The Beginning

On Tuesday 13th October 1857, seventy five of the Commissioners of Supply for the County of Lanark, under the chairmanship of Lord Belhaven, met in the County Hall, Hamilton, at a General Meeting specially convened to implement the provisions of the Police (Scotland) Act 1857, which required the setting up of the Police Forces.
For police purposes, the County was divided into four districts, namely

  1. Hamilton District
  2. Lower ward District
  3. Airdrie District
  4. Lanark District

The establishment of the force was fixed at;

  • 1 x Chief Constable
  • 4 x Superintendents
  • 76 Sergeants and Constables
Early Years

H.M. Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland reported that during the year 1868-1869 the force was being maintained in a good state of efficiency and discipline. All police forces in Scotland were not then in the same happy position of being reported in a state of efficiency, far less being described as in a good state.

The County had been fortunate in having George McKay as its first Chief Constable. Not only was he an efficient administrator, but he was supported by a committee of gentlemen who appreciated the value of a good police force.

Throughout the years the force would appear to have borne a high reputation among other forces in Scotland, for on numerous occasions the Lanarkshire policemen were asked to serve outside their own district.


To mark the centenary of the inauguration of the Lanarkshire Constabulary, on 13th October 1957, a church parade and service was held in the Old Parish church, Lanark.

During the centenary service, the County Council of Lanark presented the Constabulary colours, consisting of the Queen’s colour and the Constabulary standard to commemorate the Centenary. It is believed that the Lanarkshire Constabulary was the only police force, at that time, to possess a County Council standard or colours. The flag was devised and authorised by the Lord Lyon, King-of-Arms.

The flag consists of a purple background with a white saltire cross in the upper left. Centre, a yellow circle bearing the legend ‘The County Council of the County of Lanark’, encircled by a total of 8 thistles, slipped at the second, and the whole surmounted by a green crown of five points, with a bound sheaf enclosed between each two points.

The centre of the circle has a white background to the wedge of the bottom third, being the red heart of Douglas, and the upper two thirds bearing two lilies. It is scrolled on the left ‘Lanarkshire 1857’ and on the right ‘Constabulary 1957’ with the force motto ‘Vigilantia’ (Vigilance) enscrolled along the bottom, below the centre piece.


On 16th August 1967 the former forces of;

Airdrie Burgh Police
Coatbridge Burgh police
Hamilton Burgh Police
Motherwell & Wishaw Burgh Police

were amalgamated to form a new larger Lanarkshire Constabulary.

Mr J.K. McLellan C.B.E., Q.P.M., M.A., B.Sc., F.R.I.C. former Chief Constable of Motherwell & Wishaw Burgh Police was appointed as Chief Constable of this new force.

The Lanarkshire Constabulary remained in that format until 16th May 1975 when, on Regionalisation, it became a part of the new Strathclyde Police. Lanarkshire became three divisions;

‘N’ Division – Airdrie, Coatbridge, Cumbernauld & Kilsyth and surrounding villages
‘P’ Division – Motherwell, Wishaw, Shotts Bellshill and surrounding villages
‘Q’ Division – South Lanarkshire

Some boundary and divisional merges took place over the intervening years, in each of these, adding some small parts of Strathclyde, such as Cambuslang, Rutherglen, Moodiesburn etc. to the Lanarkshire divisions.

In 1999 ‘P’ Division ceased to exist and became part of ‘N’ Division.

With effect from 1st April 2013 Strathclyde Police ceased to exist and became part of ‘Police Scotland’, the new national police force.

Lanarkshire once again became a single police command known as Lanarkshire Division, in effect covering the same geographical area as Lanarkshire Constabulary in 1975.