On 28th November 2004 the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 came into force preserving, amongst other measures, Scotland’s Baronage and its heraldic rights.
Under the 2004 Act, barony titles became separated from the land to which they were originally attached and became personal titles and as such are no longer recordable in the public land registers. Instead the Scottish Barony Register has been commissioned to record ownership of these titles. Only those titles which have changed ownership since 2004 are recorded in the Scottish Barony Register, which is only accessible to Scottish solicitors. Please note that any register of barony titles which you may find online has no legal basis and is likely to be incomplete or factually incorrect.
You may continue to purchase barony titles, sell them, bequeath them in your will to whomever you wish, or gift them in your own lifetime.
After 28th November 2004 it is still necessary, when purchasing a barony, to carry out the same conveyancing procedures in order to establish the validity of the title offered for sale. You will still have to instruct a Scottish solicitor (lawyer) to effect the transfer of the title for you.
Up until 28th November 2004 (‘the appointed day’) a barony was an estate of land held directly of the Crown, or the Prince and Steward of Scotland, with a Crown Charter erecting the land into a Barony. It is an essential element of a barony title that there exists a Crown Charter of the barony. Crown Charters were recorded in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland. Often the original Charter has been lost but because of the Scottish system of recording property writs, an Official Extract can be obtained from the Register of the Great Seal. An Official Extract has the same legal status as the original Charter. Up until 1874 new barons were able to be confirmed in their baronies by the Crown with a Charter of Confirmation; these are also recorded in the Register of the Great Seal. After 1874 only a disposition was required when a barony was sold or inherited and copies of these can be found in the Register of Sasines.
The prime reason that the Crown erected lands into baronial status was to secure the allegiance of their subject vassal. Before the 1745 Rebellion barons provided military service which, with no standing army, was essential to the maintenance of power and public order.
The effect of erecting lands into barony status was in most instances to recognise and authorise the landowner in his right and duty to administer his lands on behalf of the Crown. Primarily this was the administration of justice and the maintenance of public order. Barons held their own courts with either themselves or their baron baillies sitting in judgment. In some baronies this maintenance and administration of public order extended to the right of ‘pit and gallows’. After the passing of an Act of Parliament following the 1745 rebellion (20 Geo. II., Cap. 43), “An Act for taking away and abolishing the Heritable Jurisdictions in that part of Great Britain called Scotland” the barons lost almost all of their law enforcement powers.
Barons also had valuable commercial advantages including the right to petition the Crown to have towns erected into Burgh of Barony status thus enabling the baron to control trade, hold fairs and even sometimes to exact taxes.
Just as the feudal system gradually evolved from approximately 1100 to 1700, so the system very slowly dissolved thereafter. The Act of 1587 had already allowed minor barons to absent themselves from attending the Kings parliament. Today, with the passing of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, barony titles are personal titles of dignity with no other powers or responsibilities. As far as we know a Scottish Barony title is the only noble dignity that can be legally purchased and is recognised by law.