About SWI

The first Women’s Institute was formed in Scotland in Longniddry, East Lothian in 1917. Since then we have grown to approximately 16,070 members across Scotland including the most rural of Islands to the highly populated vibrant cities.

With our Headquarters in Edinburgh, 32 Federations throughout Scotland and 717 Institutes overall, we are proud to bring a broad mix of women together to connect, share, teach and meet.

It is our aim to increase our membership to continue the legacy created nearly 100 years ago. Be part of the SWI and share your passions.

Explore the history of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute with our Timeline below >   

Discover our values and learn about our ethos below >  

Share in our vision and help form the future of the SWI >

SWI Roadshow Presentation

In this video, SWI general secretary Raymond Pratt shares his roadshow presentation delivered to Federations with all members. He explains why recent changes within the organisation were necessary, providing useful background to some of the decision making, does some myth busting and looks at the future direction of the organisation. The SWI is keen to share his message with all members across Scotland and hope the film provides a greater understanding of the organisation as it moves forward.


Statement regarding roadshow video from SWI Office Bearers.
As many of you are aware our General Secretary has spent hours of his own time, over the past few months travelling around Federations giving a presentation on why the Organisation needed to change and move forward. Whilst the majority of members have said how helpful this information has been, others have disagreed, due to various misunderstandings.  Click right to continue reading.


I, and the other Office Bearers wish to clarify a few points. The idea of a road show was discussed at a Communication Committee Meeting. Since Office Bearers are all volunteers and have very full agendas - attending meetings, National events, shows which are often held at weekends, and juggling family and work commitments – the General Secretary agreed to take on the task of visiting Federations to get the information out to members. He has done many of these in his own time without any payment other than expenses. Occasionally, due to distance travelled, he has had to stay overnight taking him away from his family and working out of office hours. The Office Bearers are indebted to him for taking on this role.

I have to remind members that the General Secretary makes NO decisions at ANY meeting he attends. He advises and gives guidance, if asked, and then carries out the instructions given to him on behalf of the Committee or Office Bearers. It has been obvious to us, over the years, that the General Secretary is forward thinking, committed to protecting and seeing the organisation succeed, and become a modern-day charity.

The General Secretary has been unfairly maligned on occasion for wishing to run the organisation, to have a new title and more money – this is TOTAL nonsense. As with all staff issues, if any of this were to happen, the facts would be discussed within a committee without the General Secretary being present at the meeting. The committee members would then vote, and a decision taken.

The decision to put the video on Social Media was taken to allow the information to reach as many members as possible.
In this changing world, the Constitution Committee have been advised to make sure the Charity is suitable for the 21st Century. They also have to consider new regulations which are imposed on all charities. These are external factors and not influenced by anyone.

Linda Retson
National Chairman

From Our Chairman


I HAVE just returned this morning from taking my little grand-daughter, Eilidh, to nursery. How the years fly in, I cannot believe she is three-years-old already. This was a very different experience from taking her dad to playgroup when he was three!

The rooms were so bright and numerous activities already laid out for the children to take part in, not to mention two computers. I would have liked to have stayed for a bit to see all that went on but, alas, that was not to be. After putting her name in the attendance box, I was politely told by Eilidh: “It’s time for you to go now, Nanny!”

At the beginning of January, Anne Kerr and I attended an event in the Scottish Parliament Garden Lobby. This was a very interesting and sociable event. We met Joyce Campbell, who is co-chair with Fergus Ewing of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce, and June Geyer, chair of the Women in Agriculture group, who hosted the event at Ingliston last November when we had an SWI promotional stand.

We learned that the specific aim of a research project being commissioned is to investigate the role of women in farming and the agriculture sector in Scotland, under the headings of daily life, aspirations, career paths, leadership and comparisons with other family businesses.

Later in January we travelled to Aberdeen to meet with Fiona Henderson, chairman of the Aberdeenshire Federation, at the city’s Beach Ballroom. I can now confirm that this will be the venue for our 2019 Housewives and Handcrafts Conference. It is a lovely building which has undergone some refurbishment recently. The rooms we will use as the exhibition areas are very spacious with lovely views over the sea.

As there are limited cafes and restaurants nearby we are considering an ‘all in’ price so that tea or coffee on arrival and a sandwich and fruit lunch would be included in the conference ticket. We hope, if this is decided on, it will give members the chance to meet up and chat without the stress of finding places to eat within a limited time. The conference committee meets later this month, so more details will be available thereafter.

I was delighted last week to see my idea of an SWI Young Group coming to fruition in Perth & Kinross Federation. Fourteen Junior Dippers met and learned how to make wet felt from which they made a little bird, flowers and felted balls which could be turned into pieces of jewellery.

Everyone who took part, helpers included, got very messy with the soapy technique of making the felt but it was all good fun. Our next get together is in May when the girls will be taught knitting and crochet.

There are a number of names on the waiting list, so a second class is now being organised. It is wonderful to see so many youngsters keen to learn. If you have a similar group, or would like to start one in your area, please get in touch so that we can compare notes. You never know – we might have a National Junior Ruralympics one day!

As I write, I am looking forward to joining Pathhead members at their centenary celebration on 12 February and attending Lanarkshire Show on 3 March. By the time this goes to press we will be looking forward to the Country Dance weekend at Pitlochry, and I hope to see many of you there. Will I have the courage to join in? Maybe!






Important Note

Important Note Regarding Membership Lists or Creation of a Database

There are many excellent reasons why a membership organisation like ours ought to have a comprehensive database of all members – but as many of you will know, we have faced significant resistance to this move in recent years. 

However, we are now asking all those who have refused to help us create a database of members by declining to provide their details to consider this:

  • The SWI is a charity, but it is an un-incorporated charity where the Trustees are personally liable and we have to have an insurance policy in place to protect them. In order to reduce this exposure, it is recommended that we become a Scottish Charitable Incorporation Organisation (SCIO) – which is similar to a Limited Company status. Most charities are now a SCIO and are incorporated but in order to do this and fall in line with our charity peers, we must have a membership list – or in the words of OSCR a register of members.
  • Without a membership list we do not meet the OSCR conditions to become a SCIO.
  • Without a membership list, our 55 Central Councillors who are our Trustees– in effect our Board – are personally liable should the organisation ever find itself in financial difficulty and our insurance policy either does not pay out, or does not pay out a full amount.
  • With this level of personal liability attached to the position, it is unlikely that we can continue to find women willing to become Central Councillors in future.
  • A register of members for an SCIO must contain the following information for each current member:
    • The name of the member
    • The address of the member; and
    • The date of registration as a member of the SCIO.
  • Despite the misinformation disseminated by some members, the SWI will NEVER sell its database of members to any other organisation – and the SWI would comply with all data protection requirements.

We ask all those who have declined to become part of a register of members to reconsider their position and to help us to move our organisation to a position where our individual members who give their time voluntarily as central councillors are not exposed to such financial risk.


Learn about our history from origination in 1917 through to today. It's been a fascinating and eventful journey.

Simply scroll through to explore our history.


Let’s commit and deliver, to ourselves and to all women in Scotland.

  • For 'All women in Scotland'
  • Inclusive and friendship
  • Sharing skills
  • To continually evolve whilst retaining traditional skills and learning new skills

Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >


Let’s attract like-minded souls and be known for our strong characteristics.

  • Fun
  • Friendly
  • Proud
  • Vibrant
  • Supportive
  • Caring

Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >



Let’s be the best we can be, at all times, and as creatively as we can.

  • Influential
  • Inspirational
  • Knowledge
  • Nurturing
  • Friendly
  • Strong believers
  • Inquisitive 
  • Connectivity
  • Innovative
  • International 
  • Socially conscious 
  • Politically aware

Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >


Let’s showcase the benefits of being Women Together and love what we can offer as a collective.

  • Diversity
  • All of Scotland including Highland & Islands
  • Central and localized
  • Value for money
  • Builders of strong friendship
  • Democratic with valued opinions
  • Confidence builders (as groups and individuals)
  • Community driven
  • Traditional and modern

Do our values inspire you? Can you help us share them? Join us >


The vision of the Scottish Women's Institutes is to:

Be known as a vibrant organisation with growing membership, with every woman in Scotland aware of the SWI.

Our Constitution

The SWI have a formal Constitution which all members and prospective members can view here. 
If you have any enquiries about the content please get in touch and our General Secretary will respond.

28th National Conference

A conference with a difference.

We invite you read our Conference Report to get a flavour of the one day event which proved to be an exciting mix of inspirational speakers, motions to help us progress as an organisation and beautiful singing to delight our ears - all centred around the theme of change.

You can read and download our Conference Report here >


Guest Speaker, Stuart Earley, SPPCA    Guest Speaker, Kirsty Mac - Leadership Styled  

SWI Chairman, Christine Hutton    Office Bearers, SWI  

Choir at SWI Conference    Members and Visitors at the SWI Conference

A time of change

Welcome to the Scottish Women's Institute; an organisation dedicated to friendship, learning, skill-sharing and, of course, having fun.