Highland Titles’ Twitter Battle with Scottish Lawyers (result: home win)
Over the last 2 days Highland Titles – the company that sells ‘souvenir’ plots of land where you can title yourself a Laird, Lord, Lady of Glencoe became the focus of an onslaught of social media activity – a posse of very sharp lawyers had the scent of blood and went for them, it was quite incredible to watch it all unfold. Highland Titles was left quite bruised by the end. (if indeed it is the end)
Highland Titles is run by the Bevis family, although they apparently live in Scotland they run their businesses from the tax haven of Guernsey. The Company is run under the created ‘charity’ with the grand title of ‘The Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland’, also set up by Bevis. The charity is only registered in Guersey so it bypasses the laws and transparancy of being regulated by being a Scottish Charity. So their accounts are not public.
Anyway on with the story…
It all began with some tweets from @loveandgarbage in response to the following ad Highland Titles put out as a general promotional tweet:
Love and Garbage blogger explains: “The other morning I was on twitter and saw a tweet from a twitter user called Highland Titles:
“Buy land in Scotland & you may style yourself as Lord or Lady of Glencoe! From £29.99.”
Now this raises immediate suspicions. and so I visited the website which was linked to from the tweet. For the Scottish property lawyer this is a mysterious hinterland that we rarely venture into. The site though was staggering.
It sells tiny plots of land, some of only a square foot in size.
This set alarm bells ringing. Scots law, since the introduction of land registration under the Land registration (Scotland) ACt 1979 has not allowed ownership of souvenir plots to be sold. Section 4 (2)(b) of the 1979 Act prevented registration of a souvenir plot…” (from https://loveandgarbage.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/i-cant-believe-its-not-ownership-or-the-curious-tale-of-highland-titles-selling/)
— Here are the original tweets —
No you can’t. You’re talking bollocks @highland_titles Never heard of the rules prohibiting registration of souvenir plots?
I see your website says you get a personal right to the plot @highland_titles. You know that means you don’t own it?
—Malcolm Combe joins in – a well known Scottish Lawyer—
@loveandgarbage ah, that just means you can transfer a wee plot without registration AT ALL. Because that makes sense. 😉 @highland_titles
@MalcolmCombe I guess @highland_titles are well up on the 2012 Act and the implications of the 2000 ACt for barony titles.
So basically your deal is pay us money to not become an owner of a bit of land in Scotland @highland_titles
Do you think people are idiots? @highland_titles
@loveandgarbage Indeed. Finger on the pulse when it comes to Scots law (as applied via the Channel Islands). @highland_titles
—then Highland Titles joins in—
Yes, the 2012 Act confirms the status of Souvenir plots – sold without registration http://tinyurl.com/ohu7mqk @loveandgarbage @MalcolmCombe
We sell land. If you do not understand how land can be sold in Scotland, ask a Scottish lawyer http://tinyurl.com/ohu7mqk @loveandgarbage
—- this was brilliant and set the hounds racing as they didn’t realise who they were talking to—-
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ha. https://twitter.com/highland_titles/status/565108747258064896 … cc @loveandgarbage, who really should speak to a Scots lawyer to clear this up.
— so loveandgarbage asks themselves—
well @highland_titles . Hey, @loveandgarbage how do you sell land in Scotland?
Well @loveandgarbage as a Scottish conveyance I am aware that the sale of land requires missives of sale then a conveyance @highland_titles
— lovenadgarbbadge proceeded to tell Highland Titles about Scottish Land Law
And @loveandgarbage both require to be formally valid under the 1995 Act @highland_titles The conveyance is then sent for registration
— there were a good few more tweets from love and garbage about the law (see all at: Buy land in Scotland… style yourself as Lord or Lady of Glencoe! Or something.’ By Malcolm Coombe. A short Storify about Scots property law)
—basically it can all be summed up with this following tweet—
when I suggested earlier you were talking bollocks @highland_titles this is because, as a Scots conveyancer, I see you’re talking bollocks
—Highland Titles replies for not registering the land sold were—
If Souvenir plots had to be registered, the extra cost would be prohibitive http://tinyurl.com/ohu7mqk @loveandgarbage
Thank you for your opinion, Bill. We prefer to take the advice of an actual Scottish solicitor http://tinyurl.com/ohu7mqk @loveandgarbage
— to which Ian Smart gets invited into the discussion—
Hang on @highland_titles I’ll ask @ianssmart who is a former President of the Law society. Ian, is my analysis of land transfers accurate?
@loveandgarbage @highland_titles I am happy to confirm that it is.
— Highland Titles get asked to loop their solicitor in—
—Yet more Scottish Lawyers start to see this and respond—
@MalcolmCombe @loveandgarbage Need to be infeft in land to call oneself Laird thereof, and can’t be infeft in souvenir plot…
—Highland Lawyer also links to what the Lord Lyon has to say ‘http://www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/776.html‘—
— sadly Highland Titles do not bring in their lawyer and proceed to block everyone in the conversation.—
You can read the full discussion at ‘Buy land in Scotland… style yourself as Lord or Lady of Glencoe! Or something.’ By Malcolm Coombe. A short Storify about Scots property law There are some hysterical tweets from people that are well worth reading.
Coombe on Storify explains …
“Since the 17th century, ownership of land in Scotland has been tied to registration: put simply, if you are not registered as the owner of land, you are not the owner.”
(Malcolm Combe is a lecturer in law, former solicitor and an advisor to the Land Reform Review Group – oops!)
Highland Titles’ move was to block them all, this only set fuel to the fire ….
The world of twitter is where not just lawyers but bloggers, journalist and politicians hang out. This twitter ‘gubbing’ was reported on at The Common Space.
Read their article at:
https://commonspace.scot/articles/314/highland-titles-land-sales-demolished-on-twitter-as-legal-bollocks The Common Space is the blog of the Common Weal think tank, which is used by political activists who want to create a better Scotland and lobbies for new policies. So bit of a hit there. Among regular contributors are the likes of Caroline Leckie and Leslie Riddoch; a journalist who has written extensively about land reform in Scotland.
On our ScotClans Facebook page we reported on what was going on:
See the full feed at:
Although a few comments got removed we think by Facebook after we exposed one of the pro Highland Titles posters was a fake profile and reported it the argument continued on the page – HT owner Peter Bevis waded in with the usual personal insults which’ if you have ever found a spare three days to read the comments on this article you will be familiar with. However my favourite moment from this one is here:
Meanwhile in twitter land more and more people were joining in. Many of them lawyers involved in Property Law. It was going well and truly viral
More blogs appeared reporting the story…
Love and Garbage systematically takes apart the highland titles land ownership ‘bollocks’ (their words)
While all this was going on Andy Wightman was doing the maths. How much land did they own, how much money were they taking. The money taken was all through the Guernsey based company so did not touch Scotland.
His shocking conclusion was that if HT did indeed manage to sell all the land they had earmarked as souvenir plots then they would stand to rake in £479 MILLION! Now given that HT make a lot of noise about how they have donated a few thousand here and there to various local charities and that they have been busily upgrading footpaths and planting trees (the ones that cant quite manage to plant themselves) Andy quite rightly has asked just where the money is going.
Today is Friday the 13th, unlucky for some indeed. This story doesn’t look like its going to end here and no doubt we will see the usual suspects (and their fake profiles) adding comment below over time. HT have played fast and loose for too long and this time they have found themselves on the wrong side of A LOT of influential individuals. Twitter is a dangerous place to play these sorts of games, bloggers use twitter, lawyers use twitter and… politicians use twitter. It may alarm HT to know (if they are not already off the scale when it comes to alarms) that many of those twitter ‘trolls’ they blocked yesterday are not only followed, but read regularly, by senior people in the Scottish Government right up to and including the First Minister herself. The leader of a government that is just ending the consultation phase of a major land reform bill – talk about bad timing!
Today is also the anniversary of the Massacre of Glencoe – this dreadful event is why this place is so well known around the world and its been taken as an insult to many who bear the name MacDonald that companies have piggybacked on this event to peddle their wares. It could be that one of them may soon be left out in the cold.Tagged