The Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) is the General Lighthouse Authority for Scotland and the Isle of Man. It is a Non-Departmental Public Body responsible for marine navigation aids around coastal areas.
The NLB was formed in 1786
as the Commissioners of Northern Light Houses
by Act of Parliament
, to oversee the construction and operation of four Scottish lighthouses; Kinnaird Head
, North Ronaldsay
and Mull of Kintyre
. The Commissioners' most famous engineer was Robert Stevenson
, whose sons David
, and Thomas
followed their father into the profession. The Stevenson dynasty built the majority of the Northern lights, in some exceptionally challenging locations. Their lights were some of the engineering masterpieces of their time, notably those at Bell Rock
and Muckle Flugga
Between 1876 and 2005 the NLB also maintained foghorns at a number of locations. The last (at Skerryvore) was sounded for the last time on 4 October 2005.
The board is based at its Georgian
headquarters in George Street
in the centre of Edinburgh
from where it remotely monitors its network. Technical operations are carried out from a base in Oban
, Argyll and Bute
, where there are maintenance workshops and facilities for the construction of buoys and beacons. The NLBs vessels are also based here. The Oban depot has been recently modernised.
Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, the NLB is not a devolved body and thus remains directly accountable to the UK Secretary of State for Transport. In practice, close co-operation is made with both the Scottish Government and the Isle of Man Government. The NLB is funded by pooled light dues administered by the UK's Department of Transport and distributed to the NLB, Trinity House and Commissioners of Irish Lights.
As of 2006, the NLB operates the following:
- * 212 lighthouses
- * 154 buoys
- * 47 beacons
- * 4 DGPS stations
- * 25 RACON stations
- * 1 GLA LORAN-C station (on trial 2005-2007)
The NLB operates two lighthouse tenders
, known by the prefix Northern Lighthouse Vessel, or NLV. NLV Pole Star
has been in service since 2000 and NLV Pharos
was delivered on 31st of March 2007 to the Oban depot. This will be the tenth Pharos
, replacing the ninth Pharos
which was sold in September 2006 for use as a support vessel for the Falkland Islands
Most of the Commissioners have always been ex officio
appointments. The original Commissioners appointed in 1786 were the Scottish law agents of the Crown, the Sheriffs of Scotland's coastal counties, and the Lords Provost and Provosts of Scottish cities and towns with strong mercantile interests. Reform of local government and sherriffdoms have since resulted in changes.
The current Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses are the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland; the Lords Provost of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, the conveners of Highland Council and Argyll and Bute Council; the Sheriffs Principal of all the sheriffdoms in Scotland; a Manx representative nominated by the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man and appointed by the Secretary of State; and up to five co-opted Commissioners.
The NLB uses two flags, an ensign
and a Commissioners' Flag. The ensign is a Blue Ensign
defaced with a white lighthouse in the fly, and is for general use. The Commissioners' flag, a plain White Ensign
with a pre-1801 Union Flag
in the canton
, defaced with a blue lighthouse in the fly, is the only British flag to still use the pre-1801 Union Flag. This flag is only flown from vessels with Commissioners aboard.
The Board HQ flies the Commissioner's flag, alongside the Saltire and the Isle of Man flag.