The importance of the battle is a matter of controversy, especially in regard to the region of Lothian. Whereas Scottish historians hold that Lothian was won for Scotland at Carham, others led by Marjorie O. Anderson hold it was the English king Edgar the Peaceful who granted Lothian to Cináed (II) mac Maíl Coluim, King of Scots, in 973. In English sources, the Battle of Carham is not given any special significance. Still others, such as G.W.S. Barrow hold, that "What English annalists recorded as the 'cession' of Lothian was... the recognition by a powerful but extremely remote south-country king of a long-standing fait accompli."
This possession by the Scots of what now constitutes the south-east of Scotland seems to have been recognized by kings of England, even when kings such as Cnut and William the Conqueror invaded, as they did not seek to take permanent control of the area.
After Carham, much of present-day Scotland was under the control of the King of Scots, although Norsemen still held sway in Ross, Caithness, Sutherland, and The Isles. The Lords of Galloway remained semi-independent. Scotland or Scotia referred to what constitutes present-day Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde; it was not until the time of King Dabíd (I) mac Maíl Choluim that people in the south-east of the kingdom began to think of themselves as Scots. In his own charters (e.g. to St Cuthbert's in Edinburgh), he continued to refer to the men of Lothian as English.