Scotland is purported to be the last and only country where an individual can purchase a title of nobility that is formally recognized by the government. It appears that there are two classes of titles in Scotland’s nobility—peerage titles and feudal titles. Only feudal titles are purchasable. These titles essentially existed as a bundle of rights that belonged to a parcel of land. Therefore, the title originated with the land but recent legislation has separated the title from the land–such a title can now be purchased alone.
The most common feudal title in Scotland was a barony but there are also a few earldoms (counts). I have heard that some lawmakers wanted to abolish feudal titles altogether but feared that the government would be forced to compensate for monetary damages—there appears to be a flourishing market for these feudal relics. It also appears that there has been a good deal of fraud and fantasy in this market too.
Clearly this is a formal symbol. I am not sure if the current law gives title holders any actual privileges other than the right to use the title itself. The esteem is connected to the level of formality (government acceptance) and historic class connotations. I think it is worth pointing out that despite the formality of the symbol its success is largely informal. This success derives from its class connotations, but the rights that gave rise to these connotations are largely void by the same powers that permit the baron’s continued legal existence. Thereby there is no official measure of esteem for such titles—the government merely allows their existence—what exactly they mean is largely dependent on historic connotation and popular imagination.