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.