A sheriffdom is a judicial district in Scotland, led by a sheriff principal. Since 1 January 1975, there have been six sheriffdoms. Each sheriffdom is divided into a series of sheriff court districts, and each sheriff court is presided over by a resident or floating sheriff (a legally qualified judge). Sheriffs principal and resident or floating sheriffs are all members of the judiciary of Scotland.


Before 1975

Main article: Historical development of Scottish sheriffdoms

Sheriffdoms were originally identical to the shires of Scotland, originating in the twelfth century. Until the eighteenth century the office of sheriff was often hereditary, but this was ended 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".[1] The sheriff deputes, who were paid a salary by the Crown, were qualified advocates and took charge of sheriff courts.[2] By the nineteenth century, the office of sheriff principal was an additional title held by the lord lieutenant of the county, and the Circuit Courts (Scotland) Act 1828 redesignated sheriff deputes as simply "sheriffs".[3]

The Sheriffs Act of 1747 also began the grouping of two or more counties under a single sheriffdom. This process continued so that by 1975 there were 12 sheriffdoms with only the county of Lanarkshire not combined.

Since 1975

New boundaries defined sheriffdoms in reference to regions, districts and islands areas which were then to be created on 16 May 1975.[4] This reduced the number of sheriffdoms to six.

The sheriffdoms were redefined again with effect from 1 April 1996, when new local government areas were created.[5] The boundaries of four sheriffdoms were unchanged. The boundaries of the other two were altered, so as to transfer an area around Chryston from the sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin to the sheriffdom of South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway. Elsewhere boundaries were simply redefined by reference to new local authority areas and electoral wards.[6]

Sheriffdom Counties comprised in sheriffdom from 1 January 1975 Regions, Island areas and Districts comprised in sheriffdom from 16 May 1975 Areas comprised in sheriffdom from 1 April 1996
Glasgow and Strathkelvin That part of the County of Lanark comprising the sheriff court district of Glasgow The districts of City of Glasgow and Strathkelvin City of Glasgow, part of East Dunbartonshire (wards 11–26); and part of South Lanarkshire (wards 62–74)
Grampian, Highland and Islands The counties of Inverness, Nairn, Ross and Cromarty, Moray, Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Zetland, Aberdeen, Kincardine and Banff; and that part of the County of Argyll comprised in the existing sheriff court district of Fort William The regions of Grampian and Highland, the Islands areas of Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles
Lothian and Borders The counties of East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, Berwick, Peebles, Roxburgh and Selkirk The regions of Lothian and Borders City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian and Scottish Borders
North Strathclyde The counties of Renfrew, Argyll (without the part comprised in the existing sheriff court district of Fort William), Dunbarton, Bute and that part of the county of Ayr comprising the sheriff court district of Kilmarnock The districts of Argyll and Bute, Dumbarton, Clydebank, Bearsden and Milngavie, Renfrew, Eastwood, Inverclyde, Cunninghame and Kilmarnock and Loudoun Argyll and Bute, North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire; part of East Ayrshire (wards 1-20); and part of East Dunbartonshire (wards 1–10)
South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway The counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown; that part of the county of Ayr comprising the sheriff court district of Ayr The region of Dumfries and Galloway; the districts of Monklands, Cumbernauld, Hamilton, Motherwell, East Kilbride, Kyle and Carrick and Cumnock and Doon Valley South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and North Lanarkshire; part of East Ayrshire, (wards 21–30) and part of South Lanarkshire (wards 1-61)
Tayside, Central and Fife The counties of Perth, Angus, Stirling, Clackmannan, Fife and Kinross The regions of Tayside, Central and Fife Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, Falkirk, Fife, Perth and Kinross and Stirling

Each sheriffdom has a full-time Sheriff Principal. Sheriffdoms are divided into Sheriff Court Districts, each with one or more sheriff.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Whetstone, Ann E. (1977). "The Reform of the Scottish Sheriffdoms in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries". Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies. 9 (1): 61–71. doi:10.2307/4048219. JSTOR 4048219.
  2. ^ "Guide to Sheriff Court Records". National Archives of Scotland. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  3. ^ 9 Geo.4 c.29 s,22 "Sheriff-Deputes may be addressed by the title of Sheriff without the term Depute being added."
  4. ^ The Sheriffdoms Reorganisation Order 1974 S. I. 1974/2087 (S.191)
  5. ^ The Sheriffdoms (Alteration of Boundaries) Order 1996 S. I. 1996/1006 (S.109)
  6. ^ Explanatory note, The Sheriffdoms (Alteration of Boundaries) Order 1996