published on Aug 21, 2017

The CPS describe Hate Crime as including “verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying” motivated by hostility (There is no legal definition of hostility so the CPS use the everyday understanding of the word which includes ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike).  The law in Scotland is different, but harassment is still harassment, even north of the border.

According to the Herald, “Wings Over Scotland” blogger, Stuart Campbell, was recently arrested. The Herald further reports “Police said the arrest was on suspicion of harassment and malicious communications”. Stuart Campbell reports on his website that none of the tweets were in any way threatening, but as I learned when I visited Fort William police, a campaign of harassment need not be threatening, merely unwanted and unwelcome.

I note with interest that Andy Wightman MSP, who has blogged and tweeted about me and Highland Titles for over two years, appears to have taken a break from using his twitter account. Recently one of the more agressive web sites, which has targeted me and Highland Titles since 2011, was deleted. I welcome this progress. The future will be a better place if the internet is no longer used as a vehicle for the dissemination of lies and harassment.

 

Stinky Mink

Mink were brought to the UK from America between the wars to be bred for their fur. Inevitably many escaped or were released by fur farmers following local opposition and a general decline in popularity of the fur trade. Soon a feral population was established, mostly dark brown with a white patch near the chin. These have continued to breed and thrive in many localities, including along the rivers and coast of West Scotland.

American Mink (Mustela vison)

Mink are mainly nocturnal and as a result are not often seen. But the damage that they are causing along the west coast is serious. One of the reasons for their success is that they frequently switch between prey, concentrating on whatever is abundant in any season or locality. Also they kill far more prey than they need to eat and because their prey has not co-evolved with them it often has no natural defence.

In some areas seabirds are the main victims. In built up areas it may be domestic fowl. But on many river systems the main victim has been the benign water vole.

Water voles are the largest species of British vole. They are also sometimes commonly known as the water rat because of a superficial similarity in appearance and habits to the brown rat.

Water voles have glossy brown or black fur and a blunt muzzle with small, black eyes. Their ears are almost hidden (unlike the ears of the brown rat), and they have slightly furry feet and tail. They are mostly active during the day, sitting on their hind feet and feeding on vegetation held in their front paws. When disturbed, they dive into the water with a characteristic ‘plop’ sound. When they swim, their head and back are visible.

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)

When threatened by mink, their natural escape mechanism is to enter the water and dive. However the mink simply follow them. Their next defence is to retreat into their burrows, but the smaller female and juvenile mink simply follow them and kill them.  A single mink feeding pups can exterminate water voles in a small river system.

Water voles have undergone one of the most serious declines of any British wild mammal during recent year. The post war intensification of agriculture caused the loss and degradation of habitat, but the most rapid period of decline was during the last decades of the 20th century as American mink spread. During the 90s, the population fell by almost 90 per cent.

Clearly if future generations are to hear a water vole “plop”, we need to eradicate mink and do something to mitigate environment loss and degradation as well as, where possible,  re-create and maintain suitable habitats. Landowners must be encouraged or forced to assist their survival with the support of the statutory and voluntary nature conservation agencies. Everyone needs to play their part.

 

 

Glencoe – the Trademark

When Highland Titles purchased Keil Hill in 2007, with the intention of creating a nature reserve that would become a popular tourist attraction, we sought to create a valuable brand which would require our protection. We settled on the name “Glencoe Wood” as the name of the woodland north of the Salachan burn. Our supporters were encouraged to adopt the style of Laird of Glencoe Wood, or Laird of Glencoe for short and we trademarked this name to protect it from being used by our business rivals.

In investing time and money in registering our trademarks, we have acted more cautiously than most other businesses in the Glencoe area, such as Glencoe Mountain, Glencoe Activities and Discover Glencoe, who have failed to register their trademarks.  But we are no different to several other business owners who have chosen to protect their “Glencoe” based branding. An example would be the Nevis Distillery, who own the Glencoe trademark in respect of their Glencoe malt whisky and the English clothing firm, Glenmuir Limited in respect of clothing sold under the “Glencoe” brand.

Over the last ten years we have invested heavily in the Glencoe area and created a popular tourist attraction which brings 10,000 visitors to the area every year and rising. Our visitors stay in local hotels and B&Bs, they drink in local pubs, shop in local shops, eat in local cafe’s and use other local facilities whilst here. Ultimately, like other local attractions, we bring money into the local economy which creates local jobs and supports other local businesses. We have investment plans but this of course depends upon us being able to protect our brand. Every business needs brand security which is the reason that the trademark office exists.

Which leads us to the 2015 registration of the name “Glencoe” by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation charity.  With this “dog in the manger”  trademark registration they intend to decide who does or does not get to use that word in their business branding. This appears to us to be disproportionate and unhelpful, particularly to the local region. Should Glencoe Mountain become “Rannoch Moor Mountain”, Glencoe Activities become “Ballachulish Activities” and Glencoe Wood have to be renamed “Salachan Burn Wood”? And what will our local marketing group, “Discover Glencoe” become?

We have not sought to disadvantage or threaten any business in the area and the same cannot unfortunately be said for the NTS, who appear not to like competition from a privately funded organisation. They have threatened our volunteers and threatened us. Now it appears that they do not like any organisation who dares to use “Glencoe” in their branding simply because the NTS are a major local landowner and they are not afraid to squander their members’ membership fees on Edinburgh lawyers. As Lord Lyon knows only too well, a legal letter scares most organisations into submission, and they only have out of date medieval laws to back up their threats. We eventually adopted the Arkell vs Pressdram response to successfully get Lord Lyon off our backs (it certainly cheered me up). We encourage Hillcrest to take a similar firm line with NTS. 

Which brings us to the threat of legal action made to Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing, a small Scottish business which has been employing Scots on Scottish Deeside for nearly 40 years. They have been selling their Glencoe Jacket for most of that time as can be proved by archived website copy on the “Internet Archive”. Their right to use the Glencoe brand for clothing predates the National Trust’s trademark application, showing it to be a legal sham.                                                                                                      
The lawyers’  letter states “Only goods and services with geographical links to Glencoe can use the name to protect the local community’s trade interests.”  However Highland Titles condemns the Trust’s bullying attempt to own the Glencoe brand and we feel that businesses with geographical links to the Glencoe region, should be left to protect their intellectual property themselves. The local Glencoe community does not need corporate bully boys offering protection with threats and menaces should we fail to kowtow to them.

A Square Foot of Old Scotland: Ownership of Souvenir Plots

Highland Titles has from the first day of trading made sure that we comply with the law in all regards. My wife is a barrister and latterly in her career at the bar, a senior Crown Prosecutor. Before we commenced selling our square feet, we consulted our family solicitor in Aberfeldy. When he retired, our new solicitor in Pitlochry confirmed that we fully complied with Scots law and provided us with a general letter to confirm that this was the case because some agents and vendors required written confirmation.

In 2012 a new Land Registration act was passed, prompting the Registers of Scotland to confirm that with the passing of the Register of Sasines, no legal avenue remained for recording the sale of souvenir plots. We revised our advice accordingly, to make clearer that a souvenir plot purchased from Highland Titles could not be registered unless the law changed.

In 2015, we received considerable free advice from lawyers and academics, active on Twitter. Some helpful and some mischievous (but all good publicity). Our Guernsey solicitors, advised us to seek counsel’s opinion on the scant Registrar’s advice – which took the form of a definitive written advice from an eminent Scots QC.  The advice confirmed what our Scottish solicitors had previously advised, but with a considerably larger price tag!

We also took advantage of the Advertising Standards Authority’s Copy Advice Team‘s review service. They reviewed our non-broadcast advertising (our web site) and confirmed that we complied fully with their CAP code.

Then, onto the playing field came Jill Robbie and Malcolm Combe, academics from the University of Glasgow and Aberdeen respectively. They had kindly taken time out to study our business model and clearly saw the inherent problems caused by the Registers of Scotland’s lack of capacity to deal with the sale of souvenir plots.  In their paper, published in the Edinburgh Law Review, they begin:

After setting out the problems caused by the lack of capacity in the Registers of Scotland (which I see more as an opportunity – our customers generally have no wish to pay the Scottish Government to register their plots when they are registered by Highland Titles for free)  they go on to put the case for reform, commencing with the question “The online debate encourages reflection on whether there is continuing justification for the prohibition on registration of souvenir plots.

They point out the problem caused by the ongoing lack of resources at the Registers of Scotland, a position which they suggest will not change at least in the next ten years. They write that an argument against registering small plots is that once land has been broken up into small units in multiple ownership, resale becomes difficult. They argue that the “sterilisation of land should not be encouraged”. However I believe that putting parcels of land beyond development has great value when it comes to conservation land.

Finally they argue that the lack of a real right to an asset of low economic value such as a £30 souvenir plot might not be of significant concern, and this really is the nub of the issue. The Scottish government, either deliberately or accidentally, has enabled Highland Titles to sell souvenir plots of land without any requirement – indeed without the option – of paying to locate these plots on the Scottish cadastral map, with all the associated costs that would obtain.

Thank you Jill Robbie and Malcolm Combe for your kind review of the law surrounding Highland Titles and souvenir plot sales in general. Should you like to have a free square foot for your troubles, please let me know.

Defamation update – Scottish PEN

Regular readers will be aware in my interest in the subject of defamation, fueled in part because I have been subjected to it from time to time in recent years.  A group called Scottish PEN, who include members of Scotland’s literary community, are currently lobbying to “Ensure reputations can be protected in a manner available to everyone, not solely the rich and powerful” and that is certainly something I could get behind. Unfortunately some of their other objectives are positively unhelpful, but it seemed interesting that they are looking at the issue as part of a UK campaign to reform defamation law.

From the ScottishPEN website:

The overall aim of the campaign is to update and reform defamation law so that it:
1) Accurately reflects the modern media landscape, offering effective protection for freedom of expression
2) Ensures reputations can be protected in a manner available to everyone, not solely the rich and powerful
3) Provides safeguards for individuals from companies or those with powerful interests seeking to silence reasonable criticism and comment

They go on to state:

Specific points we see as essential to the reformed law include:

  • The inclusion of a serious harm test that discourages trivial claims that can chill free expression and inundate Scottish courts with ‘vanity’ cases;
  • The creation of a statutory public interest defence that protects the publication of information that benefits public debate and informs civil society across Scotland;
  • Restricting corporate and public bodies suing for defamation. Corporate bodies do not have a private life, personal identity or psychological integrity. In the spirit of a law to protect citizens and the rights of citizen critics, corporate bodies and associations should be restricted in their ability to sue for defamation;
  • A single publication rule to replace the multiple publication rule, which currently counts every hit on a website as a new publication of the material on it and therefore a potential fresh cause of defamation action. A single publication rule best reflects communication in the digital age;
  • Defamation law to be brought up to date for the digital age. The law as it stands makes internet service providers (ISPs), forum hosts and similar entities liable for material published by them/on them. The law should ask claimants to approach authors of material before ISPs become liable for it, to prevent ISPs being forced to take material down in the face of defamation threats.

It seems unclear to me how any of the specific points act to enable Aim 2. My thoughts on this are that a small claims court should be available for the use of those simply wishing to set the record straight when defamed and where only modest costs and damages would obtain.  If somebody on Facebook makes a malicious and false assertion, then they should be called into this hypothetical small claims court and asked to prove it. Failure would require that they retract the assertion and perhaps cover the costs and modest damage award.

More worrying is the suggestion that corporate bodies should be denied the right to act. Whilst it is true that “Corporate bodies do not have a private life, personal identity or psychological integrity” they can certainly suffer damage.  For example, if a well known MSP recklessly blogged that one of the big supermarkets added pork to its range of halal beefburgers, they could suffer massive financial damage. The MSP may well have had the best of intentions sharing this information “in the public interest”.  But if he failed to check his facts, should he not be held to account? Why should the innocent supermarket be left holding the bill for damage?

Of course there should be a serious harm test. “Vanity” cases, if they occur, are mischievous and a waste of the court time.  But a public interest defence is simply muddle-headed. It cannot help public debate to add fake news to the mix. If the facts are wrong, if the publication contains malicious falsehoods, they help nobody. If true, then the publication cannot be defamatory.

The single publication rule does NOT reflect the modern age. This suggestion is wrong. A newspaper, published today, is a chip wrapper tomorrow.  A blog or a facebook post is published afresh every time it is hit. It is there in Google for ever, being republished every time somebody runs a search.

How sad, that a campaign which might have been able to influence the long overdue reform of Scottish defamation law, which is too expensive to be used by anyone unless they have deep pockets or pro-bono lawyers has failed to suggest anything genuinely useful and indeed to make some suggestions which would help to permit the powerful and nasty to carry on defaming the weak and poor.

The Scottish Law Commission’s project on reform of defamation law is approaching its final stages.

News: Scottish Law Commission published Defamation Law Consultation

 

Internet Trolls

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtrl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement. (Wikipedia)

Over the years, Highland Titles has grown from humble beginnings to become the solid conservation movement that it is today, some 11 years after the first plot was sold. Whilst thousands of people have joined our cause and our way of raising funds, a handful of people have been attracted to me and Highland Titles simply in order to troll us. Most large and successful organisations and people attract a few trolls, so it is hard to be too upset. We do our best to wear it as a badge of honour because it marks us out as having become the market leader in private conservation. But it is interesting to understand the people who do it.

Psychologists categorise trolls as narcissistic, psychopathic sadists. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend in the hope of getting a response and in the hope of inflicting pain. The damage that they cause is all part of their gratification. Research in communication and psychology has investigated people’s perceptions, rationale, and behavior and identified several factors that determine the likelihood that a given individual may post offensive content.

These are some of the most common:

1. Anonymity: Some people relish the anonymous nature of the internet. Sites such as Twitter, the comment sections of media sites, and even Facebook, permit people to use a screen name that bears no relation to their actual identity. This anonymity emboldens people and may encourage more deviant behavior, because their anonymity enables them to avoid any consequences.

Even when people use an account tied to their real identity and know they are not anonymous, they may still be emboldened by feelings of obscurity. They may believe that their actions are still fairly private. If Robin is commenting in a small Facebook group, for example, even though the comments are tied to his real name, he thinks that the people who matter in his life won’t read the post and the people who do read his comments are probably mainly people in other countries and will never encounter him in the real world.

2. In the majority: When people think they are in the majority, they will more freely express their opinion than when they see themselves as in the minority.  Thus, although individuals may not make untrue or offensive comments offline, they may feel able to do so in an online setting because they think their opinion is the prevalent one there.

3. Amongst “friends”: On sites like Facebook and Twitter, people may perceive their online environment to be full of people like them, because they are part of the same social network. Thus, individuals feel confident self-expressing because they anticipate support or agreement from their network. Amanda might post an angry, vitriolic message because she assumes that her network members feel the same way.  She might even do so to earn “likes” or other expressions of agreement from her friends. But social media networks are often more heterogeneous than we think. Even private posts may reach “friends of friends”— people we may not even know. And comments can easily be shared outside of our immediate network. Thus, although we feel we are surrounded by people who agree with us, there actually may be many who disagree or find our comments hurtful and in some cases may leave a troll open to legal consequences, either for defamation or under the criminal law. Harassment is taken very seriously by law enforcement.

4. Desensitisation: Over time, we may get desensitised to the internet. Whereas once we would have thought about the legal consequences of what we wrote or said, when we are online we just post without thinking about it. We may see so many nasty comments that we think making one ourselves is risk free. If we get used to using a certain social media site like Facebook or Twitter to express our daily experiences and frustrations, we start to lose our filter. It is also easier to type something defamatory into a screen than to say it to someone’s face.

5. Personality: Some individuals, such as politicians, are outspoken by nature. They may tend to think that they are morally superior to others. Or they may just enjoy making other people uncomfortable or angry. Any of these traits may drive individuals to express themselves online without a filter. Personality traits such as self-righteousness and social dominance orientation (in which you think some social or ethnic groups, typically yours, are inherently better than others) are related to expressing intolerance. Others are “hard core” believers who will express their opinions no matter what, because they believe their opinion is infallible.

6. No consequences: Social exchange theory suggests that we analyse the costs and benefits in our communication and relationships. Generally we believe that the benefits of expressing oneself outweigh the costs. If we can remain anonymous, we believe we won’t be held personally responsible. Perceived majority status, social identity salience, or being surrounded by friends means you believe that even if some people are upset or angry, you have more (or more important) people on your side, so you win more friends than you lose. Personality traits and desensitisation may make offending or losing friends not seem like a real consequence, because those friends aren’t really “worth it” if they can’t handle the “truth,” or they aren’t really friends if they don’t agree with or tolerate you.

7. Social identity salience: The social identity model of deindividuation effects, commonly referred to as the SIDE model, suggests that when online our social identity can mean more than our individual identity. Andy might be a nice, civil person offline, but when he goes online to talk about Highland Titles, he may feel free to express outrageous, untrue and defamatory sentiments, oblivious to the damage this may cause and his own exposure to the cost of legal action. This is also often seen in political discussions, in which people start responding like a group member based on political, national, ethnic, religious, or other identity or affiliation. This process of deindividuation is known in more extreme forms as “group mentality”— you stop seeing yourself as an individual and act in line with the group. As a result, the group’s behavior becomes increasingly extreme as individual members of the group shift to conform to the group even if their opinions were not originally as extreme as others in it.

That still leaves the question “Why do trolls do it?”.  Just because somebody has a personality that leaves them open to temptation, it is still a personal decision to try and hurt somebody.

Trolls are bored. Being failures in their own lives, they seek attention online where it’s readily available and easily acquired. A troll’s behavior reflects their insecurity. If someone responds to their words it adds meaning to their lives.  They crave attention: All a troll wants is you to turn the spotlight onto themselves. They want you to repost their comment to your followers. They want you to write a blog post or status about them. They will use anything and everything to get it and if the truth is pedestrian, they will make up more interesting “fake news” to gain attention.

Victims often feel compelled to respond to “set things right.” However, even if you respond in a cheerful or positive way, providing accurate information, you’re still feeding the troll and the whole enterprise escalates.

 

Ted Roosevelt Malloch

The frontrunner to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union claims to be a laird – a claim quickly denied by Lord Lyon.

As I stated in an earlier post, Lord Lyon simply sells coats of arms – at a price designed to be unaffordable for “ordinary people”. He cannot create lairds – he does not sell land. It appears that Ted simply bought an overpriced coat of arms that he could have bought for less elsewhere.

Lairds are landowners and Ted would have been better advised to save the thousands of pounds he squandered on Lord Lyon and invested £30 with Highland Titles.  A hard lesson to learn Mr Malloch.

Scottish Wildcat Action

Emily and Paul O'Donoghue
Emily and Paul O’Donoghue

Last May I blogged about the creation of Wildcat Haven Enterprises by my son-in-law and business “Dragon”, Douglas Wilson and experienced wildlife biologist Emily O’Donoghue, who is the wife of Paul O’Donoghue. Together they have worked on a range of projects from reintroducing the great bustard to the Salisbury Plain to capturing and DNA testing black rhinos in South Africa. Emily is also director of the Lynx UK Trust, which comprises a group of experienced conservationists and scientists with specialisations in wild felines, genetics, field research, re-introductions and education that have worked on projects worldwide. The Lynx UK Trust is supported by the law firm of Clifford Chance, one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms with significant depth and range of resources across five continents. Clifford Chance prides itself on an outstanding pro bono and community outreach programme that enables everyone in the firm to engage enthusiastically and which delivers effective assistance to chosen charitable and not-for-profit partners. I am excited by the prospect of the reintroduction of the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) which was most likely hunted to extinction in the UK for its fur between 500-700AD.

Wildcat Haven has been working in Ardnamurchan since 2008, with spectacular results which have resulted in the first ever “safe space” for wildcats. Wildcats need a huge territory to survive, which may be as large as 40 square miles. The haven in Ardnamurchan, Morvern, Moidart and Sunart which has been carved out by Wildcat Haven over many years could support as many as 20-30 wildcats. But they need more space if they are to become a thriving population.  This winter, Wildcat Haven have begun work at the other end of the highlands, in Caithness, where a massive 1,500 square mile haven is planned. Once that is complete, Wildcat Haven intends to join the two areas up to create one massive haven, north and west of the Great Glen, the huge rift valley and lake system that divides the highlands from the rest of Scotland. This refuge will then need to be maintained and the need for this perpetual funding was the reason for creating Wildcat Haven Enterprises with its business model of selling souvenir plots.

Into this exciting mix, landed Scottish Wildcat Action, at huge expense and with lots of glossy brochures and administrators. So far, they have simply muddied the waters and have no results to speak of. Worse, there are those that see a hidden agenda in this project, that brings together Edinburgh Zoo, which wants to breed wildcat kits to bring in the paying public, with the hunting interests of Scottish Land and Estates. Could it be that the gamekeepers want to catch any remaining wildcats and put them into a zoo based breeding programme? It certainly looks that way to some people and if true, this would lead to the final extinction of the Scottish wildcat as a wild animal – because these cats can never be successfully reintroduced. This would shore up the flagging finances of the zoo, allow the gamekeepers to kill any feral cats with impunity but at the cost of our last wild feline predator.

The whole thing smell very fishy to me and I will continue to put my support behind the fantastic work that is being done by Wildcat Haven and hope for the ultimate demise of this Johnny-come-lately pretense at real conservation that the Scottish Government has backed with taxpayer’s money.

 

 

Happy Christmas – 2016

Well 2016 is almost over and what a wonderful year it has been. The nature reserves have never been busier. Sustrans appear to have finally decided that, yes, they do want to bring their path over Keil Hill (that took them ten wasted years), the wild brown trout in the lochan have attracted an osprey as well as otters and heron. We have seen many more red squirrels and other mammals. David has now received his training (thanks to Trees for Life) on how to set up and develop our new tree nursery.

Our support of Wildcat Haven has been very valuable to the future of the Scottish wildcat. I must not steal their thunder and will leave them to announce their great news, but suffice it to say that they have fantastic plans which they will announce in the next couple of weeks. I have supported Wildcat Haven for several years and before that the passionate Mr Steve Piper who ran the Scottish Wildcat Association.  Every penny that we have given has been well spent. Hopefully the other “trap ’em and display ’em” wildcat group will fade away.

Our supporters only ever meet our front-line staff, our wardens or our customer support team. However there is a secret army of elves, who actually pack the orders we ship – and behind them is the finance department and sales and marketing.  They are unsung heroes, but this is their busiest time of the year. As I type this, on Friday afternoon, only customer support remains at work and the phones have now gone quiet.

So, to everyone who has supported us, at any time in our ten years of operation, I say THANK YOU. I am proud to have been able to help to “conserve the Scottish Highlands, one square foot at a time”

The Lord Lyon – an Expensive Anachronism

I have mixed feelings about the Lyon Court, in part because of their attitude towards our Coat of Arms which we have used for more than ten years and which we registered at some expense with the UK Government.  The United Kingdom, of which Scotland forms a part, approves and protects our use of the device, whilst Lord Lyon cheekily asked us to pay him more than £3,000, for the privilege of displaying it in Scotland.

We have the right to display it in Scotland, but after a fruitless exchange of opinions between myself and Alexander Green, the legal arm of the Lyon Court, we had to agree to differ. So as not to offend Lord Lyon’s sensibilities further, I agreed not to display our Arms in Scotland and he has kindly agreed not to waste our time further.  The Lord Lyon based his right to interfere in how people display their Arms in Scotland on laws dating back over 500 years. They have not been used for hundreds of years and would undoubtedly fail if tested in court. It was very tempting to force the issue and have my day in court, backed by a human rights organisation, but there are usually more urgent issues to spend money on than making lawyers rich.

A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on an escutcheon (i.e. shield), surcoat, or tabard. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which consists of shield, supporters, crest, and motto.  lyon-letter

Some of our customers and even some journalists imagine that Lord Lyon is involved in the sale of Souvenir Plots or the adoption of the Laird Title. This is simply not so.  To quote Lord Lyon, in a letter to one of my customers, “I have no official remit or governance over the sale of souvenir plots of land – you instance one square foot – or the adoption of the style of “Laird” by the new owner.

The principal role of the Lyon Court is to administer the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland – in other words he sells coats of arms to people and companies, for thousands of pounds a time. The sale of these Arms goes some way towards covering the costs of his department, but few people now consider that maintaining the pomp of the Lyon Court is a good use of money in a modern Scotland.

We are pleased to have gained the support of SNP MP Corri Wilson for our campaign to clip the wings of Lord Lyon.

She raised the issue at Westminster, asking the Cabinet Office whether it would review the operation of the 1592 Act in respect of the restrictions it placed on the “granting of arms”. Scottish Conservatives’ leader Ruth Davidson has also raised the issue with London.  However, Minister for Constitutional Reform John Penrose said any questions of “judicial functions” were devolved to Holyrood.  It is hard to believe that Nicola Sturgeon cares more about Lord Lyon than spending on public services so we can but hope for progress.

As the Scottish Sunday Herald has said, ” The world has moved on: perhaps Lord Lyon should, too.”