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Scots Heraldry - The Heraldry Society of Scotland

Scottish Civic Heraldry - By Mich Taylor

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The pages that follow do not try to tell the full story of eight centuries of Scottish civic heraldry. All they try to do is set out a record of the  coats of arms – with the ‘additional trimmings’ of helmets and crests, supporters and compartments, crowns and coronets - of all Scotland’s councils, past and present, and to add to that record as more and more  councils have arms recorded in the Public Register. The aim is just to give everyone – from the heraldic enthusiast to the casual surfer who just happens across these pages - the chance;

  • to  see something of Scots civic heraldry’s long past and its active present,

  • to see something of its grandness and something of its eccentric oddities (for a nominally Presbyterian country Scotland has an awful lot of saints and bishops and abbots in its post Reformation civic heraldry),

  • to see it’s golden city crowns and its coloured burghal coronets,

  • to enjoy the sparse simplicity of some modern arms, 

  • and to wonder at the strange complexities of form and colour that some civic bodies have chosen for themselves.

Arms of Edinburgh City Council

City of Edinburgh

Contemporary Scottish Civic Heraldry

Scotland’s councils nowadays come in two kinds, area councils (including city and island councils) and community councils, but, because of two total upheavals in Scottish local government within a generation, there is not a council that dates back before 1975.  So modern Scots civic heraldry is, formally at least, still a young adult.

 Arms of Glasgow City Council in Cast Iron

City of Glasgow

But, however young Scotland’s civic heraldry may be, it contains coats of arm that are really quite old , like Dundee’s – in use by the royal burgh of Dundee certainly as early as 1416, recorded in 1673 for the royal burgh in the Public Register, ‘regranted’ to the City of Dundee District Council following the great local government upheaval of 1975, and ‘re-regranted’ to Dundee City Council following  the great upheaval of 1996. Although the City of Dundee Council’s bearings are, at the time of writing, officially just eight and a half years old, the coat on which they centre will before too long be celebrating its 500th birthday. 

And, of course, Scotland’s modern civic heraldry contains coats like Heldon Community Council’s that have yet to celebrate a single birthday.

All but two of the area councils, Aberdeenshire and East Renfrewshire have arms – some fairly ancient, like Dundee City Council’s, and some almost brand spanking new like South Lanarkshire Council’s 1997 coat.

As for the community councils, it will probably be a long wait until they all have arms, if they ever do. After all there were only ever 68 royal burghs  and by the time they were abolished in 1975 there was still one, that had its origins as a royal burgh in the 13th century, but that at its end, nearly six centuries on, still did not have arms!


Click for Community Council Page

Community Councils

Click for Area, Island & City Coiuncils page

Area, Island & City Councils

The Lost Twenty-one Years – 1975 to 1996

Burgh Seal

 Ayr Burgh Seal


The twenty one years between 1975 and 1996 saw the sudden rise and the quick demise of the regional and district councils – as well as the birth of the community councils. The regional councils, sort of mega-counties, were an entirely new creation and so their heraldry was also an entirely new creation with almost all of it following a single uniform pattern. The districts were in effect counties deprived of almost all their historic authority but not of their geography, which meant that many district council’s arms were regrants of county ones, though there were some completely new coats. And, of course there were the community councils which are still with us and still acquiring arms.

Click For District Councils page

District Councils

Click for Regional Councils page

Regional Councils

Click for Community Councils page

Community Council Arms

The First Seven Centuries

The story of the first seven centuries of Scots civic heraldry is for a long while the story of burgh heraldry – at first the royal burghs and then the parliamentary burghs and the police burghs, with the counties joining in only for for the last couple of centuries – the first was the county of Roxburgh 1n 1798 - before the whole lot were abolished in the great upheaval of 1975.

But many of the early coats live on in modern heraldic use: in the north, Aberdeen’s coat from the 15th century is still in use by Aberdeen City Council, in the south the coat tussled over by Lord Lyon and the royal burgh of Jedburgh in the late 1670s is still seen day by day in modern form on Jethart’s streets and every summer presides over the Callant’s Festival.

The Burghs

The Counties

Crowns, Coronets, Compartments and Other ‘Additional Trimmings’ 

As well as the pages setting out Scotland’s civic heraldry council by council, there is a short account of all the various sorts of, and entitlements to, the ‘additional trimmings’ that have over the centuries surrounded the actual coats and indeed still do.

R M Urquhart

These pages simply wouldn’t have been possible without all the detailed work done over decades by R M Urquhart and collected together in his three books that, unlike these few simple pages, really do tell the story of Scottish civic heraldry through the long continuities of the centuries and over the discontinuities of the 20th century upheavals.

A Tribute to RM Urquhart

Tribute to RM Urquhart

To  the Lyon Court – with thanks

For the kind and generous help that has also made these pages possible, especially in adding to RM Urquhart’s record those bearings that have been added to Scotland’s civic heraldry since his record ended.

The Civic Seal of Aberdeenshire

Civic Seal of Aberdeen


© The Heraldry Society of Scotland   last Update 27 Oct 2021