The Scottish Register of Tartans

19 May 2024
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Tartan name

Your proposed tartan name should describe the nature and purpose of your tartan as clearly and succinctly as possible, using the English language, taking into account the guidelines below. Note: American English spellings will be corrected to British English where appropriate. If you wish to submit your application in another language then please contact us for advice.

  • The proposed name must be unique on the Register. Your name may be amended if it is found to be too similar to the name of an existing registered tartan. It must differ from the names of all tartans already included on the Register. Spelling variants of family names, e.g. McLeod and MacLoud or MacName and McName, will be regarded as the same name for the purposes of registration.
  • The proposed name must be no more than 200 characters in length.
  • You must be able to demonstrate a personal association with the proposed name. You must therefore explain fully why you have chosen the proposed name and explain your association with it.
  • The Keeper may refuse an application if your association is not determined to be sufficient or substantial. A general interest in a subject matter may not be considered to be a sufficient or substantial association.
  • Tartan names cannot be used as a means of promoting political statements or to represent political campaigns or ideology.
  • If you are applying to register a tartan on behalf of a third party, whether an individual, clan, corporation, place, regiment or other body, you must provide evidence of your authority to use their name for the tartan.
  • Where the name of a tartan is a surname and that surname has a chief, head of the whole name or commander for that clan or family, then written approval from the chief, head or commander is required. These tartans will be put in the Clan / Family tartan category.
  • Tartan names cannot be deemed to be a design that represents a group or multiple groups unless there is an official person who represents the group or all the groups and authority is received from that person or convening organisation.
  • Tartan names in the Name category must include a surname and a forename or initial followed by (Personal) with the applicant(s) having a clear association with the proposed surname(s) and forename(s). The year of registration or geographical location may be added to the tartan name in order to make the name unique. Thus, any tartans in the Name category will be in the following format:
    1. 'Surname, Forename (Personal)'; or
    2. 'Surname, Initial (Personal)'; or
    3. 'Surname, Forename & Family (Personal)'; or
    4. 'Surname, Initial & Family (Personal)'; or
    5. 'Surname, Forename (Year) (Personal)'; or
    6. 'Surname, Forename, location (Personal)'; or
    7. 'Surname, Forename - Wedding (Personal)'; or
    8. 'Surname, Forename & Surname, Forename - Wedding (Personal)'.
  • Note that it is not acceptable to include the word ‘Tartan’ in the tartan name.
  • The addition of tartan descriptors, Hunting and Dress, to a tartan name will only be accepted for the purposes of registration where an original tartan of the same name is registered e.g Ferguson, A, Hunting (Personal) can only be registered if Ferguson, A (Personal) has already been registered. You may be required to offer proof of your association with an original existing tartan and appropriate authority to register a further version of it. The use of ‘Modern’ or ‘Ancient’ will not be accepted as these are tartan terms for different shades (softer or brighter) of the same colours and would therefore not be considered to unique or sufficiently different. The use of colours is also not acceptable.
  • Tartan names cannot include religious titles or names of Saints unless the name of the Saint is included because it is within the official name of a building, place or official organisation.
  • The proposed name must not include a country or place or give the impression that the tartan has the official backing of a clan/family, organisation, regiment, city, state or other place unless evidence of official backing is submitted. You should explain your personal association with the name and why you have chosen it. The Keeper may refuse an application if your association is not determined to be sufficient or substantial.
  • A tartan cannot be the name of anything that is already covered by an official registered trademark or is an idea or intellectual property owned by an individual or group without their express permission in the form of written authority.
  • Where a tartan is named after a specific event and if there is a body that is responsible for organising that event then authority from that body to include the event in the tartan name is required.

The preposition 'of' has a specific meaning in Scots law indicating ownership of all the lands so described. Please do not use 'of' in the tartan name unless you can demonstrate ownership of the lands so described.

Only titles recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland may be used in naming tartans.

Please use the links below to access information relative to specific types of names.

Scottish clan and family names
The applicant must be the head or chief of the family or clan, or have the written authority of the head or chief. Where there is no chief or head, the authority of the Clan or Family Society will be acceptable to register a Clan Society tartan. All applications to register Scottish clan or family tartans will be submitted to the Court of the Lord Lyon for advice and comment.

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Name and Personal Name tartans
A tartan named for an individual, whether alive or dead or for family names that are not within the Clan / Family category. This category is used for a personal name. Note that applicants can no longer register tartan names that contain only a surname or surname and year because they cannot be deemed to represent the Clan /Family without the written authority. See the Clan / Family category above. There must be a clear association between the applicant and the name of the tartan. If registering a tartan on behalf of a third party, the applicant must provide written evidence of third party approval for the publication of his or her name in the Register. Contact details should be provided for the person who will be controlling the future use of the tartan. Note that it is not acceptable to include the word ‘Tartan’ in the tartan name. The name has to be unique so the addition of a year or location might be required to identify a specific tartan. Examples of acceptable name formats are listed below:

  • Ferguson, Alasdair (Personal)
  • Ferguson, A (Personal)
  • Ferguson, Alasdair, & Family (Personal)
  • Ferguson, A, & Family (Personal)
  • Ferguson, Alasdair (2018) (Personal)
  • Ferguson, Alasdair, Inverness (Personal)
  • Ferguson, Alasdair - Wedding (Personal)
  • Ferguson, Alasdair & Brown, Mary - Wedding (Personal)

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Corporate tartans for organisations and groups
Where a tartan is named for a company or organisation, giving the impression of an association with it and using either its official title or a commonly used nickname, then the application must be accompanied by a letter of authority from a prominent office-bearer in the appropriate body, eg. the Chief Executive.

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District and place names
Where a tartan is named after a country, a state, a district, a town or a city, giving the impression of an association with any central or local authority, public or private initiative, an application must be accompanied by a letter of authority from a prominent office-bearer in the appropriate body.

Where there is no single local authority to authorise a district or place name tartan, then the applicant will be expected to seek approval from a higher authority or from all local authorities which may have an interest or influence in the district concerned.

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Military and regimental names
The applicant will be expected to submit evidence that the tartan has been endorsed by the Commanding Officer (or equivalent) of the regiment concerned.

There must be a clear, obvious association between the tartan name and the regiment/organisation.

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Royal tartans
The applicant must submit written authority from a senior official from within the relevant royal household.

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