Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thane of Buchan's Feudal Ransom

In the past I have called the First Minister the Thane of Banff and Buchan but this isn't about him but the actual 17th Earl of Buchan. The ransom in question is £67,250 of West Lothian Council money for signing over the feudal deed for the former Broxburn Primary School.

In today's West Lothian Courier the story of how the majestic, though now boarded up and vandalised, building on Broxburn Main Street has unfolded since it was last used as a school 10 years ago. The Council who owns the building tried to sell it on to a developer for £140,000 to turn in to a private nursery and leisure facility. However, during the sale negotiations it was unearthed that the original title deed prevented any other land use other than for educational purposes. The feudal deed goes back 150 years and the current Earl of Buchan, Malcolm Erskine lives in Hampshire with no interests in West Lothian at all.

There are a number of feudal deeds still around, as I found out when I first had an offer accepted prior to mortgage arrangement when I first moved here, but generally these are easily dealt with. The spirit of this original deed was obviously that the then Earl wanted to ensure that the children of his tenants were receiving an education. So with the children of Broxburn well served with local primary schools the spirit of that title deed is no longer required. The council faced a similar issue with the deeds of the old Bathgate Academy a few years ago, but that was settled a the site was developed for residential use, whilst maintaining the listed old school building.

The issue that the land has not been of direct use to the Earls of Buchan for 150 years but now the present title holder is demanding £67,250 to basically finally sign away his forefathers clause is maybe a sign that for some the feudal system still exists. In the meantime the building itself remains empty and a growing eyesore on the Main Street.

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