History And Aims Of The Standing Council Of Scottish Chiefs
The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs was founded in the reign of King George VI by the then Lord High Constable of Scotland, The Countess of Erroll, on the advice and recommendation of the late Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms. As Lady Erroll was then married to Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Bt., Albany Herald, it is not above suspicion that he, with his great knowledge of Scottish Chiefship and families, had more than a little to say in the establishment of the Standing Council. The late Earl of Elgin and Kincardine was the first Convenor and his son, the 11th Earl, was the last. The present Convenor is the Earl of Caithness, Chief of Clan Sinclair.
Who is entitled to membership
There are various different grades of Clan Chiefship recognised in Scotland. It was never the intention that the Standing Council would be a body of all these Chiefs in all the various categories. Membership is limited, in the main, to those Chiefs who would have been of sufficient importance to be regarded as the Sovereign’s hereditary advisers and therefore limited to those Chiefs who were great enough to qualify for that rare armorial distinction of being entitled to supporters.
Membership is by invitation, after the General meeting has approved the issue of such an invitation, and is open only to:
“(a) any holder of the absolute undifferenced Arms of any Scottish stock or stem, provided such Arms were matriculated in terms of Statute 1672 Cap 21 and have hereditary supporters”; and
“(b) in exceptional cases, to Chiefs of considerable branch Clans, such as Lord Lovat or MacNeacail of Scorrybreac, or to persons who might qualify as Chief of their Clans but for some present legal bar, like the bearing of a compound surname such as Douglas-Hamilton, Duke of Hamilton, where the Standing Council determines that it is appropriate to elect that person to membership”.
In these exceptional cases, the right to membership is not hereditary as it is in the case of full Chiefs in category (a) but is personal to the member who is elected. The honour might not be accorded to his heir, unless the Standing Council determines to elect him.
Why was the council founded
The Standing Council’s functions are often misunderstood by the general public and by overseas clansmen and Clan Associations who write to seek sponsorship or support for their projects.
The Standing Council was founded as a pressure group to represent the interests of all Scottish Chiefs of Clans and Names at the time when Government bureaucracy did not understand the position or importance of the Chief of the Clan. The Standing Council’s function is not to support clansmen or Clan Associations but is to represent the interest of the Chiefs to the Government and public. It may be useful to quote the objectives of the Standing Council as laid down in the Constitution:
“The Objects of the Council, which is non-political, are to consider matters affecting Scottish Chiefs and the Clans and Names which they represent and to submit their views and interests to HM Government, to Departments of State, to Local Authorities, to Press and Public, to Associations connected with Clan and Family in Britain and overseas; also to educate the general public in matters connected with the rights, functions and historical position of Scottish Chiefs, together with the Clans and Names which they represent and to take such steps as may seem expedient to protect the titles, armorial bearings or other insignia of Chiefs from exploitation or misuse in trade or otherwise”.
While the political and educational interests of the Chiefs are represented quietly and diplomatically in the appropriate quarters, it is the latter part of the Objectives which most frequently comes to the notice of the general public.
Protection of Chief’s Armorial bearings
A Chief’s armorial bearings are his property in Scotland and the right to use them or display them is reserved to the Chief. It is an offence in Scotland and a civil delict (or tort) to use a Chief’s coat of arms or his clan crest badge (the crest within a belt and buckle) without his permission. A Chief is entitled to license the manufacture of products bearing his armorial bearings on such terms and conditions as he chooses. A wrongful use of the Arms on trade products or otherwise is prosecuted in the Lyon Court by the Procurator Fiscal (the District Attorney) and a Chief can also sue for damages.
Approval is only given to products which have been checked by the Secretary and are both heraldically correct and have been approved as products of a quality and fineness which are suitable for the display of a Chief’s coat of arms.
Of course, armorial bearings can only be protected in Scotland by the law of Scotland, but an increasing number of Chiefs are arranging for their Arms to be registered as trademarks or patented world wide to afford them the protection which is available in Scotland.
Manufacturers who operate outside of Scotland would therefore be wise to confirm that they are not infringing one of these trademarks or patents by checking with the Secretary of the Standing Council. In any event, more and more manufacturers who make products outside of Scotland are finding that there is considerable advantage in obtaining the Standing Council’s approval for their products and being able to market them under the trademark of the Standing Council, which is a guarantee of accuracy and, to a certain extent, the quality of the product.