International Tartan Day takes place annually on 1 July in Australia to commemorate the anniversary of the repeal of the 1747 Parliamentary Act of Proscription which banned the wearing of tartan and came into effect in Scotland on 1 August 1746 as part of a series of efforts to assimilate the Scottish Highlands, ending their ability to revolt, and crush the Clan system in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Following the uprising The British forces under the Duke of Cumberland were brutal in putting down any hint of Jacobite resistance among Highlanders, and the Act can be seen as Parliament asserting the supremacy of the Civil Courts over unconstitutional military coercion.
It was mainly a restatement of the earlier Disarming Act, but with more severe punishments which this time were rigorously enforced. Punishments started with fines, with jail until payment and possible forced conscription for late payment. Repeat offenders were “liable to be transported to any of his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years”, effectively indentured servitude. The penalties for wearing “highland clothing” as stated in the Dress Act 1746 were “imprisonment, without bail, during the space of six months, and no longer; and being convicted for a second offence before a court of justiciary or at the circuits, shall be liable to be transported…” No lesser penalties were allowed for. The act applied to the Highlands of Scotland, the counties of Dunbarton, on the north side of the water of Leven, Stirling on the north side of the river of Forth, Perth, Kincardine, Aberdeen, Inverness, Nairn, Cromarty, Argyll, Forfar, Banff, Sutherland, Caithness, Elgin and Ross.
A new section, which became known as the Dress Act, banned wearing of “the Highland Dress” the Dress Act applied to the whole of Scotland. Provision was also included to protect those involved in putting down the rebellion from lawsuits. Measures to prevent children from being “educated in disaffected or rebellious principles” included a requirement for school prayers for the King and Royal family. The most severe penalties, at a minimum six months’ incarceration and transportation to a penal colony for a second offence, made these the most severe portion of this act.
The Act of Proscription was followed by the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act 1746 which removed the feudal authority the Clan Chieftains had enjoyed. Scottish heritable sheriffdoms reverted to the Crown, and other heritable jurisdictions, including regalities, came under the power of the courts. However These laws were finally repealed on 1 July 1782.