In land law, you can grab, take, steal, purloin, appropriate and filch.

I am not one who usually goes in for some of the wailing and hand wringing about the evils of the landlords or how we wus robbed in the past. Scotland is already full of plenty people for whom this appears to be a full-time occupation. I get a bit hacked off with them because whilst some cathartic complaining might be therapeutic, I want to see reform, justice and action not personal therapy. I don’t deny the utility of deploying rhetoric but it is only really useful if done with a purpose beyond ventilating frustrations. However, I am now, for the first time, reading my book, The Poor had no Lawyers and am getting rather angry. To hell with any purpose – we wus robbed!!!!

I’m serious. The evidence is clear. For centuries and right here and now, the law is conspiring to defraud people of their land rights. In any other walk of life this would be criminal. In land law, you can grab, take, steal, purloin, appropriate and filch to your heart’s content. The law has dreamt up a whole language to sanitise this truth.

Confucius advised that “The corruption of society begins with the failure to call things by their proper names and its renovation begins with the reattachment of words to real things and precise concepts”. Until we apply the same conceptual framework to property as we do to simple theft then we will always end up arguing about the wrong thing.

Were it not for the fig leaf of some of the civil law of Scots property, this would not be a problem. Consider this – I steal £100,000. I am found out. I am charged, convicted and imprisoned. I am a criminal. I understand that.

If I grab some land that doesn’t belong to me though, I admit it. It is legitimate. It is lawful. After a period of time my theft “cures, ripens, matures” info full ownership. But what about the poor sod whose land it was in the first place? Tough. It’s the law of the jungle. It’s corrupt, it is criminal, venal and bad. We have not moved on in 400 years. Meanwhile many ordinary folk around the country struggle (often fail completely) to get a lawyer to take on the necessary work to correct historic mistakes and  injustices that render their property unmarketable. I was speaking to one such couple today. The cream of Edinburgh property lawyers have taken all the papers, examined them and declined to act. It’s too difficult and time consuming. So who speaks up for the victims?

Someone emailed me last week and observed that the “gloves now appear to be off”. Indeed……., though actually, they were never on in the first place. I’ve simply been too polite.