The phrase is a variation on the ancient honour of 'Freedom of the City' granted to martial organisations, permitting them to march into the city "with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed".
The Freedom of the City is an honour granted only to troops which have earned the trust of the community, either through some valiant action or simply by tradition. Today, martial freedom of the city is an entirely ceremonial honour, usually bestowed upon a unit with historic links to the area, as a token of appreciation for their long and dedicated service. The awarding of the Freedom is often accompanied by a celebratory parade through the city.
This honour dates back to ancient Rome which regarded the "pomerium", the boundary of the city, as sacred. Promagistrates and generals were forbidden from entering it, and resigned their imperium immediately upon crossing it. An exception was made for victory celebrations (called triumphs), during which the victorious general would be permitted to enter for one day only. Under the Republic, soldiers also lost their status when entering, becoming citizens: thus soldiers at their general's triumph wore civilian dress. Weapons were also banned inside the pomerium for religious and traditional reasons. (The assassination of Julius Caesar occurred outside this boundary.)
The above photographs show the Convener of Highland Council (Councillor Isobel McCallum) and the Chief Executive of the Highland Council (Steve Barron) signing the scroll which confers the 'Freedom of the Highlands' on the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Also in the picture is Brigadier Hugh Monro CBE. The second photograph shows the Convener reviewing the troops after they became 'Freemen'.
The legislative background to the Conferal is the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and the area covered is that part of Highland Region within the bounds of Highland Council.
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