Sheriffs Principal

Judicial and administrative duties

Counsel and SolicitorsClick to enlarge image

Sheriffs principal head each of Scotland’s six sheriffdoms: Glasgow and Strathkelvin; Grampian, Highland and Islands; Lothian and Borders; North Strathclyde; South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway;  Tayside, Central and Fife.


See below for a list of the current sheriffs principal.

The position of Sheriff as the senior legal authority at local level is of ancient origin.  The current office, known as Sheriff Principal, has its origins in changes in the manner in which Scotland came to be ruled after 1745.  Legally qualified judges were appointed to succeed the old Sheriff Deputes whose positions were hereditary. The role has since become part judicial and part administrative.

Along with the Inner House of the Court of Session, sheriffs principal hear appeals against sheriffs’ decisions in civil cases. They sit alone in such cases. Sheriffs principal also hear some criminal cases and conduct major fatal accident inquiries.

Sheriffs principal have responsibility for ensuring the speedy and efficient disposal of business. They have some powers of appointment as well as a number of advisory, consultative and ceremonial functions. 

For more information about the office of sheriff principal click here.


Sheriffs principal are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister, who receives recommendations from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland. They must have been qualified as an advocate or solicitor for at least ten years.