Great Seal of Scotland


Great Seal of Scotland

The Great Seal of Scotland ("Seala Mòr na h-Alba" in Gaelic) allows the monarch to authorise official documents without having to sign each document individually. Wax is melted in a metal mould or matrix and impressed into a wax figure that is attached by cord or ribbon to documents that the monarch wishes to make official. The earliest seal impression, in the Treasury of Durham Cathedral, is believed to be the Great Seal of Duncan II and dates to 1094.

Strictly, the Great Seal of Scotland was abolished by the Act of Union 1707 which provided that "a Seal in Scotland after the Union be alwayes kept and made use of in all things relating to private Rights or Grants, which have usually passed the Great Seal of Scotland, and which only concern Offices, Grants, Commissions, and private Rights within that Kingdom".

Although referred to in the Scotland Act 1998 as "the seal appointed by the Treaty of Union to be kept and made use of in place of the Great Seal of Scotland", the seal is still commonly referred to as the Great Seal of Scotland.

Section 12 of the Treason Act 1708, still in force today, makes it treason in Scotland to counterfeit the seal. [http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&Year=1708&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=1516341&ActiveTextDocId=1516341&filesize=18797]

The Design of the Great Seal is a responsibility of the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The reverse of the seal shows the monarch on horseback, but is not changed from reign to reign—the current version is that engraved in 1911 for the accession of King George V. The obverse is inscribed "ELIZABETH II D G BRITT REGNORVMQVE SVORVM CETER REGINA CONSORTIONIS POPULORUM PRINCEPS F D" and the figure on it is the same as on the Great Seal of the United Kingdom. [The inscription is abbreviated Latin for "Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the Britains and of Her Other Kingdoms Queen, Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Defender of the Faith". See Great Seal of the Realm.]

The Great Seal is administered by the Keeper of the Great Seal, one of the Great Officers of State. From 1885 this office was held by the Secretary of State for Scotland. It transferred in 1999 to the First Minister of Scotland, whose place in the order of precedence in Scotland is determined by his office as Keeper of the Great Seal. In practice the Seal is in the custody of the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, who has been appointed as Deputy Keeper.

List of Keepers of the Great Seal of Scotland prior to the Union

*1514: Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld
*1657-1660: Samuel Disbrowe
*Date unknown: Sir Adam Forrester
*Date unknown: Sir John Forrester

List of Keepers of the Great Seal of Scotland since the Union

*1708: Hugh Campbell, 3rd Earl of Loudoun
*1713: James Ogilvy, 4th Earl of Findlater, 1st Earl of Seafield
*1714: William Johnstone, 1st Marquess of Annandale
*1716: James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose
*1733: Archibald Campbell, 1st Earl of Islay
*1761: Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, 2nd Duke of Dover
*1763: James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl
*1764: Hugh Hume-Campbell, 3rd Earl of Marchmont
*1794: Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon
*1806: James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale
*1807: Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon
*1827: George William Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll
*1828: George Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon
*1830: George William Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll
*1840: John Hamilton Dalrymple, 8th Earl of Stair
*1841: John Douglas Edward Henry Campbell, 7th Duke of Argyll
*1846: John Hamilton Dalrymple, 8th Earl of Stair
*1852: Dunbar James Douglas, 6th Earl of Selkirk
*1853: Cospatrick Alexander Home, 11th Earl of Home
*1858: Dunbar James Douglas, 6th Earl of Selkirk

The following are Keepers of the Great Seal, who served as Secretary for Scotland (1885-1926).

*1885: Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond
*1886: George Otto Trevelyan
*1886: John William Ramsay, 13th Earl of Dalhousie
*1886: Arthur Balfour
*1887: Schomberg Henry Kerr, 9th Marquess of Lothian
*1892: George Otto Trevelyan
*1895: Alexander Hugh Bruce, 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh
*1903: Andrew Murray, 1st Viscount Dunedin
*1905: John Adrian Louis Hope, 1st Marquess of Linlithgow
*1905: John Sinclair, 1st Baron Pentland
*1912: Thomas McKinnon Wood
*1916: Harold Tennant
*1916: Robert Munro, 1st Baron Alness
*1922: Ronald Munro-Ferguson, 1st Viscount Novar of Raith
*1924: William Adamson
*1926: Sir John Gilmour

The following are Keepers of the Great Seal, who served as Secretary of State for Scotland (1926-1999).

*1926: Sir John Gilmour
*1929: William Adamson
*1931: Sir Archibald Sinclair
*1932: Sir Godfrey Collins
*1936: Walter Elliot
*1938: John Colville
*1940: Ernest Brown
*1941: Thomas Johnston
*1945: Harry Primrose, 6th Earl of Rosebery
*1945: Joseph Westwood
*1947: Arthur Woodburn
*1950: Hector McNeil
*1951: James Stuart
*1957: John Maclay
*1962: Michael Noble
*1964: William Ross
*1970: Gordon Campbell
*1974: William Ross
*1976: Bruce Millan
*1979: George Younger
*1986: Malcolm Rifkind
*1990: Ian Lang
*1995: Michael Forsyth
*1997: Donald Dewar

The office of the Keeper of the Great Seal was transferred on 6 May 1999, to the First Minister, in accordance to the terms of section 45(7) of the Scotland Act 1998.

*1999: Donald Dewar
*2000: Henry McLeish
*2001: Jack McConnell
*2007: Alex Salmond

Notes and references


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