Statutes of Iona

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The Statutes of Iona, passed in Scotland in 1609, required that Highland Scottish clan chiefs send their heirs to Lowland Scotland to be educated in English-speaking Protestant schools. As a result, some clans, such as the MacDonalds of Sleat and the MacLeods of Harris, adopted the new religion. Other Clans notably the MacLeans of Morvern & Mull, MacDonalds of Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengarry, and Glencoe, remained resolutely Roman Catholic.


Amongst the provisions of the statutes were:

  • The provision and support of Protestant ministers to Highland Parishes;
  • The establishment of hostelries;
  • The outlawing of beggars;
  • The prohibition of traditional hospitality and strong drink;
  • The education of chiefs’ heirs in Lowland schools where they “may be found able sufficiently to speik, reid and wryte Englische"
  • Limitations on the bearing and use of arms,
  • The outlawing of bards and other bearers of the traditional culture
  • The prohibition on the protection of fugitives

In the view of some writers, this enaction was "the first of a succession of measures taken by the Scottish government specifically aimed at the extirpation of the Gaelic language, the destruction of its traditional culture and the suppression of its bearers"[1]

Further reading

  • Cathcart, Alison. "The Statutes of Iona: The Archipelagic Context," Journal of British Studies Jan. 2010, Vol. 49, No. 1: 4–27.


  1. Gaelic – A past and Future Prospect. MacKinnon, Kenneth. The Saltire Society 1991, Edinburgh. P 46

External links