In Scottish clans, an armigerous clan carries a coat of arms collectively rather than having a dedicated armiger (arms bearer). Specifically, it is a clan, family, or name that is registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon and once had a chief who bore undifferenced arms, but does not have a chief currently recognized as such by Lyon Court. However, the validity of the status is disputed.
Before 1745, all chiefs had arms. However, not all of these are recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, which was only established in 1672. In Scottish heraldry, only chiefs or heads of clans, families, or names bear undifferenced arms. A clan is considered a "noble incorporation" because a clan chief is a title of honour in Scotland and the chief confers his or her noble status onto the clan. Clans which do not have such chiefs are not recognised as noble communities and have no legal standing.
However, the idea of an armigerous clan is questionable under Scottish law. In Lord Lyon's view
There is a widespread misconception that a family or a clan can have a family or clan Coat of Arms. Many heraldic and clan web sites and other media suggest that a person has the right to use the family or clan Arms. This is completely incorrect...What is permitted is for a member of a clan to use the clan crest. Usually what is referred to as the clan Coat of Arms is in fact the personal Arms of the chief of the clan which can only be used by the chief.
- Lord Lyon information leaflet 10 http://www.scotarmigers.net/pdfs/info-leaflet-10.pdf
- "The search for clan chiefs". The Court of the Lord Lyon. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
- "What is a clan?". The Court of the Lord Lyon. Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-11.