Scottish titles industry prompts global rush

Fancy joining the ranks of Scottish nobility? An industry has grown up in Scotland allowing ordinary people to do just that — some with more legal justification than others.
One company, Highland Titles, has ennobled — at least on paper — around a quarter of a million people in countries as far afield as Australia, Canada and Russia.
For just £29.99 ($40) anyone can buy a certificate which proclaims them the “lord” of a square foot of land in the majestic hills of the Scottish Highlands.
Peter Bevis, managing director of the Channel Islands-based firm, said the revenues were being used to maintain nature reserves.
He also insisted his customers were under no illusions that they had really become aristocrats overnight.
“Everybody here enjoys the fact that they are ‘little lairds’ of a square foot,” he said.
“They’re not trying to pretend that they have become great landowners or the rivals of the great clan chiefs of Scotland.”
However, some critics have raised doubts about the transactions and say the actual land still belongs to Highland Titles.
Scottish lawmaker Andy Wightman, a land reform expert, said: “You cannot in law, in Scotland, own a square foot of land.”
Some of the 100 “lords and ladies” with Highland Titles who convened in the western village of Glencoe this month said it was well worth the money.
“We do it for the fun. It’s a pleasure to be part of the community with nice people who try to make a better world,” Steven Scholte, 73, from the Netherlands, said.
Victoria Zohner, 31, from Alberta in Canada, said: “This definitely is not a waste of money. Coming out just to do the tour has been incredible, you get to see the work that’s actually going on here.”
Local business owners said they were also more than happy with the influx of tourists inspecting “their” land.
“They are bringing a significant amount of business to the area. People come to visit, they come to see the bits of land that they have bought,” said David Cooper, owner of Crafts & Things in Glencoe.
“If they want to call themselves a lord or a lady — that’s up to them.”
Elizabeth Roads, keeper of the records of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the main heraldic authority in Scotland, said that some souvenir plot-holders have come away with the impression that they have been genuinely ennobled.— AFP

Mark MCLAUGHLIN