Ur Duthchas, or native title in the Scottish Highlands?
Property law correspondent Kenneth Reid has taken time out from editing the Edinburgh Law Review to draw our attention to Public Petition PE1297 now before the Scottish Parliament, which asserts the existence of a form of land tenure in the Scottish Highlands hitherto un-noticed in the standard works on property law in Scotland.
The petition is brought by Ranald Alasdair MacDonald of Keppoch, chief of his clan, and calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to investigate Scottish land ownership and tenure under the ‘Duthchas/Duthchaich’ or ‘native title’ system of land tenure. The petition doesn't go into the details of the tenure but analogises it with udal tenure in Orkney and Shetland, mainly however to argue that as the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000 left udal law unaffected, so also should Ur Dutchas be preserved. The petition also compares the claim with the 'native titles' one which have been litigated elsewhere in the world, notably in Australia in the Mabo v Queensland case in 1992.
MacDonald of Keppoch's ultimate aim is the recovery of his clan territory which, he says, was stolen or usurped from the indigenous peoples of the clan. He has sought advice from leading conveyancer Professor Robert Rennie of Glasgow Law School as well as the Lord Lyon (a notable historian of Celtic law). More detail about the claim is available at the clan website, macdonaldofkeppoch.org.