ASA raps company over ‘fake Scots laird’ titles

A COMPANY has been rapped for advertising bogus Scottish titles to people who bought plots of land on a Highland estate.

A screenshot from the Highland Titles website offering titles for a small fee. Picture: Contributed
A screenshot from the Highland Titles website offering titles for a small fee. Picture: Contributed

Highland Titles offer square foot patches for £29.99 on a 750-acre area known as the Keil estate, and tells buyers that owning the land allows them to adopt the title Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe.

Celebrities including Nelson Mandela, Kate Moss, Phil Collins, Barry Manilow and Liz Hurley have been gifted pieces of the land since the company started.

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It is the brainchild of Professor Peter Bevis, an English biologist, and his wife, Laura, who bought the land in 2007.

However, they have been ordered to make clear to customers that buying the land does not give them a genuine title following a probe by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA begun an investigation into the firm, which is based in the Channel Islands, following a complaint from a customer who had bought one of the plots.

In a written ruling, the ASA said: “We noted that the website included a number of qualifying statements that explained that anyone was able to assume the title Lord, Laird or Lady and that consumers would not gain an official, genuinely recognised title through purchasing land from Highland Titles.

“However, we considered the overall impression of the website and noted a large number of statements that implied a direct link between the purchase of the land sold by Highland Titles and the attainment of the titles Lord, Lady or Laird.

“We considered that consumers were likely to understand those statements to mean that through the purchase of a souvenir plot of land from Highland Titles they would gain the right to use a title to which they would not otherwise have had the right.

“We considered that those statements contradicted the message that anyone was able to use those titles and gave the impression that the titles available to customers who bought land from Highland Titles were recognised in a way that titles adopted by ordinary members of the public were not.

“Because we considered that the ad included a number of contradictory statements in relation to the nature of the titles available to Highland Titles’ customers, we concluded that the website was ambiguous and likely to mislead.”

The company has enjoyed huge success, especially in the US, Canada and Australia, and created 7,500 new Scots landowners in 41 countries in just one year.

The Keil estate is 16 miles west of Glencoe on a piece of land that juts into Loch Linnhe.

Statements on their website included “Buy a plot of land in Scotland and become a Laird” and “So the easiest way to become a Lord or Lady is to buy a large estate (at least a square foot) from Highland Titles and become a Laird!”.

However, the ASA found these claims to be exaggerated and misleading and told them to make clear to buyers that they would not be joining the nobility.

Highland Titles denied that their website implied that they could confer an official title such as Lord or Lady.

The company said they offered a “fun, novelty gift” and they considered that their customers made the purchase in that spirit.

The company told the ASA that they considered that people who spent Pounds 30 on a novelty certificate were unlikely to imagine that they were ennobled.

There is no law in Scotland preventing anyone from referring to themselves in any way they wish to, including Lord, Lady or Laird, as long as they do not defraud anyone through the use of that title or name.