10 February 2015 was an unexpectedly busy Tuesday for some Scots land lawyers. It all started when social media oddity @loveandgarbage (since retired) replied to a promoted tweet from @Highland_Titles. I interjected with a bit of chat. I don’t think anyone really expect much else to happen. Before anyone could say “souvenir plot”, a wholly unexpected Twitterstorm had broken (as digested here).
We are now one year on from that first Highland Titles Day. Anniversaries are a time for reflection, so I duly reflected in a contribution to the open-access forum The Conversation. That gives a bit more background than I will provide in this blog. It also links to two fairly recent developments in the souvenir plot world, including:
- an Adverstising Standards Authority ruling from this year relating to an August 2015 advert, which shows the practice of selling souvenir plots with accompanying sales-speak about acquiring ownership continued long after the Twitter-spat; and
- the representations of Highland Titles Limited to the Scottish Government asking for the law to be changed to allow for the registration of souvenir plots in Scotland.
Although not mentioned in my article in The Conversation, another bizarre recent development was reported in The Telegraph on 18 January 2016, relating to the online abuse and indeed business sabotage the Earl of Bradford has been subjected to for his involvement in the faketitles.com website. That website just so happens to question the practice of “companies like Highland Titles”.
Those last two paragraphs are offered without comment.
With Twitter being Twitter, a few of us have had a bit of fun with the new hashtag #HighlandTitlesDay today. I even tweeted a picture featuring Dr. Douglas Bain and me: Douglas knows a bit about souvenir plots anyway, but his real usefulness here was his impeccable taste in music (the relevance of his Manfred Mann’s Earth Band LP is further explained in The Conversation).
Douglas is the cool dude on the left. I am in a Highland Titles T-shirt on the right. I repeat: I am in a Highland Titles T-shirt. Yes, someone really has had fun with this, and sent me a T-shirt to mark #HighlandTitlesDay.
Okay, this is fun, and maybe I have laboured this whole thing a bit, but there is still a serious point here. The first point is about people potentially being gulled into buying something, as journalist Euan McColm tweeted on the original Highland Titles Day. There are also sound policy arguments to be made against souvenir plotting, as discussed by me in The Conversation. (More detail on the policy and indeed the law can be found in an Edinburgh Law Review article co-authored by Dr. Jill Robbie and me.)
So what now? As per my blog in the aftermath of the original furore, someone may try to test this with litigation, but I think this is unlikely. (To an extent, that is borne out by the lack of litigation in the past year.) Alternatively, the Scottish Parliament may change the law, but that is not going to happen in this Holyrood term.
What seems most likely to happen, at least in the short term, is absolutely nothing. Souvenir plot hawkers will continue to hawk, albeit their terms and conditions will need to be meticulously worded to avoid referrals to bodies like the ASA. I am sure they won’t mind if people like me are watching carefully to ensure compliance with the law. Others might be watching carefully to ensure any claims of nature conservancy or the like are actually being fulfilled.
I wish you all a happy Highland Titles Day.