While Scottish heraldry is quite similar to the heraldic features of England it still retains its own distinctive aspects and its own authority separated from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. Scottish coats of arms are granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms who is also the chief executive when it comes to genealogy and pedigree. What is more is that he work as chief supervisor of all ceremonies held in Scotland, whether they be royal, state or public. One of the first examples of Scottish coats of arms is a Stewart seal from the late 12th century.
Since the connection to a particular clan and family is extremely important in Scotland, heraldry has always been very popular. An example serving to illustrate the difference to English coats of arms is the variation of Scottish family coats of arms: In Scottish heraldry, junior members are assigned a significantly different armourial bearing than their ancestors because it is believed that people with the same family name can be related very distantly. Therefore, basic coats of arms are rare in Scotland, whereas there is a large number of variations of those arms. Furthermore it can be said that Scottish country houses do often provide precious and elegant designer furniture with important family crests and old symbols.
Another crucial feature of Scottish heraldry is the use of a motto: The scroll that features the motto is depicted above the crest and not beneath it, as is the case in other heraldic traditions. Thus, a Scottish coat of arms can easily be recognised. The motto can not be changed in Scottish heraldry since it belongs to the crest; in other heraldic traditions this is different. Generally, a motto can appear in any language and is supposed to be catchy.
Moreover, the Scottish system of cadency, used distinguish different sons of one armiger, is also different from the system of cadency used in England. The English system adds small symbols, called brisures, to the charges while the Scottish system, called Stodart system, uses borders (bordures) around the shield. These borders are presented in different colours (tinctures) for each brother and can also appear as indented or engraved lines. By use of the Scottish system of cadency, the family tree can be represented very clearly.