A HONG KONG-based company which sells so-called “souvenir plots” of Scottish land has become the subject of a row on YouTube.

Established Titles, a company which owns land across Scotland, sells Lordship or Ladyship title packs which, it claims, include the purchase of a 1, 5 or 10 square foot souvenir plot of land located in one of their locations across Scotland.

The company owns land in Aberdeenshire, Dunfermline, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.

Its website states that these 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.”

People who purchase Established Titles products receive a certificate which bestows on them the title of Laird, Lord or Lady.

However, the company has come under fire after one YouTuber criticised its advertisements on other channels.

Over the past year Established Titles has paid various, primarily American YouTubers whose videos regularly receive millions of views to advertise the company. 

But  on November 24 YouTuber Scott Shafer’s released a video titled "Established Titles Scam – YouTube’s BIGGEST Con!" in which he criticises the company. 

It has now received more than 2 million views. 

In it he claims that YouTubers should not be working with the company because the titles being sold do not legally bestow ownership of the land onto the purchaser.

Malcolm Combe, senior lecturer in law at the University of Strathclyde, told The National that from a strictly legal perspective Shafer is correct.

He said: “In short, to become an owner of land in Scotland you need to register a disposition (the document transferring ownership to you) with the Land Register.

“Owing to provisions in the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, it is not possible to register “souvenir plots”.

“From a Scottish land law perspective then, it is not clear on what basis anyone buying such a product can call themselves an owner of land (and in turn use any further badge relating to being an owner).”

In a statement sent to another YouTuber who defended her advertisement of the company, Established Titles said their product “is a fun gift, meant for a good laugh and we have been absolutely transparent about this from day one.”

The statement added: “In the past two years we have done more tangible work in the preservation of the woodlands in Scotland than anyone else to our knowledge.

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“This includes donating to plant over 2 million trees and acquiring over hundreds of acres of land and contractually committing to preserve it in its natural state.”

The figure of 2 million trees comes from the company’s partnership with Trees for the Future, a non-profit organisation based in Maryland, USA.

Trees for the Future told The National that since 2020 donations from Established Titles have helped them plant more than 2 million trees.

But the organisation confirmed that none of these trees were planted in Scotland as their work is based in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, Established Titles does donate to another organisation, One Tree Planted, which is also based in America. It has carried out tree planting in work in Scotland, including more than 40,000 trees planted in an ongoing project in Talla and Gameshope in the Borders.

Expert in heraldry Huw Sherrard questioned why people would be purchasing products from Established Titles given their lack of legal and historical legitimacy.

He told The National: “Established Titles routinely states that it's 'a historic Scottish land ownership custom' for landowners to be referred to as lairds, and as lairds is in Scots, supposedly it is only reasonable to translate it to 'Lords' or 'Ladies' too.

“Is it technically true that if you worked on an estate historically, you might have called your boss - the landowner - 'laird'? Sure! However it in no way made you anything other than a landowner, just as your geography teacher wasn't innately anything more than ... a Geography teacher, regardless of whether you called them 'sir' or not.

“Add on the fact that Established Titles' customers aren't even landowners to begin with, it's reasonable to say the whole thing is a bit of a farce."

He added: “Established Titles' response is to say that the whole thing is a 'fun gift, meant for a good laugh and not to be taken too seriously'. But if their customers know they can call themselves a 'Laird' of their own volition with just as much validity (and perhaps even make a certificate of their own at home), why are they handing over anywhere between $49.95 to $483.95?

“Established Titles suggests that customers are fully informed from their website about all this, and that their noble aim of preservation and tree planting might be why customers give them money. However, if that's the case, why aren't potential customers just donating to The Woodland Trust?”

The Established Titles website assures customers that all the land the company has purchased in recent years is “free from any other uses except for the peaceful enjoyment of the land, thereby protecting the biodiversity of the flora and fauna of the area.

“We have further pledged to protect the land from being disturbed by construction, sporting, driving or other similar activities.”

Established Titles has been contacted for comment.