City status in Scotland and the UK is a somewhat prestigious affair, with the title being granted by the British monarch. The question “Is Elgin a city?” is an intriguing debate as it raises questions about what defines a city in Scotland, and the town’s historical significance. This article delves into the history of city status in Scotland, Elgin’s claim to this title, and the factors that have shaped its standing over the years.
What qualifies a City to be a city in Scotland?
The legal basis for city status in the United Kingdom is rooted in the power of the British monarch to grant this designation. City status is officially granted by ‘letters patent’. This authority is not subject to specific conditions or criteria, making the process less straightforward and somewhat discretionary, though the monarch acts on the advice of their ministers. While city status doesn’t grant any special rights, it remains a highly esteemed title.
Elgin’s Claim to City Status
As we know, Elgin has a rich history, with its royal burgh status dating back to 1234. The presence of a 12th-century castle and the once-splendid Elgin Cathedral further bolster its historical significance. However, Elgin’s city claim has recently been a subject of much debate. Its ambiguous status stems from the lack of formal recognition in the past and the constantly changing definitions of a city in Scotland.
Historically, Royal Burghs were the most important settlements in Scotland. Between the early 1100s and 1700, nearly 100 Royal Burghs were created, with some of them, like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Perth, and Elgin, referring to themselves as cities even without formal recognition. In England and Wales, there was a tradition that city status was granted to towns with diocesan cathedrals, but this practice did not apply to Scotland, further complicating the concept of a city in Scotland.
The Evolution of Scottish Cities
Over time, several towns in Scotland have been granted city status or have claimed the title without formal recognition. Dundee, for example, received official recognition as a city in 1889, making it Scotland’s first officially recognised city. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929 designated Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee as “counties of cities”, indirectly implying that no other cities existed in Scotland at the time.
In the 21st century, Inverness, Stirling, Perth, and Dunfermline have all been granted city status in Scotland. Elgin unsuccessfully applied for city status in 2022 as part of the open competition for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
While Elgin’s claim to city status remains unrecognised, its historical importance and the evolving definition of a city in Scotland contribute to the ongoing debate.
The Question of Elgin’s City Status
Despite being listed as a small burgh in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, the “Is Elgin is a city or a town” debate has rumbled on. The Home Secretary in 1969 referred to six cities in Scotland, although he did not name them. This led to further confusion regarding Elgin’s status. However, from 1929 onwards, it is generally believed that Scotland had only four cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee.
Is Elgin still a city?
Elgin’s rich history and prominent landmarks position it as a historical city with deep cultural roots. However, in terms of legal recognition, Elgin does not hold city status. Legally at least, Elgin is not a city. The evolution of city designations in Scotland has led to Elgin’s rare position as a historical city and royal burgh without formal recognition.
What are Scotland’s recognised cities?
Scotland currently has eight cities officially recognised by the UK Government. These are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth, Stirling and Dunfermline.