The Scottish Tartans Authority (STA) is a Scotland-based organisation dedicated to preserving and promoting knowledge of Scottish tartans and Highland dress. It was formed in 1996 by former members of the Scottish Tartans Society (STS). The organisation is dedicated to informing and educating the public about tartan, to facilitating research into tartan and Scottish heritage, to representing and supporting the businesses involved in the tartan sector and to maintaining the collection and library of tartan related artefacts, manuscripts and books.
Membership of the Scottish Tartans Authority is made up of organisations involved in the tartan and Highland-wear industry, such as weavers and retailers, as well as members of the public, with an interest in Scottish history and heritage. The Scottish Tartans Authority is a registered charity in Scotland and the only non governmental organisation dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting tartan, but they no longer act as a registry. Their large International Tartan Index (ITI) database of over 7,000 tartans (which already subsumed databases from STS and IATS-TECA) was merged into that of the Scottish government's official Scottish Register of Tartans in early 2009.
The organisation has the aim of establishing a National Tartan Centre (NTC). The proposed centre would be a home and showcase for tartan - presenting the iconic cloth to the world.
The NTC will be:
As of 2016,the STA is working with a range of partners to find a permanent home for the centre.
Membership in the STA is open to anyone, with fees ranging from £20 yearly for private membership, to £50 for business membership, and £500 for lifetime membership, as of 2016. The Scottish Tartans Authority maintains a website which lists about 3,500 different tartans, though detailed information of each design is only available to members. There are a range of membership benefits, according to the website but perhaps most importantly membership directly contributes to ensuring that one of Scotland's most treasured icons is maintained for future generations of Scots, both home and abroad.
The Scottish Tartans Authority effectively subsumed most of the operations of the Scottish Tartans Society (STS, defunct since 2000) and its offshoot the Scottish Tartans World Register (STWR, moribund as of the mid-2010s, though its website still operates as of 2020), as well as International Association of Tartan Studies and Tartan Educational and Cultural Association (IATS-TECA, which merged in the 1990s, then folded in the 2000s). However, STA's tartan registration processes (and thus those inherited from STA, STWR, and IATS-TECA) have been transferred to the Scottish government's official Scottish Register of Tartans (SRT), leaving STA primarily in an educational and preservation role.
STA, like the Scottish Tartans Society, was granted a coat of arms by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The arms, granted in 2004, contain a shuttle, an ell measure, and a book. Also included upon the arms is a white fret on a blue background. This symbolises the weaving process in making a tartan, and alludes to St Andrew's cross which appears in Scotland's national flag, the Saltire. The heraldic motto, "Weave truth with trust", is borrowed from the Worshipful Company of Weavers, a London livery company first awarded a royal charter in 1155.
The database of the Scottish Tartans Authority, the International Tartan Index (ITI), is a record of all known tartan designs up to early 2009. This database is very similar to, and was originally based on, the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans (RAPKT) of the Scottish Tartans Society, but contains more than twice as many entries - about 7,000, including variations, although the STA's website organizes them into around 3,500 entries. The ITI absorbed entries from International Registry of Tartans (IRT), also known as TartanArt, the database of IATS/TECA. ITI entries have subsequently been included in the database of the Scottish Register of Tartans, which launched in February 2009.
The Scottish Tartans Authority's website includes information on how to wear Highland dress, the history of tartan and the kilt (with many period illustrations), and the links between Scottish surnames and Scottish clans. They deal with a wide variety of enquries about tartan. The STA's website no longer accepts tartan registration requests, and directs interested parties to the Scottish Register of Tartans.