Historical development of Scottish sheriffdoms
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By 1975 there were 12 sheriffdoms, with only Lanarkshire not grouped with another county. Following the abolition of the counties and formation of new local government areas in 1975 and 1996 the number of sheriffdoms has been reduced to six.
Shires originated in the twelfth century when the office of sheriff was introduced to Scotland. These shires eventually became the counties of Scotland. Malcolm III appears to have introduced sheriffs as part of a policy of replacing Gaelic forms of government with Norman feudal structures. This was continued by his sons Edgar, Alexander I and in particular David I. David completed the division of the country into sheriffdoms by the conversion of existing thanedoms.
The ending of heritable jurisdictions
The heritable sheriffdoms were:
Those appointed for life were:
Those held at pleasure were:
Following the unsuccessful Jacobite Rising of 1745 the Heritable Jurisdictions Act 1747 revested the government of the shires in the Crown, compensating those office holders who were displaced. The Sheriffs (Scotland) Act 1747 reduced the office of sheriff principal to a largely ceremonial one, with a sheriff depute or sheriff substitute appointed to each "county, shire or stewartry". The sheriff deputes, who were paid a salary by the Crown, were qualified advocates and took charge of sheriff courts. Where a sheriff depute was appointed to more than one county, he was aided by sheriff-substitutes.
Combinations after 1747
The six current sheriffdoms are (with Sheriffs Courts in brackets):
- Glasgow and Strathkelvin - (Glasgow)
- Grampian, Highland and Islands - (Aberdeen - Banff - Elgin - Fort William - Inverness - Kirkwall - Lerwick - Lochmaddy - Peterhead - Portree - Stornoway - Tain - Wick)
- Lothian and Borders - ( Edinburgh - Jedburgh - Livingston - Selkirk)
- North Strathclyde - ( Ayr - Campbeltown - Dumbarton - Dunoon - Greenock - Kilmarnock - Oban - Paisley)
- South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway - (Airdrie - Dumfries - Hamilton - Lanark - Stranraer)
- Tayside, Central and Fife - ( Alloa - Dundee - Dunfermline - Falkirk - Forfar - Kirkcaldy - Perth - Stirling)
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- Owen Ruffhead, The statutes at large: from Magna Carta to the end of the last parliament, 1761 [i.e. 1763], M. Baskett (1765 ) p. 104.
- Wallace, James (1890). The Sheriffdom of Clackmannan. A sketch of its history with a list of its sheriffs and excerpts from the records of court compiled from public documents and other authorities with preparatory notes on the office of Sheriff in Scotland, his powers and duties. Edinburgh: James Thin. pp. 7–19.
- Whetstone, Ann E. "The Reform of the Scottish Sheriffdoms in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries". Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies. The North American Conference on British Studies. 9 (1): 61–71. JSTOR 4048219.
- "Guide to Sheriff Court Records". National Archives of Scotland. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
- Whatley, Christopher A (2000). Scottish Society 1707-1820. Manchester University Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-7190-4540-0.
- 21 Geo.2 c.19
- The Sheriffs (Scotland) Act 1853 (16&17 Vict. c.92) provided that a number of sheriffdoms were to be combined when a vacancy in the office of either sheriff next occurred. The sheriffdoms to be combined were:
- Mid-Lothian with Peebles
- Sutherland with Caithness
- Banff with Elgin & Nairn
- Linlithgow with Clackmannan & Kinross
- Dumbarton with Bute
- Haddington with Berwick
- Roxburgh with Selkirk
- Wigton (sic) with Stewartry of Kirkcudbright
- "No. 26639". The Edinburgh Gazette. 29 November 1870. p. 3741.
- On the resignation of Benjamin Robert Bell, Sheriff of Banff, Elgin and Nairn, the shire of Banff was disunited from Elgin and Nairn and joined to Aberdeen and Kincardine and the shires of Elgin and Nairn were joined to Inverness on 25 March 1882. "The Resignation of Sheriff Bell". The Dundee Courier. 28 March 1882. p. 8.
- Union of Sheriffdoms Order 1946 S.I.1946/1037 (S.40): On the Sheriffdom of Ross, Cromarty & Sutherland becoming vacant
- Ross & Cromarty and Inverness Moray (formerly called Elgin) and Nairn united as the Sheriffdom of Inverness, Moray, Nairn & Ross & Cromarty
- Sutherland united with Caithness, Orkney & Zetland to form Sheriffdom of Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney & Zetland
- The counties disunited
- Bute united with Ayr to become the Sheriffdom of Ayr & Bute
- Renfrew united with Argyll to become the Sheriffdom of Renfrew & Argyll (in effect 18 July 1946)
- The office of Sheriff of Banff became vacant when the incumbent sheriff, Alexander Currie, was appointed Sheriff of Forfarshire."Scotland". Morning Chronicle. 14 January 1854. The Sheriffdoms were combined in January 1854 when the Sheriff of Elgin & Nairn, Benjamin Robert Bell, was appointed to the vacant office of Sheriff of Banff."Sheriffs Salaries". The Dundee Courier. 25 January 1854.
- United in June 1856: upon the death of William Horne, Sheriff of East Lothian Robert Bell, Sheriff of Berwickshire became Sheriff of Haddington & Berwick. "Sheriff-Ship of East Lothian". Caledonian Mercury. 18 June 1856.
- Alexander Burns Shand, Sheriff of Berwick & Haddington was appointed a Lord of Session in December 1872, and on the office becoming vacant Berwickshire was joined with Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire and Haddingtonshire to Midlothian. "No. 23927". The London Gazette. 10 December 1872. p. 6252.
- On the resignation of John Campbell Colquhoun, Sheriff of Dumbartonshire in 1854, Robert Hunter, Sheriff of Bute became Sheriff of Dumbarton & Bute "Legal Appointment". The Dundee Courier. 1 February 1854.
- On the death of Robert Hunter, Sheriff of Dumbarton & Bute on 25 December 1871 Bute was joined with Renfrewshire and Dumbarton was joined with Stirlingshire. "Epitome of the News". Leicester Mercury. 30 December 1871. p. 2.
- James Traill, sitting Sheriff Depute of Caithness and Sutherland was appointed Sheriff Depute of Caithness and George Cranstoun was appointed Sheriff Depute of Sutherland on 13 September 1806. "From the London Gazette". Caledonian Mercury. 18 September 1806.
- United under Hugh Lumsden, Sheriff of Sutherland on death of Robert Thomson, Sheriff of Caithness on 26 May 1857."Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries". Morning Chronicle. 30 May 1857. Lumsden resigned in June 1857 and George Dingwall Fordyce was appointed Sheriff of Sutherland and Caithness on 14 August 1857"No. 6729". The Edinburgh Gazette. 21 August 1857. p. 757.
- The counties of Sutherland and Caithness were disunited, with Caithness combined with Orkney and Shetland and Sutherland joined with Ross and Cromarty."No. 8087". The Edinburgh Gazette. 23 August 1870. p. 1001.
- On death of Sheriff of Linlithgow, John Cay in 1865 the sheriffdom was united under John Tait, formerly Sheriff of Clackmannan & Kinross
- On the resignation of George Monro, Sheriff of Linlithgow, Clackmannan and Kinross in August 1881 the three counties in the sheriffdom were disunited: Clackmannanshire was joined to Stirlingshire, Kinross-shire was joined to Fife and Linlithgow was joined to Midlothian and Haddington "Resignation of a Sheriff". The Dundee Courier. 30 August 1881.
- David Hector, Sheriff of Wigton & Kirkcudbright, died on 23 December 1874. The two counties were thereon joined with Dumfriesshire, with the Sheriff of that county, Mark Napier, becoming Sheriff of Dumfries and Galloway.
- On the death of George Napier, Sheriff of Peebles, on 29 August 1883 Peebles-shire was added to the Lothians.
- Sheriffdoms of Perth and Angus Order 1934 S.I. 1934/1299 (S.70) Sheriffdom of Perth having been vacant (due to death) since 11 November 1933, the counties of Perth and Forfar (commonly called Angus) united as the Sheriffdom of Perth & Angus from 24 November 1934.
- United on death of Adam Urquhart, Sheriif of Wigton, on 24 November 1860. Erskine Douglas Sandford, Sheriff and Steward of Kirkcudbright became Sheriff of Wigton & Kirkcudbright."Births, Deaths, Marriages and Obituaries". Morning Post. 29 November 1860. p. 8.
- United in 1868: on the resignation of William Oliver Rutherford, Sheriff of Roxburghshire, George Handasyde Pattison, Sheriff of Selkirkshire, became Sheriff of Roxburgh & Selkirk."Legal Appointment". Aberdeen Journal. 16 December 1868.
- The Sheriffdoms Reorganisation Order 1974 S. I. 1974/2087 (S.191)
- The Sheriffdoms (Alteration of Boundaries) Order 1996 S. I. 1996/1006 (S.109)