Land gifting company hits back over goodie bag stramash

The entrance to the nature reserve in Duror owned by Highland Titles.

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Owners of the company which provided this year’s Oscar nominees with the deeds to tiny plots of land in the Highlands – have hit back at criticisms of the gimmick.

Highland Titles contributed the right to a small piece of the Highlands which allowed the red carpet recipients to claim the title ‘Lord or Lady of Glencoe’ as part of a coveted gift bag.

However, the gifts brought condemnation from Scottish land rights campaigners, including Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick, who told the Lochaber Times last week that she thought there was ‘something particularly grotesque about giving very wealthy people a tiny parcel of our home as a souvenir’.

Highland Titles, which has been trading since 2006, has now invited Ms Roddick and any of her parliamentary colleagues to visit its nature reserve in Duror to see what a special place it is.

‘Perhaps then she would realise that selling souvenir plots of land is both harmless fun and a positive advertisement for Scotland,’ said CEO Doug Wilson.

‘It is often reported that Scotland has the highest concentration of land ownership in the world: too much land owned by too few, we are told. With more than 300,000 customers all over the world, we like to think we are doing something to remedy this problem.

‘More than 10,000 people visited our nature reserve in 2019 alone in order to find their uniquely identified souvenir plot of land. Thousands stayed in local hotels, ate in local restaurants and shopped at local businesses.

‘It cannot be seriously disputed that our business has generated millions of pounds for the local economy.’

Mr Wilson stated that in the time his company has been trading it had completely transformed the inaccessible Sitka plantation in Lochaber into an official four-star tourist attraction that tens of thousands of people have enjoyed visiting.

‘We have planted thousands of trees, built a hedgehog hospital and helped to reintroduce three endangered species back to the area,’ he added.

‘We have also installed miles of access track so that people of all abilities can enjoy the area.

‘Our small business supports more than a dozen people in the Highlands and we have donated tens of thousands of pounds to local charities and spent a substantial six-figure sum employing local service providers.’

Responding to the invite this week, Ms Roddick said: ‘I was disappointed to hear from Highland Titles that their justification for commodifying the Highlands’ land is that they believe their souvenir land scheme is actually remedying issues with lack of diversity in land ownership.

‘Regardless of the number of people they give souvenir plots to, given they remain the sole landowner, that is not the case.

‘I stand by my comments that this “harmless fun” promotes the idea that the Highlands are a playground for the rich rather than somewhere with a complex history and that people live and work in.

‘It is clear we have opposing views on land ownership and souvenir titles, and I don’t think a visit is going to change either of our minds. I do congratulate them on their efforts around biodiversity and I’m always happy to engage in discussion.’