In 2001,the 10,000 acre Cluny Estate, near Laggan in Inverness-shire was bought by Mr Alain Angelil for £3.6 million. He put it on the market on 12 August 2013 (media releasesales brochure 10.4Mb pdf).

Earlier this month, the estate was sold for £7.3 million to a company called Cluny Estates Ltd., PO Box 83, Ordnance House, 31 Pier Road, St. Helier, Jersey (memorandum of association here). This company is owned by two shareholders, OH Securities Ltd. and R&H Investments Ltd., both at the same address. As illustrated by a previous blog about Kildrummy Estate, these two companies are in turn both owned by R&H Trust Co. (Jersey) Ltd. which in turn is owned by the two companies that it owns (OH Securities Ltd. and R&H Investments Ltd.) and a third, Woodbourne Nominees Ltd. Who owns Woodbourne Nominees Ltd.? R&H Trust Co. (Jersey) Ltd. See below.

So, who is really behind Cluny Estates Ltd.?

Last week, land agents were on site at Cluny Estate. Asked who had bought it, they said they did not know and did not want to know. They are instructed by an agent in London who, in turn, is instructed by another agent.

I understand, however that the real owner is a member (or members) of the Qatar royal family – perhaps Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned (pictured above). She and other family members own significant properties in London including Harrods, 95% of the Shard, the Olympic village, half of the world’s most expensive apartment block, One Hyde Park, Canary Wharf and the US Embassy building. See recent reports here and here. Yesterday the family was denied planning consent to create a 17 bedroom palace in Cornwall Terrace, London.

If anyone has any further information, please feel free to share it in comments or directly to me via email mail@andywightman.com. Meanwhile, I have sent an email to the estate office to ask for confirmation.

 

The land illustrated above (Midmar Paddock on the eastern slopes of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh) is currently for sale via Strutt & Parker (sales brochure here – 925kb pdf).

The reason for publishing this blog is to ask “who owns this land? Does anyone know?

Strutt and Parker refuse to divulge the answer.

The land is not registered in the Land Register but deeds are probably recorded in the Register of Sasines but it will probably cost around £50 and 1-2 days work to find out the answer there. I have neither.

So I thought I might ask you. Can anyone help?

The map below shows the location.

Improving access to information on land forms part of the Scottish Government proposals for land reform. See Briefing (1.7Mb pdf).

 © OpenStreetMap contributors Data is available under the Open Database License

UPDATE 31 January 2015

I have now determined the ownership of the Midmar Paddock. The Register of Sasines Search Sheet can be found at the foot of this text for those who are interested to see how land transactions were recorded prior to the Land Register which has been in operation in Midlothian (the old county including Edinburgh) since 1 April 2001.

1923 John Gordon of Cluny sells 18.6 acres (Midmar Paddock and allotments to the north) to Alexander Grant.

In 1938 the land is transferred to the Trustees of Sir Alexander Grant, 15 Hermitage Drive, Managing Director of McVitie & Price, Biscuit Manufacturers, Edinburgh & London.

1954 Allotments area conveyed by Trustees to Graeme Ellizabeth Laing. Midmar Paddock remains with Trustees.

1958 Midmar Paddock conveyed to beneficiaries of Trust – Hector Laing, Alexander Grant Laing and Robert Douglas Grant Laing.

1973 Hector conveys his ⅓ interest to Trustees for Anthony Rupert Laing

1973 Alexander conveys his ⅓ share to Trustees of Alexander Grant Laing.

1973 Allotments area conveyed by Graeme E Laing to Trustees of Alexander Grant Laing.

1983 Trustees of Anthony convey their ⅓ share to Anthony.

1993 Robert conveys his ⅓ share to Nettling Properties Ltd.

1999 Nettling Properties conveys its ⅓ share to Flagstaff Properties Ltd (Turks and Caicos Islands).

2011 Flagstaff Properties Ltd. conveys its ⅓ share to Midmar Properties Ltd.

28 November 2014 Trustees of Alexander G Laing conveys allotments site to Blackford Hill Ltd.

This means that:-

The allotments site to the north is owned by Blackford Hill Ltd.

Midmar Paddock (the site currently for sale) is owned by :-

Anthony Rupert Laing, Coulmony House, Morayshire
Trustees of Alexander Grant Laing
Midmar Properties Ltd.

Blackford Hill Ltd. is a company registered in Scotland No. SC466028 with its registered office at Logie Estate Office, Logie, Forres, IV36 2QN (see here for details of shareholders).

Midmar Properties Ltd. is not a registered company in the UK and is probably incorporated in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Interestingly, what this reveals is that the 2003 Tree Preservation Order referred to by Robin in comments names only one of the three joint owners. Additionally, the link to the Local Development Plan response provided by Dave Leslie in comments reflects the views of only one of the three co-owners (Trustees of AG Laing). It also contains a useful map showing the two separate ownerships (though not the up to date owners) and interesting insights into why the owners are wishing to sell the land.

Search Sheet

Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 1
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 2
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 3
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 4
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 5
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 6
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 7
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 page 8
Midlothian Search Sheet 18364 computerised search sheet

 

02. October 2014 · Comments Off on The Theft of Ancrum Common · Categories: Land Registration, Land Rights, Who Owns Scotland

Over the past 20 years, I have uncovered many examples of areas of common land across Scotland – remnants of commonties, greens, loans and the like. Unfortunately, little is being done to protect them from land-grabs by an assortment of avaricious individuals. If such claims go without challenge, a legally watertight title can be obtained. Such claims are open to challenge but there are three key difficulties.

Firstly, local knowledge of common land rights is often limited and the institutions don’t exist to maintain awareness and prompt action. This contrasts with the situation in England and Wales where there is a well-developed framework of law. (1)

Secondly, there is often no title for common land, leaving it open for land-grabbing.

And thirdly, where such land-grabs take place, there is no way that local people can know about it. Despite claims being lodged in a public register (the Register of Sasines or Land Register), no local publicity attends the lodging of documents with the Registers of Scotland by solicitors via DX Mail.  Thus the only way one could stay abreast of any such developments would to spend thousands of pounds per day searching the registers every day all year round just in case someone had submitted a  title claim.

For example, in the course of research for my book, The Poor Had No Lawyers, I found a number of examples of such grabs. One, which I have yet to fully document, involved the appropriation of 393 acres of commonty in Perthshire in 1986 by three landowners whose agent (the solicitor), according to a note in the Register of Sasines was “aware that granters apparently only have title to rights in pasturage in xxxx commonty.” The local community was not consulted and today, many locals are angry that a valuable part of their heritage was stolen from under their noses.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog.

Ancrum Common consists of three parcels of land extending to 35 acres in total to the west of the village of Ancrum in Roxburghshire. The lands have been subject to a long history of communal use and there is no evidence that there is any title held by any private interest over the common. In recent years, however, the land has become the subject of dispute although much of what has happened has only very recently become known to the residents of Ancrum.

In 1988 a company called Cranelg Ltd. recorded an a non domino (2) deed in the Register of Sasines. Cranelg Ltd. had two Directors, a Mr Nicholas W Cranston and a Mr William F Elgin (a Chartered Accountant). According to sources, this company specialised in land-grabbing. The company was wound up in 1998.

In 2001, Mr James George Montagu Douglas Scott, the owner of Kirklands Estate, Ancrum then recorded another a non domino deed in which he disponed the Common from himself in favour of himself. In a Court of Session ruling in the case of Aberdeen College v. Youngson [2005] CSOH13,  it was found that such a deed from a person to themselves was invalid. (3)

Finally, in May 2006, Mr Scott conveyed Ancrum Common via an a non domino disposition to his spouse, Sophie Mary Montagu Douglas Scott. And here matter rested until discovered by local residents in the past two years. There is now a quiet fury that the Common has been stolen.

I have found no evidence that Mr Scott has any legitimate claim of ownership of Ancrum Common. I spoke to him at length on the phone and he claimed that the land belonged to him but was unable to provide any account of why this was or to provide any evidence. At one point he claimed, “Listen, I don’t know what I’m talking about. You need to speak to my lawyers – Anderson Strathern. It was they who suggested I do this.”

Understandably, Anderson Strathern was unwilling to discuss its client’s legal affairs.

Evidence that has been uncovered suggests that there was a title to the Common in the name of the Feuars of Ancrum. In the Inland Revenue Survey of landownership in Great Britain and Ireland conducted in 1910 under Section 26(1) of Lloyd George’s Finance (1909-10) Act, the land is noted as being owned and occupied by the Feuars of Ancrum (see images below).

Further research is underway.

Image: Map extract from 1910 Inland Revenue Survey. Part of Ancrum Common (Parcel No. 200)

Image: Extract from IRS Survey Field Book for Parcel 200 (Ancrum Common)

Meanwhile, a Public Meeting has been organised for 7pm on 15 October 2014 in Ancrum Village Hall.

 

For legal reasons no comments will be allowed on this blog.

NOTES

(1) See for example a recent dispute over Garway Common in Herefordshire

(2) An a non domino deed is a disposition (transfer of land) literally “from one who is not the owner”. Professors George Gretton and Ken Reid describe the circumstances in which this used as follows.

“It sometimes happens that someone notices that a piece of ground is unoccupied and apparently abandoned. Using prescription, it is possible to acquire ownership. What happens is that the person gets a friend to grant to him a gratuitous disposition of the land and the disposition is recorded..”

(3) This Registers of Scotland note covers the implications for recording deeds in the Register of Sasines and Land Register.