Dispute over Ancrum land

Ancrum villagers are expected to pack their local hall next week to discuss the legal status of common land after a row over ownership.

The public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night in the village hall as being “to share information and discuss the current and future status of Ancrum Common”.

Scottish land rights researcher, Andy Wightman, author of The Poor Had No Lawyers, and Who Owns Scotland, has been invited to address the meeting.

Flyers advertising the meeting have asked people to bring documents, photos and even house title deeds if they have relevance to the legal status of the near 40-acre common. The meeting has been called after some villagers became aware that local landowner and community councillor, Jamie Scott of Kirklands, claimed ownership of the land.

Writing on his online blog, Land Matters, Mr Wightman, who was invited to attend by organisers, said the common consists of three parcels of land extending to 35 acres in total to the west of the village.

“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,” he states.

“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.”

Mr Wightman says that he has found no evidence that Mr Scott has any legitimate claim of ownership of Ancrum Common.

Contacted by The Southern, Mr Scott said he was happy to talk to us, but did not want to comment publicly until after next week’s meeting.

Mr Wightman says there is evidence that there was a title to the common in the name of the Feuars of Ancrum in an Inland Revenue Survey conducted in 1910.

Speaking to The Southern this week, Mr Wightman told us: “At some point this land probably belonged to someone like the Marquis of Lothian.

“Under feudalism there was really no such thing as common land – it always belonged to somebody like the Crown.

“But there was an acknowledgement by the aristocracy that some land was, in effect, common land. It was an older pattern of ownership and in Scotland hundreds of thousands of acres in small parcels of land still exist, which are the remants of this.

“The problem is people in small villages don’t often know what lawyers are doing on behalf of large landowners, as it’s all done by city lawyers and quite complicated.”