The Scottish Register of Tartans (SRT) is Scotland's official non-ministerial department for the recording and registration of tartan designs, operating since 5 February 2009. As a governmental body, SRT is headquartered at HM General Register House in Edinburgh and is a division of the National Records of Scotland (NRS), formerly of the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) before its merger into NRS. SRT is the centralised agency for the recording of known historical tartans and for paid registration of new tartan designs, which must fulfill fairly stringent criteria. SRT subsumed this registration role from a variety of previous not-for-profit and commercial organisations, most now defunct. Since December 2018, the Keeper of the Scottish Register of Tartans is the head of the NRS (who is also the Keeper of Records and Registrar General for Scotland more broadly). SRT's tartan database itself is also named the Scottish Register of Tartans. It is uncertain how large the database is, but it has absorbed records of at least 7,000 tartans from previous registries, in addition to accepting new entries from 2009 onward.
The government of Scotland had been considering sponsoring an official register of tartans, following a member's bill submitted by Jamie McGrigor MSP in February 2007. On 9 October 2008, the Scottish Parliament passed the "Scottish Register of Tartans Bill". On 13 November 2008, the bill received royal assent. The register's website was publicly launched on 5 February 2009.
The Keeper of the Scottish Register of Tartans is the same person as the Keeper of the Records of Scotland and Registrar General for Scotland - roles that merged with the merger of the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) and General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) into the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in 2011. Since December 2018, this has been NRS Chief Executive Paul Lowe.
SRT's database, also named simply Scottish Register of Tartans (SRT), is accessible without fee via the website TartanRegister.gov.uk. The purpose of the register is to provide a definitive and accessible resource to preserve specific tartan designs, including their thread counts. The data set comprises the pre-existing registrations of at least 7,000 tartans from the Scottish Tartans Authority (STA) International Tartan Index (ITI), which in turn had absorbed those of the Scottish Tartans Society (STS) Register of All Publicly Known Tartans (RTAS) and the IATS-TECA TartanArt Database a.k.a. International Registry of Tartans (IRT). The SRT also includes the records of the self-titled Scottish Tartans World Register (STWR) database, which were mostly but not entirely duplicative of the combined ITI records. From its 5 February 2009 launch date, SRT includes new registrations not found in any prior collections. Consequently, the SRT database includes all known records of historical tartans as well as many modern ones, which are often asserted to be intellectual property of particular individuals and organisations. The SRT database uses its own index-numbering system, while also preserving the ITI and STWR numbers when such designations already exist for a particular tartan.
SRT users can register new tartans for a fee via the website or post, search for and request the thread counts of existing tartans (after registering for a free account), and receive notifications of newly registered tartans. The criteria for a new registration are fairly restrictive, requiring a clearly distinct name following one of several prescribed patterns, which must not confusingly misuse various pre-defined terms; authority to use the name, especially if it implies official recognition and acceptance by a clan, an organisation, or a jurisdiction; a design "sufficiently different" from all previously recorded tartans; and either a woven sample, a photograph thereof, or an accurate digitally rendered picture of the tartan. Thus, a significant amount of research and documentation is required, and the application fee is non-refundable, including upon rejection of an application. Amendments to SRT-specific records require a fee, but may be declined if they would effectively result in a new design; correction of errors in data imported from ITI or STWR do not require fees but generally require documentation.
Between 1951 and 1992, the Lord Lyon King of Arms has recorded (or "noted") 28 distinct tartans in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland and a further 39 in the Lyon Court Book, for a total of 74 including some minor variations. These were recorded for certain specific purposes, usually official designation by clan chiefs and by authorized representatives of organisations (some as far removed from Scotland as Canadian provinces and a United States military academy). The office of the Lord Lyon has ceased direct tartan-recording activities, except in theory by direct petition from a clan chief or from a city or other government as a matter of heraldry. All of these tartans are also included in ITI and thus in STR.
Registering with SRT does not automatically confer a copyright registration in the usual sense, but the application process provides for the recording of any asserted copyright status, which is sufficient under the Berne Copyright Convention. Any applicable trademark assertion can also be recorded with an application. Registry entries for a tartan may show copyright or trademark registration numbers from other bodies, such as the UK Intellectual Property Office, if submitted with the application or later in an registry amendment request. SRT also permits registrants to record usage-restriction preferences in their tartan records (such as use only by family or organisation members), though there are no actual legal statutes by which such restrictions could be enforced, only an informal sense of tartan etiquette. For intellectual property purposes, inclusion in the Scottish Register of Tartans "provides evidence of the existence and date of [the] design".