The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs

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The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs (SCSC) is an organisation that represents the chiefs of many prominent Scottish Clans and Families.

List of Chiefly Clans


It describes itself as "the definitive and authoritative body for information on the Scottish Clan System". The Standing Council was founded in 1952 at a meeting called by the Lord High Constable of Scotland, with the first convener being the Earl of Elgin. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clans and Family Encyclopedia (Glasgow, Harper Collins, 1994) p 30) </ref>The present Convenor is Malcolm MacGregor, Chief of the Clan MacGregor. <ref></ref> Membership is open to Chiefs of Name with hereditary supporters, indicative of the status they have achieved, but there is also an elective procedure, while day to day administration is based in Edinburgh.<ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clans and Family Encyclopedia (Glasgow, Harper Collins, 1994) p 30) </ref> As well as dealing with requests for information and assistance from members, the administration is also involved with taking inquiries from manufacturers and craftsmen who wish to incorporate chiefly heraldry into their products. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clans and Family Encyclopedia (Glasgow, Harper Collins, 1994) p 30) </ref>The Standing Council is responsible for licensing products which meet its criteria. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clans and Family Encyclopedia (Glasgow, Harper Collins, 1994) p 30) </ref>It meets once a year in full session and there is also a committee which can meet more regularly if needed. <ref>George Way of Pean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 30</ref> Not all Clan Chiefs are active members of the Standing Council. The clan system is now largely concerned with issues of heritage and national identity. <ref></ref>


The objectives of the SCSC are stated in its 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, the Scottish Government, 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. 

The duties of a modern clan chief largely relate to their positions as the heads of clan associations – loose affiliations of mostly North American Scots émigrés who are eager to maintain links to their Caledonian roots.<ref></ref> In a recent submission to the Scottish Parliament- the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs emphasised their active role in promotion 'ancestral tourism'. <ref> </ref> They argued that Clan gatherings bring 'much needed tourism and economic benefits... not only to the clan heartlands, but to Scotland as a whole'. <ref> </ref>


The revival of interest in Scottish ancestry over the last 50 years has encouraged many clans and families, who had not previously done so, to look for a leader. For many clans this has involved searching for the person most directly descended from the last known chief of the clan.<ref></ref> This has led to a number of clans joining the Standing Council. Conversely, a number of clan chiefs have at their own request left the Standing Council, including the Duke of Fife, Chief of Carnegie, Charles Fergusson, Chief of Fergusson and the Earl of Gowrie, Duke of Ruthven. <ref></ref>

Recent Controversy

In 2012, The Standing Council came into conflict with the businessman Duncan Simpson. Simpson had proclaimed himself a Clan Chief of a clan entitled MacShimsi, but this was strongly refuted by Malcolm MacGregor- convener of the Standing Council- who termed Simpson a 'bogus chieftain' and stated: 'We need to notify people to beware people out there posing as chiefs. Scotland has attracted a number of these people who set themselves up as something that they are not.' <ref></ref> MacGregor was concerned with the issue of exploitation- that unknowing family members would be taken in by Simpson's claims and pay him for membership. <ref></ref> This demonstrates how the Standing Council functions to defend the authority and credibility of the Clan system. The Council asserts who and who is not a genuine chief. Furthermore, the office of the Lord Lyon stated:

'A clan chief is that person who has been recognised by the Lord Lyon as being in right of the undifferenced arms of the name. (The undifferenced arms are the plain coat of arms of a clan, a legal property recognised by the Lord Lyon, and passed down between father to the eldest male heir). No-one of the surname MacShimsi has ever recorded arms in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. It is also the case that no-one has been recognised in the undifferenced arms of Simpson.'<ref></ref>