No Change Forthcoming

Souvenir plots in Scotland were legally defined in 1979.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act passed through Parliament in 2003.

This Act was updated in 2016.  It is now nearly 40 years since the plots were first defined.  Two separate pieces of legislation have been passed since, neither of which addressed souvenir plots.

With no known problem caused by souvenir plot sales, it seems unlikely that anything will change.  

When the Land Registry first refused to register souvenir plots, it was 1979:  a year in which records were kept on paper and long before computers were commonplace.  Is 'scarcity of resources' still an acceptable reason to refuse registration of souvenir plots?

Perhaps so.  In 2015, legal academics Jill Robbie and Malcolm Combe published the following:

"In Scotland, at least for the next ten years, resources at Meadowbank House will be stretched by the aim to get all land on the Land Register by 2024. Thus, the initial reason for prohibiting registration is arguably still applicable."


A Potential Solution

Section 24 of The Registration (Land and Deeds) (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 states

Land Registry Rules may make provision

(a) for enabling the Registrar, in such circumstances and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed, to declare any area of land to be subject to a souvenir land scheme if the Registrar is satisfied that the land comprised in that area consists wholly or mainly of land—

(i) which has been, or is proposed to be, disposed of (by way of sale or otherwise) in souvenir plots; or

(ii) of which part has been, and the remainder is proposed to be, so disposed of.

If the Scottish Land Registry were to follow suit, the forthcoming map-based land register could offer a more complete record of land ownership.  At least one vendor of souvenir plots of land maintains its own register of souvenir plot sales.

Land Reform Debate Continues

In 2015, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, proclaimed that Scotland's land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few.

The First Minister did not say Scotland's land should be owned by the many, and not the few, and whilst there are Land Reform activists who would like to see these large estates broken up and taken into public ownership, it has never been adequately explained how, for example, 10,000 acres in Sutherland would benefit the many if it were publicly owned.  

It has been argued that distinguishing between big landowners and small is less useful than distinguishing between good landowners and bad, but sorting by size does seem to be the preferred approach of the activists.

More than half of Scotland is owned by approximately 450 people.  According to land reform academics Dr James Hunter and Andy Wightman, this equates to the most concentrated pattern of land ownership anywhere in the developed world.

The 20 biggest landowners in Scotland are:

1. The Duke of Buccleuch

Buccleuch Estates Limited owns 241,887 acres, including Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire, Bowhill near Selkirk and Dalkeith Palace.

2. The National Trust for Scotland

The NTS has 192,000 acres across Scotland including Culzean Castle in Ayrshire and Brodick Castle in Arran.

3. Anders Povlsen

The Danish retail magnate owns 169,695 acres of land, including the 43,000-acre Glenfeshie estate in Inverness-shire.


The RSPB has come in for criticism over its 125,858 acres of land including the Forsinard Flows nature reserve in Caithness and Sutherland.

5. Duke of Atholl

The 12th Duke of Atholl runs the 124,125 estate around Blair Castle, Perthshire.

6. Alwyne Farquharson

Alwyne Farquharson owns 120,685 acres around Braemer Castle in the Cairngorms.

7. British Alcan Aluminium Plc

This mining company owns 117,249 acres around Fort William.

8. Ian Ogilvie-Grant, Earl of Seafield

The Earl of Seafield owns 95815 acres of land around Cullen and Strathspey.

9. Duke of Westminster

Gerald Grosvenor is the UK's biggest landowner.  He owns 94,817 acres in Scotland, including the Reay Forest Estate in Sutherland.

10. Robert and Philip Fleming

The Fleming banking dynasty included James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and owns 92,141 acres including the Black Mount Estate near Glencoe.

11. Countess of Sutherland

Elizabeth Sutherland, 24th Countess of Sutherland, owns Dunrobin Castle just north of Golspie which is part of her 87,898 acre holding.

12. Paul van Vlissingen

The Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist owns 87,066 acres including Letterewe estate at Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands.

13. Donald Cameron

The clan Cameron’s 76,881 acre estate includes area around Fort William. 

14. “Mr Saleh”

The Malaysian-based businessman owns 71,383 acre land including Glen Avon Estate in Moray.

15. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen

The billionaire grandson of the man who invented Lego owns 69,845 acres including Strathconon in Ross-shire.

16 Fergus Granville

The Queen's cousin inherited the 62,200 acre North Uist estate in the Outer Hebrides from his mother, Countess Granville.

17. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum

The Manchester City owner has the 61,961 acre Killilan and Inverinate Estate in the north-west Highlands.

18. Applecross Estate Trust

This registered charity is operated by the The Wills Tobacco Family who own 61,609 acres including 28,000 acres in Bute.

19. Her Majesty the Queen

The Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire forms part of 61,507 acres owned by Her Majesty in Scotland.

20. Baroness Nancy Drummond Willoughby

The 60,939 estate run by the Drummond Foundation includes Drummond Castle in Perthshire.