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Freemasonry in Scotland

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Title: Freemasonry in Scotland  
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Freemasonry in Scotland

Freemasonry in Scotland under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Scotland comprises the Scottish Masonic Constitution as regular Masonic jurisdiction for the majority of freemasons within Scotland, although there are also Lodges belonging to the Scottish Masonic Constitution in other (predominantly ex-British Empire and Commonwealth) countries outside the United Kingdom. The Grand Lodge of Scotland is independent from, though in amity with, both the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Today, it consists of 32 Provincial Grand Lodges in Scotland as well as 26 District Grand Lodges beyond the boundary of Scotland.[1]


  • History 1
  • Character 2
  • Organisation 3
  • References 4


John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl, the Scottish peer and Grand Master of the "Antients"
King George VI, former Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, with Scottish Freemasons
Robert Burns, member of several Scottish lodges (portraint by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787, detail)

It has been argued that regulated Freemasonry in Scotland is older than in any other part of the British Isles. The connection between the craft of stonemasonry and modern Freemasonry can be readily established in Scotland.[2] This direct connection can be traced from the oldest Masonic written records in the world and which are the property of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in Edinburgh.[3] These records are the meeting minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No.1 which date from 1599.[4][5] Lodge Mother Kilwinning is number 0 on the Roll of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and is reputed to be the oldest Lodge not only in Scotland, but the world. It is styled Mother Lodge of Scotland, attributing its origins to the 12th century, and is often called Mother Kilwinning.[6]

While in 1717 in four Lodges in London agreed to form the Premier Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland was not established until 1736. When in the second quarter of the 18th century the Grand Lodge of England made changes to their ritual, this not only caused frictions between Grand Lodge and many unaffiliated lodges in England, but also took Freemasonry as practiced in England and Wales out of step with the new Grand Lodges in Scotland and Ireland.[7] In 1751, a group of unaffiliated lodges of mainly Irish membership formed the Antient Grand Lodge of England, which grew rapidly and also benefited from early recognition by the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland.[8] In the ensuing debate, the newer English grand lodge became known for short as the "Antients", while the older English grand lodge was referred to as the "Moderns". In 1799, the Grand Lodge of Scotland supported the Duke of Atholl (Grand Master of the "Antients") and the Earl of Moira (Acting Grand Master of the "Moderns") to keep Freemasonry in the British Isles from being outlawed by British government legislation. In 1809 the "Moderns" started revising their ritual to a point where it was in step with the Antients, the Scots and the Irish.[9] It was not until 1813 that the "Antients" and "Moderns" agreed on an Act of Union and formed the United Grand Lodge of England. While the conflict between the "Antients" and "Moderns" was to have a profound impact on Freemasonry as practiced in England and Wales, it had comparatively little influence on Freemasonry in Ireland and Scotland. At the same time, Freemasonry in Scotland was able to maintain its distinct and unique character.


Freemasonry in Scotland has a unique character that is distinct from Freemasonry as practiced in other parts of the British Isles. When the Grand Lodge of Scotland was founded in 1736, the majority of Masonic Lodges then in existence in Scotland did not see the need for the new body. 79% did not support the creation of a new, centralised Masonic system as already existed in England and Wales as well as in Ireland.[10] Many Lodges in Scotland pre-existed the new Grand Lodge, all jealously guarding their traditions.[11]

As a result, the new Grand Lodge of Scotland did not attempt to standardize Masonic practice, in the hope that this would encourage the independent Lodges to come under the wing of the centralised Masonic system. In essence, Grand Lodge agreed not to interfere with local custom and practice as long as they were willing to join the new Scottish Masonic Constitution.[10]

Having guaranteed the principle of independence to the Lodges founded before 1736, it was considered impossible to deny Lodges founded after 1736 the same level of privilege. They were permitted to retain their own procedures, regalia, and distinctive rituals.[12] This and subsequent developments ensured that Freemasonry in Scotland is far less standardized than in any other part of the world.[10]


Lodges under the Scottish Masonic Constitution are sovereign bodies in their own right, with a considerable degree of control of their own affairs. There is no such thing as a single, standard Scottish ritual, and every Lodge under the Scottish Masonic Constitution has the right to devise its own ritual should it so wish although there are limits and is subject to scrutiny by Grand Lodge.[10] The various rituals in use contain the principal points of each Masonic degree, but the scope for elaboration is considerable, with numerous interesting additions. Lodges under the Scottish Masonic Constitution also have the right to choose the colours of the Lodge regalia, which may incorporate traditional tartan patterns.

Craft Lodges under the Scottish Masonic Constitution offer the three traditional Masonic degrees as well as the rank of Past (or Installed) Master. As in many other Masonic Constitutions, brethren in Scotland who have attained the degree of a Master Mason are able to extend their Masonic experience by taking further degrees in approved appendant bodies.[13] Most Freemasons in Scotland traditionally choose to be advanced as Mark Master Masons after completing the three degrees of Craft Freemasonry. However, relatively few brethren in Scotland then go on to join the Holy Royal Arch, while membership of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and the Royal Order of Scotland is more popular but tightly controlled and by invitation only.

Under the Scottish Masonic Constitution, the Mark Master degree can be received in two ways, either within a Craft Lodge after having attained the degree of Master Mason, or within a Royal Arch Chapter before taking the degree of Excellent Master. No one under the Scottish Masonic Constitution can be exalted as a Royal Arch Mason without previously having been advanced as a Mark Master Mason. English Royal Arch Masons will not be allowed into a Royal Arch Chapter in Scotland during a Mark working, unless they also hold that degree, which in England is administered by a separate "Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons". The Excellent Master degree does not exist in England, and English Royal Arch Masons are not permitted to attend these workings in Scotland. They may also be excluded from part of the Royal Arch working in Scotland which English Royal Arch Masons no longer use, although this is at the discretion of individual chapters. These restrictions do not apply to members of Royal Arch chapters in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and North America.[14]

There are a number of additional orders open only to freemasons, of which the fraternal organization open to both men and women, is currently gaining membership among Scottish freemasons.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dr David Stevenson, , (review no. 517)The Origins of Freemasonry Facts and FictionsReview of accessed 6 December, 2013
  3. ^ Stevenson, David (2001). The First Freemasons - Scotland's Early Lodges and their Members. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Grand Lodge of Scotland. p. 194.  
  4. ^ Stevenson, David (2001). The First Freemasons - Scotland's Early Lodges and their Members. Edinburgh: The Grand Lodge of Scotland.  
  5. ^ Lyon, David Murray (1873). History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) no.1. Embracing an account of the rise and progress of freemasonry in Scotland. William Blackwood and sons. p. 6. One leaf contains minutes of meetings in 1599, 1621, 1624, and 1641,each in the handwriting of a different scribe; upon another leaf are engrossed minutes of date 1601, 1615, and 1616; and on a third sheet are notes dated 1602, 1606, 1609, and 1619 ; and so on. 
  6. ^ Tailby, S.R.; Young, Hugh (1944), A brief history of Lodge Mother Kilwinning No. 0., retrieved 2007-03-30 
  7. ^ Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon The Formation of the Grand Lodge of the Antients, I. R. Clarke, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol 79 (1966), p. 270-73, retrieved 28 June 2012
  8. ^ Douglas Knoop, The Genesis of Freemasonry, Manchester University Press, 1947
  9. ^ Pietre-Stones Lodges of Instruction, Yasha Beresiner, retrieved 17 July 2012
  10. ^ a b c d Robert L. Cooper, 'Foreword', in: William R. Harvey, The Emblems of Freemasonry, Glasgow 2010, p. v-vi.
  11. ^ Cooper, Robert L D (2003). Scottish Masonic Aprons - Operative to Speculative. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Grand Lodge of Scotland. p. 57.  
  12. ^ Cooper, Robert L D (2003). Scottish Masonic Aprons - Operative to Speculative. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Grand Lodge of Scotland. p. 57.  
  13. ^ Robert L.D. Cooper, Cracking the Freemason's Code, Rider 2006, p229
  14. ^ Website of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland
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