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

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.”

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