Once upon a time, on a lovely Scottish summer’s day, I drove in a generally northern direction along the A828 road. Just south of the road signs that welcome you to Duror, I spotted a sign by the side of the road. For a variety of reasons, I decided it was worth breaking my journey to have a look at that which was signposted in a little more detail than a drive-by would allow.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I will save time for both writer and reader by posting a photo.
Here is another quick selfie from the road-side.
My apologies for the general standard of my selfie game.
In surprisingly contemporaneous internet news, I was mentioned in a recent blog post by Peter Bevis (the gentleman behind Highland Titles), published on 5 July. More on that later, but it partly explains why this otherwise unexciting event has moved me to blogging.
Back to my visit though. I had a bit of time to kill (my only appointment for the rest of the day being with the evening ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway, if you’re interested in my holiday plans… what do you mean you aren’t?), so I wandered up the path to have a look at the Highland Titles Nature Reserve. You can find details and photos (taken on a nicer day than when I visited) on Highland Titles’ website here. (Incidentally, the URL there concludes with “visit-glencoe”, but I can confirm that the area is to the south of Duror, and indeed Glencoe.)
I took a couple of quick photos myself.
This all seems jolly nice. It is probably time to enlighten any new readers of this blog to my slightly strange and largely accidental relationship with Highland Titles, a company registered in the Channel Islands that sells “souvenir plots” of land (i.e. small portions of land, perhaps a square foot). That there is a relationship of sorts has been hinted at by linking to Peter Bevis’ blog above. It properly began over two years ago (as detailed on Storify and a related blog post) then spun out into an article (with Dr Jill Robbie of the University of Glasgow) in the Edinburgh Law Review (open access version and background available via this blog post). I then wrote a little bit more one year on, and received pretty much no reaction to that. Then Highland Titles served a DMCA notice (basically an intellectual property enforcement device) on the Storify website to take down my perfectly fair and valid collection of tweets from back in February 2015. I fought back, as detailed on this blog post. I am confident I could have counter-sued on the basis that the original notice was spurious, but I could not be bothered with the hassle of potential litigation overseas.
I am not going to comment at length on the various pros and cons of the practice of selling souvenir plots here (you can read some perspectives here), save to recognise that a quick glance at the white board and visitor book at the Highland Titles Nature Reserve let me see some of the places people visited from and it would be churlish of me not to recognise that these people could contribute to the local economy; albeit (as has been noted before) the whole Highland Titles model is predicated on focussing on a more remote community than an alternative (and less transient) local community of place. I also note in passing that Highland Titles sponsors a pipe band that is local to them, and as a veteran of local pipe bands I know how valuable such sponsorship can be.
As such, and despite my own backstory with Highland Titles, I acknowledge it is not all negative. Be that as it may, it is fair to say all of the kickback to the original Storify story (when my own reputation was called into question) and the subsequent incident with the DMCA notice have affected my views of Highland Titles somewhat. I refrained from commenting about this on the white board and visitor book on the site, although I did offer the following.
Which brings me back to the law. Peter Bevis makes reference to it again in his recent blog post.
There, he refers to the note by Jill and me. I invite anyone interested to read our article in full rather than the edited extracts. He also makes reference to a legal opinion from an advocate. (I note the identity of the “eminent Scots QC” is not given and that the extract is selective. The latter point makes it difficult to engage with fully. The former point is less important but I am personally and professionally interested in who gave the opinion.)
Finally, he concludes with an offer.
I gratefully accept this offer of “a free square foot”. I intend to use the related paperwork as a teaching aid. (For reference, I have already referred to the Storify story whilst teaching land law and the DMCA Notice incident when teaching aspects of intellectual property law.)
I am not sure if the offer is meant to be an offer to each of us individually or for us to share, but I would accept it either way (and, if it is the latter, let me know and I will arrange this with Jill).
You can send the paperwork for the plot to:
School of Law
University of Aberdeen
Then the next time I am in the area, perhaps I can visit the allocated “free square foot”. I probably will not embrace the laird life wholeheartedly though: even though Lord Macdonald Combe has a certain ring to it, I suspect past chatter makes my attendance at the Highland Titles annual Gathering unlikely.
I look forward to hearing from you, Peter.