In the most recent edition of the Edinburgh Law Review, you will find a short article by Dr Jill Robbie (of the University of Glasgow) and me on souvenir plots in Scots (and English) law. An open access version of the article is here.
I sometimes link to publications in my blog, just to signpost what I have been doing to those who may not be paying attention to legal journals. I did not bother doing that for this short article, but recent news coverage has encouraged me to do so now.
On 29 September 2015, a number of outlets carried a story about a conservation oriented activity for the Scottish wildcat.
The National: Become a laird – and help save the wildcat
Further press is also available on the Wildcat Haven website.
This activity has been described as “crowdfunding”, a fundraising route that is increasingly common. Wildcat Haven is perhaps not an orthodox crowdfunder, in that it invites participants to purchase a square foot of land, together with a certificate, a “glossy booklet” and a DVD for £30. There is then a sliding scale of optional extra purchases, helping to pay for a lure stick, a radio collar or a camera trap.
“A square foot of land,” eh?
So what else does that “Buy a Plot” bit of the Wildcat Haven website say?
Supporters obtain a personal right to a souvenir plot of land in Wildernesse Wood and may change John Smith to Lord John Smith of Wildernesse by using documentation we provide.
I offer no comment on how John Smith may decide to style himself after this purchase, and good luck to him: for all I care he can call himself Lady Nancy, whether he buys a gift pack or not.
From a property law perspective, note the lack of assertion about the acquisition of ownership. You “obtain a personal right“. You have a contract. You do not have a real right of ownership. That statement made about a personal right does not wind me up quite as much as a statement printed in the National, namely:
Wildcat Haven has borrowed a model from commercial sponsor Highland Titles, a gift company that sells micro plots of land in its nature reserves allowing any landowner to style themselves as a laird or lady.
Sorry, what? Landowner?
Dr Robbie and I tried to draw a line under it in our Edinburgh Law Review article, when we built up to a straight-forward final sentence including the words “sellers of souvenir plots are not providing their customers with ownership of land.”
Do we need to have this chat again?
As for the Wildcat Haven scheme as a whole, Andy Wightman has blogged about that.
UPDATE: 1 October. The Wildcat Haven FAQ has some slightly familiar wording within it. Here is a comparison of the opening paragraph of the Edinburgh Law Review article and some text from the FAQ. The earlier FAQ text was even more familiar, as this comparison with 30 September‘s content shows (i.e. there was originally no extra sentence about pole squatting).