New Code of Practice for treasure trove in Scotland

The Crown Office has launched the first ever Code of Practice for Treasure Trove in Scotland, designed to ensure that everyone who is involved with found objects of archaeological, historical or cultural significance understands the procedures which enable them to be claimed on behalf of the public.

Since ancient times, it has been part of the common law of Scotland that Treasure Trove and other property which is lost or abandoned, or has no obvious owner, belongs to the Crown.

These objects are held by the Crown on behalf of the people of Scotland. They do not belong to the owner of the land where they were found, or to the finder, but are allocated to public museums for research or public exhibition.

The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) accepts these objects on the Crown's behalf, and arranges for them to be housed in public museums around the country, acting on the advice of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel (SAFAP). The QLTR recognises the contribution of members of the public who make chance finds and will, in most cases, make an ex-gratia payment to the finder. The new Treasure Trove Code of Practice sets out the chain of responsibility for the various bodies involved and clarifies the process of determining the appropriate award for a particular object.

The code was officially unveiled at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Monday 2 February 2009, attended by the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Rembrancer (QLTR), Norman McFadyen CBE, and the Chair of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel, Professor Ian Ralston, of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh.

Mr McFadyen said: "Publication of the Code is a major step forward and will be of great interest, value and benefit to the diverse communities affected by it, whether they be in the field of museums or archaeology, metal detector users or indeed members of the general public with an interest in Scotland's Heritage.

"Treasure Trove has to date been an obscure area. The concept is well known, but the detail is not. In particular, there is a lack of public appreciation that there is a difference between the applicable law and the practical systems in Scotland and England. I am very grateful to the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel for the care which they have taken in producing the first comprehensive Code of Practice for Treasure Trove."

Ian Ralston added: 'The Panel hopes that the Code – available on-line and in printed form – goes a long way to explain the steps taken to ensure objects are allocated to public museums the length and breadth of Scotland – and that finders are properly recognized for their responsible actions in notifying their discoveries to the Treasure Trove unit. Metal-detectorists and the general public who discover any archaeological objects – not simply those of precious metal ? can enrich our national collections in significant ways.'


1. Under the "regalia minora" common law rights of the Crown in Scotland, it is the prerogative of the Crown to receive all lost and abandoned property which is not otherwise owned by anyone.

2. There is no statutory definition of Treasure Trove, but it largely relates to what may be described as "portable antiquities" and can cover virtually anything (stone, wood, metal, woven material) which has lain concealed and which is thought, on the basis of its age or rarity, to be worth preserving for the nation.

3. The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) is the Crown office-holder responsible for claiming objects for the Crown under the law of Treasure Trove and bona vacantia. The office is held, ex officio, by the Crown Agent, Norman McFadyen. The QLTR has wider responsibilities for dealing with ownerless and abandoned property, including the estates of those who die without leaving a will and who have no known relatives and the assets of dissolved companies.

4. In relation to Treasure Trove, the role of the QLTR includes deciding on the allocation of objects to museums and the payment of rewards to finders, acting on the advice of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel (SAFAP) and with the support of the Treasure Trove Unit, which is based at the National Museum of Scotland and a small unit within Crown Office which is headed by a solicitor. Members of the SAFAP, who serve voluntarily, are appointed by the Scottish Ministers. The chair of SAFAP is Professor Ian Ralston of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

5. The Code will only achieve its purpose if it reaches as wide an audience as possible and we welcome the opportunity to launch it publicly. It is available electronically on the website of the Treasure Trove Unit ?

6. The Normand Review of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland and the then Scottish Executive's response, published in 2003, can be accessed online at

7. Further information about Treasure Trove can be found at and further information about the functions of the QLTR can be found at