First Minister swearing in ceremony

Published: 19 May 2021

This week, the Keeper attended the ceremony when Nicola Sturgeon is formally sworn in for the third time as First Minister of Scotland.

The First Minister’s formal title is First Minister and Keeper of the Scottish Seal. The seal, otherwise known as the Great Seal of Scotland, allows the monarch to authorise official documents without having to sign each one individually.

By being Keeper of the Scottish Seal, Nicola Sturgeon will have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the crown. In practice it means that the First Minister can lead the country with the support of the Scottish Parliament.

In her role as Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, Jennifer is also Deputy Keeper of the Scottish Seal, so she has a statutory duty to attend the ceremony alongside the seal. Events such as this are a reminder of the important role RoS plays in governance for Scotland.

The ceremony takes place in the Court of Session in Edinburgh in front of the Lord President of the Court of Session and senior judges. The elected First Minister takes an oath of allegiance, as set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, promising to serve the monarch throughout her time in office, and then sign a parchment, officially confirming her position.

We spoke to Jennifer after the ceremony.

‘Today was one of those unique career highlight moments - to be in Court Number 1 at the Court of Session to witness the swearing in of the First Minister. I was there in my role as the Deputy Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland - with the Great Seal itself, resplendent on its special velvet cushions - as part of the ceremony involves the First Minister being formally appointed as the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland.

Ahead of travelling to the Court I’d met with David from our Chancery and Judicial Registers team and Nick from our security team to have a practice of unlocking the Great Seal box and getting the Great Seal out - not as simple as it might sound - the locked box sits within a satchel that has several buckles and the two halves of the Great Seal are really heavy! However, the practice was worth it and the Seal was safely set up in the courtroom with plenty of time to spare before the First Minister and the Members of the Judiciary who participate in the ceremony arrived.

COVID restrictions meant the courtroom was much less crowded than it would normally be for the ceremony - which meant it was an even greater privilege to have the opportunity to be in the room and hear firsthand the words of the Lord President reading the declarations for the First Minister to assent to, and a very solemn reminder of what a significant set of responsibilities she is taking on in the role. I am looking forward to continuing to support her in a small but important part of these duties, in my role as Deputy Keeper of the Great Seal.’