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I have recently started receiving Youtube advertisements for "Established titles", claiming to sell you a square foot of land in Scotland, entitling you to call yourself some variant of "Lord".

Their website states:

Our Title Packs are based on a historic Scottish land ownership custom, where landowners have been long referred to as "Lairds", the Scottish term for "Lord", with the female equivalent being "Lady".

It seems that they have a competitor or two offering a similar deal.

Is there any truth to this claim? Can any land owner, let alone someone whose holdings are worth around $50, in Scotland indeed style himself "Laird"?

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    The website itself was only created "Creation Date: 2019-12-09T04:47:59Z" - centralops, first sampled by archive on 24th April 2020. The individual website may or may not be legitimate - do you have an alternative source of a similar offer? I'm not sure we can answer regarding a single website's scammy nature or not, I'll let others chime in. Aug 1 at 10:13
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    Also, I think separate questions for the validity of the charities behind these three offers might be warranted.
    – HAEM
    Aug 1 at 10:21
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    As your own link says: "These are souvenir plots of land ... you are not officially a landowner ... not legally viewed as [Lord]." So you are not "entitled". Aug 1 at 15:49
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    I suspect you can and may call yourself what you like in Scotland (apart from claiming a regulated professional qualification). I suspect even more strongly that your home country won't have a law against claiming a Scottish title. But the only people who get actual (hereditary) rights from UK titles are members of the House of Lords who have been elected by the others as voting peers.
    – Rich
    Aug 2 at 2:28
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    I'm Lord pipe. I can call myself whatever I want. I wonder what the actual claim is here, are you asking about any legal ramifications?
    – pipe
    Aug 2 at 17:09
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The Court of the Lord Lyon, the official authority on these things, states on the matter (bolding mine):

A dwelling house of whatever size presents no problem, but the ownership of forestry land or “amenity” land on which there is no house and for which planning permission for a house would not be obtainable would not necessarily be sufficient to bring the owner into the Lord Lyon’s jurisdiction. The ownership of “souvenir” plots of land of a few square feet or thereby such as are marketed from time to time, is insufficient to bring anyone within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

So, just getting a coat of arms, let alone the title of Laird, requires ownership of a substantial amount of land. Therefore, the claim is false.

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    I can't say I'm surprised at this. Nice one, welcome to skeptics. Aug 1 at 10:20
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    So it appears that the answer to the question is in fact "yes, but you have to buy more than this." Aug 1 at 22:28
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    I'm not sure that buying more land would guarantee anything; rather, they have had to provide special guidance about these tiny "souvenir" plots in particular, because they've become such a problem. So all that's guaranteed is that buying one of these plots does not get you anything. Aug 1 at 23:07
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    The Court of the Lord Lyon (both from its own web page and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_the_Lord_Lyon ) is Scotland's Heraldic Authority, i.e. registers the right to register a coat of arms. That it is not the same as the ability to style oneself "Lord", "Laird" or "Lady". Wikipedia is a poor source (hence this is not an answer), but en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barons_in_Scotland implies being recognised by the Lord Lyon is a necessary but not sufficient condition.
    – abligh
    Aug 2 at 6:20
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    You can "style" yourself anything you like, with or without land. Also the claim made on these websites is quite clear that "Please note—you may choose to style yourself as a Laird, Lord or Lady, but please remember that under Scottish Law, this is a title only and you have no legal rights or obligations attached to the parcel of land."
    – PatrickT
    Aug 3 at 6:37
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The Law Society of Scotland would like to clarify that this doesn't even really include proper title to the land, let alone the chivalric title.

The Keeper is required to reject an application for registration in the Land Register, if the land to which it relates meets the description of “souvenir plot”. However, the fact that the Keeper is obliged to reject registration does not necessarily mean that “ownership” can be obtained by some other means.

A real right of ownership in land (in the sense of a right that is enforceable against third parties) can only be obtained by registration in the Land Register or by recording a deed in the Register of Sasines as appropriate.

The standard public source for peerage information is Burke's Peerage.

Realistically, you can obtain a real peerage by a substantial donation to the ruling party, Labour or Conservative. This is technically illegal, but in practice nobody has been successfully prosecuted for it recently. The cost of this is about that of a small flat in London.

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    The linked articles contain approximate numbers: "average of a further £220,000 among Conservatives, £333,000 among Liberal Democrats and £464,000 among Labour nominees." - but the number for a transaction that both parties deny is a transaction can never be precise.
    – pjc50
    Aug 2 at 15:17
  • Oh, fair enough, thanks for the clarification. Aug 2 at 15:23
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Yes, you can style yourself as "Laird", but you won't have a title in the sense that you're thinking about.

The fine print on the highlandtitles.com website describes it well:

You obtain a personal right to a souvenir plot of land and our permission to use our registered trademarks, Laird, Lord and Lady of Glencoe

You obtain a personal right to a souvenir plot of land. This is a form of heritable property that you can pass on to future generations. Highland Titles remains as the registered landowner and manages the land on your behalf.

You will be addressed by your choice of Laird, Lord or Lady by us and within our 200,000+ strong community. Please note you cannot buy a noble title. This is for enjoyment purposes only.

(emphasis mine)

What you're buying is a "personal right to a souvenir plot of land". This right is permanent and can be inherited by your heirs. Actual land ownership is retained by the Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland, who sells these plots as a fundraiser for their conservation programs (the plot itself is inside a nature reserve).

The group selling the titles has registered a trademark for the "Laird/Lord/Lady of Glencoe". By purchasing a souvenir plot, they're also giving you a license to use their trademarks. In addition, they'll call you by that name when communicating with you, and other donors/titleholders like to do so as well. That's not the same thing as a real title, though. I doubt anyone else will call you by that title, and there are thousands of other people that also use the same title. The scottishlaird.co.uk website calls them "decorative titles", which is an apt description.

I'm not sure I agree with the 'scam' tag as these don't seem to be intentionally deceptive, although I see where it could be confusing for those who live outside the UK and are unfamiliar with how titles work. It's just a fun little way of rewarding those who donate to their conservation/restoration efforts.

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  • Whilst most of what you write makes perfect sense, I'm unable to find any connection to the conservation effort cited on the website, there is a community initiative, but there doesn't seem to be a way of donating funds to it, and since the company is based in New York US, it seems improbable they contribute their manpower to the effort. Aug 3 at 1:40
  • @ARogueAnt. I'm not sure what you mean by "based in New York US". The three sites I linked to all show addresses in the UK. Some of them may have websites that are hosted and managed by a third party located elsewhere, though. All three will let you visit the project they're supposedly maintaining so you can personally verify that your money is going towards the conservation project if you really wanted to.
    – bta
    Aug 3 at 2:04
  • If you examine the terms and conditions on the wayback machine dated the 6th of May 2020, they state " The laws of the State of New York shall govern these Terms and Conditions." same as the modern version - perhaps I'm misreading the situation. Cont... Aug 3 at 2:32
  • They also say in their privacy section "Under California Law, California residents have the right to request in writing from businesses with whom they have an established business relationship..." - but say nothing regarding EU privacy laws. Perhaps they're just aimed at the US market, or not. The clones I mention in the comments do seem to have been created after this site - the implication being that this is the original. The address cited on the clones (Lessendrum, Huntly, AB54 6XR) is identical to that on the original, cont... Aug 3 at 2:35
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    Oooh, how interesting. By the exact same reasoning and legal processes, I could declare tomorrow that I am forming the Galactic Senate and sell people titles of "senator for Altair" and "senator for Rigel" and whatever, and that I will address you as "senator" and other members of my club will address you as "senator". And that would be all it means. I don't know any reason why that wouldn't be completely legal. And pretty worthless beyond being an amusing little game. Aug 4 at 16:23
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Yes, these purchases do allow you to use the title of "Laird" or "Lord". Please see the official government guidance on titles for passports (.pdf link), which states (p. 13/14):

Bought and styled titles

Bought titles may be sold by internet companies.

...

In the past, holders of bought or styled titles had to write to the Manorial Society of Great Britain for confirmation of the right to use and be known by a title. This society is a private company, in direct competition with many others that deal in the buying and selling of titles.

You must never tell a customer to contact the Manorial Society of Great Britain for confirmation, unless they have bought the title from the society.

You must only add an observation for customers with bought or styled titles, if it’s included in this guidance (for example, a manorial title)

(My emphasis, some text omited). Which clearly states that the passport office will include a title such as these on your passport, what more official record could there be? But wait, what was the bit I omitted:

Styled titles mean self-styled or presumed titles that customers have created for themselves.

Huh. So you could just make up a title for yourself and use that? Yup, you don't actually need to buy the package to call yourself a Lord, you can just do it. This is unsurprising because in the UK, unlike in some countries, your name is simply what you call yourself and you are free to change it to almost anything on a whim: although something like a deed poll is useful to prove that you are going by the new name for formal purposes.

In fact, this applies to all titles in the UK. It even extends to titles like "Dr", unless you're using them to fraudulently misrepresent yourself or mislead the public, as in the famous case of Gilian McKeith.

Of course, calling yourself a Lord doesn't give you any privileges or authority, and you will get short shrift in high society if you tried to use such an internet title. Real and meaningful Lordships are tracked and validated by The Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland which is also the body responsible for Coats of Arms in Scotland.

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    I think the "Yes" is a bit too resounding here, since the answer demonstrates that the purchase is ultimately unnecessary. I would advise revising the introduction of this answer to be clearer from the get go that there's no need to buy anything. Aug 2 at 11:14
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    @DarrelHoffman: Sure, using a title doesn't make it have any meaning. Just as becoming Laird by "buying" a square foot of land in Scotland doesn't. Aug 2 at 13:23
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    Lord Buckethead is explicitly a character, played by multiple people at different times, but Screaming Lord Sutch was an individual, who added "Lord" to his name by deed poll (a deed poll just being a declaration that you wish to be known exclusively by the new name, with no requirement to register with any official body; the UK is really bad at tracking identity).
    – IMSoP
    Aug 2 at 13:34
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    When registering as a candidate in a UK election, a person has to provide two names - a legal name and a "known-as" name (they obviously can be the same). This is to allow Samantha Smith to appear on the ballot paper as Sam Smith as everyone knows her as. This rule has the effect of allowing people to register as "Lord Buckethead" without having to change their name by a legal means. It is entirely up to the Presiding Officer (usually effected by the Elections Manager) to allow the name. Therefore election names have nothing to do with the purchase of titles. Aug 2 at 16:07
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    @user_1818839: The rules about Lords in the commons was revoked at the same time most Lords were removed from the House of Lords. Now it's only if you're a Lord in the House of Lords that you can't also be in the House of Commons. Aug 3 at 22:14

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