Information Leaflet No. 3
SCOTTISH HERALDIC FLAGS
All heraldic flags In Scotland come under the legal jurisdiction of
the Lord Lyon King of Arms, in terms of the Act of Parliament 1672 cap.
47 and under 30 & 31 Vict. cap. 17. The Lord Lyon’s regulations
governing the display of heraldic flags in Scotland are broadly as
follows. Doubts and questions of exact detail should be referred to the
Court of the Lord Lyon, HM New Register House, Edinburgh, EH1 3YT,
The size of a flag depends on the site where it is flown, from very
small flags for table decorations to enormous flags for the top of a
tower. Clear legibility determines the size suitable. Therefore sizes
are only given hereafter for special flags, where the sizes are fixed by
The proportions of a flag, the relation of its width to its height,
remain constant regardless of its size. Where relevant, these are given
hereafter in the form "2:1", ie. a flag whose width is twice
The "hoist" is the part of the flag nearest to the pole.
The "fly" is the part of the flag furthest from the pole.
In long flags such as Standards, the devices are described in order
reading from the hoist to the fly.
All heraldic flags are designed with the convention that the pole is
on the left of the flag, from the spectator’s point of view. And it is
on this convention that the flag and its contents are described. A lion
rampant, for example, will face or "respect" the pole.
Heraldic devices are sewn right through the flag’s material, so on its
reverse side all the devices will be reversed left to right, and the
lion will still respect the pole. Lettering on flags such as Standards
is the only exception to this rule, otherwise the words would read
backwards on the reverse side. Such exceptions have to be of double
Any material suitable to the context and the owner’s pocket maybe
used for flags, from nylon or nylon-and-wool bunting for flags flown out
of doors to silk, satin and rich brocades for flags used for internal
display. Metallic nylon "Lurex" material gives good and
economic results when used for gold and silver.
Except in a few cases such as Standards, fringes are
regarded as mere decoration to be added or omitted at the owner’s
whim. Where used, they should be either plain and of the same metal
(gold or silver) that is predominant in the flag, or they may be of
alternate portions of the main colour and the main metal of the flag
There are no fixed "heraldic colours" for
flags. Any red that is clearly "red" and not orange or purple
is correct. In general it is found that the brightest possible colours
give the best effect. The rules of heraldic composition prevent garish
ie. Gold and Silver. These occur in almost all
heraldic flags, and can be shown either as yellow and white or as
metallic gold and silver. Whichever is chosen, its use should be
consistent within the flag. Not yellow AND gold.
10. THE UNION FLAG
Popularly called "The Union Jack", this is
the correct flag for all citizens and corporate bodies of the United
Kingdom to fly to demonstrate their loyalty and their nationality. It is
often flown upside down, and the rule is that the broader white
diagonals should be uppermost in the hoist, ie. next to the pole. Its
correct proportions are 2:1.
11. THE SALTIRE
The flag of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
Blue with a white or silver diagonal cross reaching to its edges, this
is the correct flag for all Scots or Scottish corporate bodies to fly to
demonstrate their loyalty and their Scottish nationality. Its
proportions are not fixed, but 5:4 is suitable. It is correct both to
fly it with or instead of the Union Flag.
12. THE "RAMPANT LION"
This is NOT a national flag and its use by citizens
and corporate bodies is entirely wrong. Gold, with a red rampant lion
and royal tressure. It is the Scottish Royal banner, and its correct use
is restricted to only a few Great Officers who officially represent the
Sovereign, including the Secretary of State for Scotland as Keeper of
the Great Seal of Scotland, Lord Lieutenants in their Lleutenancies, the
Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland. the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and other lieutenants specially
appointed. Its use by other, non-authorised persons is an offence under
the Acts 1672 cap. 47 and 30 & 31 Vict. cap. 17.
13. THE PERSONAL BANNER
This is often wrongly called a "Standard"
(see para. 17 below) and is the personal flag of the owner of a coat of
arms (an "armiger"). It shows his personal coat of arms
granted to him by the Lord Lyon or inherited in right of an ancestor,
and protected to him by the Law of Scotland. The coat of arms fills the
banner right to its edges, as though it were a rectangular shield. It is
quite wrong to use a banner of a plain colour with the owner’s arms on
a shield in the middle. This would mean that the owner’s arms were of
that colour with a lithe inescutcheon In the centre. Nor should the
external "additaments" be shown, ie. helmet, mantling, crest,
motto and supporters. Its purpose is the location and identification of
its owner, and it Is the visual equivalent of his name. No one else may
use it. Flown over his house it denotes that he is there, and as a house
flag its proportions are 5:4. The size of a house flag depends on the
height of the building and the pole, and it should be large enough to be
intelligible at the height at which it is flown.
For personal use, the size and shape varies according
to rank, as follows, excluding any fringes: -
|The Sovereign :
||60 Inches square
||48 Inches square
||42 inches square
|Barons and Feudal
||36 Inches square
|Other Armigers :
||28 inches wide x 35
14. CARRYING FLAGS
These are personal banners for carrying in
processions, either by their owners or their appointed henchmen, for
example at Highland Games. They are made of silk or satin or bunting at
their owner’s choice and may be fringed or not. When so used, there
are regulation sizes according to rank, not including any fringes, as
||48 inches wide x 60
|Feudal Barons :
||36 inches wide x 45
|Other Chiefs :
||33 inches wide x 42
||30 inches wide x 36
Other sizes may occasionally be laid down by the Lord
Lyon for special occasions.
15. CORPORATION BANNERS
These are the equivalent of personal banners for
companies or other corporate bodies, such as Regional or District
Councils, which have been granted arms by the Lord Lyon. The flag shows
the coat of arms filling its whole rectangular shape, as for personal
banners (para. 13). The extent of its usage depends upon the corporate
body, whether it is only flown over the headquarters building or at all
the company’s or corporation’s sites. Its use as a car bonnet flag
is restricted to the head of the corporate body and when he is acting as
such. Its proportions are 5:4.
16. PIPE BANNERS
These are banners of personal arms as in para.
13, but cut slanted at the top to fit against the big drone and hang
down the piper’s back. They are used by most Chiefs and Lairds who
have personal pipers, and by the Highland regiments whose company
commanders’ pipe banners are displayed on the regiment’s pipes. The
correct usage is for the arms to fill the entire banner to its edges,
but some regiments have different customs, such as showing the whole
achievement including supporters, or the crest alone. Such traditions
are now hallowed by the centuries and are permitted. The pipe-majors of
local government or works pipe-bands may display their appropriate
pipe-banner of the corporation or company’s arms.
SPECIAL HERALDIC FLAGS
17. THE STANDARD
This is a long, narrow tapering flag, granted by the
Lord Lyon only to those who have a "following", such as Clan
Chiefs, because it is a "Headquarters" flag. It is used to
mark the assembly point or Headquarters of the Clan or following, and
does not necessarily denote the presence of the Standard’s owner as
his personal banner does. Ancient standards usually showed the national
Saltire in the hoist, next to the pole, but nowadays usually show the
owner’s personal arms. The remainder of the flag is horizontally
divided into two tracts of his "livery colours" for Chiefs of
Clans or families, three tracts for very major branch-Chieftains, and
four for others. Those of peers and barons have the end split into two
and rounded. Upon this background are usually displayed the owner’s
crest and heraldic badges, separated by transverse bands bearing the
owner’s motto or slogan. The standard is fringed with the alternating
livery colours. The height of the standard is not fixed, but it is
usually about 4 feet at the pole tapering to about 24 inches at the end.
The length of the standard varies according to the rank of its owner, as
|The Sovereign :
||6 1/2 yards
||5 1/2 yards
||4 1/2 yards
|Knights and Barons :
The standards of non-baronial chiefs, or others who for special
reasons get standards, have round unsplit ends.
The height of the flagpole should take account of the
length of the standard when hanging slack.
On rare occasions a uniform length of standard for a
decorative display may be laid down by the Lord Lyon.
Where it is desired to display other matter along
with the National Flag the Standard is the appropriate form of flag. It
should show the Saltire Flag or the Union Jack in the hoist, and the
remainder of the flag may contain lettering appropriate to the user’s
purpose, for example the name of an exhibition or site of a gathering.
18. THE GUIDON
This is a similar shape to the Standard, and is
one-third shorter than the Standards assigned to Feudal Barons. It is 8
feet long, and is assigned by the Lord Lyon to Lairds who have a
following, as for Standards, but are of non-baronial tenure. The Guidon
tapers to a round, unsplit end at the fly, has a fringe of the livery
colours, and has a background of the livery colours of its owner’s
arms. The owner’s Crest or Badge (formerly his arms without
supporters) are shown In the hoist, with his motto or slogan In the fly.
19. THE PENNON
This is similar to the Guidon but half its length, ie.
4 feet. It Is assigned to armigers in very rare cases and circumstances
20. THE PINSEL
This is the flag denoting a person to whom a Clan
Chief has delegated his authority for a particular occasion, such as a
Clan Gathering when the Chief himself is absent, In a word, the flag of
the Chiefs representative. It is triangular in shape, 2 feet high at the
hoist and tapering to 4 feet 6 inches in width, with a background of the
main livery colour of the Chiefs arms. On it is shown the Chiefs crest,
within a strap of the second livery colour and buckle (gold for full
Chiefs), bearing the motto, and outside the strap and buckle a gold
circlet (outlined in green if the background is not a contrasting colour
to gold) inscribed with the Chief’s or Baron’s title. On top of this
circlet is set the owner’s coronet of rank or his baronial cap. In the
fly is shown the owner’s plant badge and a scroll inscribed with his
slogan or motto. This flag is allotted only to Chiefs or very special
Chieftain-barons for practical use, and only upon the specific authority
of the Lord Lyon King of Arms.
21. NATIONAL FLAGS
The Union Flag and/or the Scottish Saltire Flag may
be freely flown by any Scot or Scottish
Corporate body anywhere in Scotland, to demonstrate
their nationality and allegiance. No special permission is required, and
either or both may correctly be flown.
22. THE ‘LION RAMPANT’
The personal banner of the King of Scots may NOT be
flown by anyone other than those specifically authorised as variously
representing the Sovereign, as set out in para. 12 above. Its use by
other non-authorised persons is an offence under the Acts 1672 cap. 47
and 30 & 31 Vict. cap. 17. The freedom of use accorded to the
Saltire Flag is NOT extended to the Scottish Royal Banner.
23. PERSONAL AND CORPORATE HERALDIC FLAGS
All of these are rigorously protected to their owners
by the Laws of Arms in Scotland, and they may be flown by no one else.
Transgression of the law is an offence, and the Court of the Lord Lyon
includes a Procurator Fiscal whose duty it is to prosecute the