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7 June 2023

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St Hugh’s Principal is first woman to be appointed Lord Clerk Register of Scotland

Dame Elish Angiolini, Principal of St Hugh's College

His Majesty the King, on the recommendation of the First Minister of Scotland, has appointed Lady Elish Angiolini LT DBE PC KC FRSE, as the new Lord Clerk Register of Scotland, the first woman to be appointed to the role.

She succeeds the Lord Mackay of Clashfern, K.T., who retired from the office in November 2022, having held it since 2007.

The office is the oldest of the remaining great officers of state. Originally a clerical office in the 13th century, by the 15th century the Clerk Register was an officer of state with a seat in parliament. The other officers of state are the Keeper of the Great Seal (now the First Minister), the Lord Advocate, the Lord Justice-Clerk, and the Lord Justice General. Historically, the office has had three sets of functions: responsibility for public registers and records, Commissioner for the Regalia and Keeper of the Signet. Only the latter two remain.

The Lord Clerk Register, in their capacity as Keeper of the Signet, also fulfils a ceremonial function as the senior officer of the Society of Writers to the Signet. The WS Society dates back to 1594 and is part of the College of Justice. Writers to the Signet originally had special privileges in relation to the drawing up of documents which required to be signeted, but these have disappeared and the Society is now an independent, non-regulatory association of solicitors, mostly Edinburgh-based. The Lord Clerk Register issues commissions to new members. Although the Society is a private body, the register of commissions forms part of the records of the Court of Session, held by the National Archives of Scotland.

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