Why exactly was it doomed to failure?
First of all, in Scotland, to acquire ownership of a property, you have to have a recorded or registered title to it. It has been like this since the 16th Century. That recorded or registered title is a public document. It always has been, unlike the position in England. It is treated as being the equivalent of possession, because it is a public register. So there are no circumstances at all where someone can acquire ownership just by possession. I understand the position is different in England. To me that just seems wrong. It is not a matter of how long someone has had possession, it is the principle of what is and is not theft.
If the extent of the title is unclear, then 10 years uninterrupted and unchallenged possession will clear up any ambiguity over the extent of the title. Land cannot be possessed by more than one person at a time, or at least that is the theory.
Of course, real life is more complicated than that, particularly in the case of large rural titles. There can be genuine disagreements as to who is possessing a particular piece of land and that is where the law is more complicated and less satisfactory than I would like. A further complication is the 2 systems of recording and registration that we have in Scotland. The old Register of Sasines is a register of deeds, while the Land Register is a state-backed, map-based system of registration of titles. This started being introduced 30 years ago, but only just over half of the titles are on that system, a quarter by area.
What is the position when someone has possession on the basis of a good title in the Register of Sasines, but there is a competing title in the Land Register, possibly based on an incorrect application? The rules covering those and similar situations will be changed fairly soon, and you should watch out for commentary on these changes coming out in the next couple of years.
Another practical reason that the attempt was doomed to failure is to do with the checks that solicitors have to carry out on the identification of their clients as part of the general Anti Money Laundering Regime. I know that they may seem tedious. I have expressed irritation at the requirement that my younger sister produce evidence of identification before we can act for her, but this sort of case does bring home the need for the checking of identification.
This makes it sound as though our system is good and sensible from a commercial perspective. That may not be your view if you discover that there is a small gap between your boundary and the public road which you need access across. There is a ransom strip. You can't acquire ownership rights simply by shifting your fence, even if you have been actually occupying that ground for decades. Your boundary fence might just be a few feet over into your neighbours' property, but that does not give you any right to own it or the ground between the fence and your legal boundary. Rightly or wrongly, we take ownership seriously, based on an open public register, and we think that those investing in Scotland from other parts of the world will find this acceptable.