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Subdivisions of Scotland

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Council areas of Scotland
CategoryAdministrative unit
Populations21,400 (Orkney Islands) – 593,200 (Glasgow)
Areas21 square miles (54 km2) (Dundee) - 11,838 square miles (30,660 km2) (Highland)
  • Council government
  • None

For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas" (Scottish Gaelic: comhairlean), which are all governed by single-tier authorities designated as "councils".[1] They have the option under the Local Government (Gaelic Names) (Scotland) Act 1997[2] of being known (but not re-designated) as a "comhairle" when opting for a Gaelic name; only Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Council of the Western Isles) has chosen this option, whereas the Highland Council (Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd) has adopted its Gaelic form alongside its English equivalent, informally.

The council areas have been in existence since 1 April 1996, under the provisions of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. Historically, Scotland was divided into 34 counties or shires. Although these no longer have any administrative function, they are still used to some extent in Scotland for cultural and geographical purposes, and some of the current council areas are named after them. There are also a number of other administrative divisions, some of which are handled by joint boards of the councils.

At the most local level, Scotland is divided into civil parishes, which are now used only for statistical purposes such as the census. The lowest level of administrative subdivision are the communities, which may elect community councils.

History of the subdivisions of Scotland


Traditionally burghs have been the key unit of the local government of Scotland, being highly autonomous entities, with rights to representation in the old Parliament of Scotland. Even after the Acts of Union 1707, burghs continued to be the principal subdivision. Until 1889, administration was on a burgh and parish basis.

The years following 1889 saw the introduction of a hierarchy of local government administration comprising counties, counties of cities, large burghs and small burghs.

With effect from 16 May 1975 and until 31 March 1996 the local government divisions of Scotland consisted of an upper tier of regions each containing a lower tier of districts except for the single-tier island council areas. Since 1996 there has only been a single tier of government, and the former island council areas are of equal status to the other councils.

Council areas

  • These are mid-year estimates for 2022 from the Office for National Statistics.
Coat of arms Council area Council Population[3] Electors[4] Area (km2)[5] Density
(per km2)
Glasgow Glasgow City Council 622,820 454,340 175 3,567
Edinburgh City of Edinburgh Council 514,990 397,203 263 1,955
Fife Fife Council 371,340 287,834 1,325 280
North Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire Council 340,930 262,426 470 725
South Lanarkshire South Lanarkshire Council 327,430 258,861 1,772 185
- Aberdeenshire Aberdeenshire Council 263,750 207,014 6,313 42
Scottish Highlands Highland Council 235,710 190,074 25,653 9
Aberdeen Aberdeen City Council 224,190 169,756 186 1,208
West Lothian West Lothian Council 181,720 147,810 428 425
Renfrewshire Renfrewshire Council 184,340 141,311 261 705
Falkirk Falkirk Council 158,450 126,472 297 533
Perth and Kinross Perth and Kinross Council 151,120 120,840 5,286 29
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway Council 145,770 116,740 6,426 23
Dundee Dundee City Council 148,350 111,527 60 2,481
North Ayrshire North Ayrshire Council 133,490 107,181 885 151
East Ayrshire East Ayrshire Council 120,390 96,700 1,262 95
Angus Angus Council 114,660 90,577 2,181 53
Scottish Borders Scottish Borders Council 116,820 93,701 4,732 25
South Ayrshire South Ayrshire Council 111,560 91,420 1,222 91
East Dunbartonshire East Dunbartonshire Council 108,980 86,619 174 625
East Lothian East Lothian Council 112,450 89,641 679 166
Moray Moray Council 94,280 75,314 2,238 42
- East Renfrewshire East Renfrewshire Council 97,160 74,380 174 558
Stirling Stirling Council 92,530 71,409 2,186 42
Midlothian Midlothian Council 97,030 77,037 354 274
West Dunbartonshire West Dunbartonshire Council 88,270 68,431 159 556
Argyll and Bute Argyll and Bute Council 87,920 69,545 6,907 13
Inverclyde Inverclyde Council 78,340 60,333 160 488
Clackmannanshire Clackmannanshire Council 51,750 40,182 159 325
Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar 26,120 21,852 3,056 9
Shetland Islands Shetland Islands Council 23,020 17,731 1,467 16
Orkney Orkney Islands Council 22,020 17,584 990 22

Other subdivisions


Scotland has several other administrative divisions, some of which are handled by joint boards of the councils.

Electoral and valuation


There are several joint boards for electoral registration and the purposes of property valuation for assessing council tax and rates.[6]

Joint board area Council areas
Ayrshire East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire
Borders Scottish Borders
Central Scotland Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway
Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire
Fife Fife
Grampian Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray
Glasgow Glasgow City
Highlands and Islands Highland and Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)
Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire
Lothian East Lothian, City of Edinburgh, Midlothian, West Lothian
Orkney and Shetland Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands
Renfrewshire East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire
Tayside Angus, Dundee City, Perth and Kinross



See also NHS Scotland

Health board area Council areas
Ayrshire and Arran East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire
Borders Scottish Borders
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway
Fife Fife
Forth Valley Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling
Grampian Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray
Greater Glasgow and Clyde Glasgow City, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire,
Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire
Highland Argyll and Bute and Highland
Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire
Lothian City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian
Orkney Orkney Islands
Shetland Shetland Islands
Tayside Angus, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross
Western Isles (Eileanan Siar) Western Isles (Na h-Eileanan Siar)

Until 1 April 2014 the towns of Cambuslang and Rutherglen were in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area despite being located in South Lanarkshire. They are now part of NHS Lanarkshire.



The Scottish Government has created seven "Regional Transport Partnerships", for establishing transport policy in the regions. They broadly follow council area groupings.

RTP area Council areas
NESTRANS Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire
TACTRAN Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Stirling
HITRANS Argyll and Bute (except Helensburgh and Lomond), Highland, Moray, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles), Orkney
ZetTrans Shetland
SEStran Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Midlothian, Fife, Scottish Borders, West Lothian
SWESTRANS Dumfries and Galloway
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport Argyll and Bute (Helensburgh and Lomond only), West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire

Eurostat NUTS


In the Eurostat Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), Scotland is a level-1 NUTS region, coded "UKM", which is subdivided as follows:[7]

NUTS 1 Code NUTS 2 Code NUTS 3 Code
Scotland UKM Eastern Scotland UKM2 Angus and Dundee UKM21

Clackmannanshire and Fife UKM22
East Lothian and Midlothian UKM23
Scottish Borders UKM24
Edinburgh UKM25
Falkirk UKM26
Perth and Kinross, and Stirling UKM27
West Lothian UKM28
South Western Scotland UKM3 East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Helensburgh and Lomond UKM31
Dumfries and Galloway UKM32
East and North Ayrshire mainland UKM33
Glasgow UKM34
Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire, and Renfrewshire UKM35
North Lanarkshire UKM36
South Ayrshire UKM37
South Lanarkshire UKM38
North Eastern Scotland UKM5 Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire UKM50
Highlands and Islands UKM6 Caithness and Sutherland, and Ross and Cromarty UKM61
Inverness, Nairn, Moray, and Badenoch and Strathspey UKM62
Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Arran and Cumbrae, and Argyll and Bute (except Helensburgh and Lomond) UKM63
Eilean Siar (Western Isles) UKM64
Orkney Islands UKM65
Shetland Islands UKM66

Land registration


The current land registration system in Scotland divides Scotland into 33 Registration Counties,[8] each coming into effect on various dates between 1981 and 2003. These areas in most cases resemble those of the pre-1975 administrative counties with Glasgow being the only current city to form a registration county.

Registration county Operational from
County of Renfrew 6 April 1981
County of Dunbarton 4 October 1982
County of Lanark 3 January 1984
County of the Barony and Regality of Glasgow 30 September 1985
County of Clackmannan 1 October 1992
County of Stirling 1 April 1993
County of West Lothian 1 October 1993
County of Fife 1 April 1995
County of Aberdeen 1 April 1996
County of Kincardine 1 April 1996
County of Ayr 1 April 1997
County of Dumfries 1 April 1997
County of Kirkcudbright 1 April 1997
County of Wigtown 1 April 1997
County of Angus 1 April 1999
County of Kinross 1 April 1999
County of Perth 1 April 1999
County of Berwick 1 October 1999
County of East Lothian 1 October 1999
County of Peebles 1 October 1999
County of Roxburgh 1 October 1999
County of Selkirk 1 October 1999
County of Argyll 1 April 2000
County of Bute 1 April 2000
County of Midlothian 1 April 2001
County of Inverness 1 April 2002
County of Nairn 1 April 2002
County of Banff 1 April 2003
County of Caithness 1 April 2003
County of Moray 1 April 2003
Counties of Orkney and Zetland 1 April 2003
County of Ross and Cromarty 1 April 2003
County of Sutherland 1 April 2003



Sheriffdoms are judicial areas. Since 1 January 1975, these have been six in number:[9]

Lieutenancy areas


The Lieutenancy areas of Scotland are the areas used for the ceremonial lord-lieutenants, the monarch's representatives. The areas are similar to the Historic Counties and the Registration Counties, but are not identical to either. Most notably, the four cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow form separate areas from the surrounding countryside, with the Lord Provost of each city acting ex officio as the lord-lieutenant.

Lieutenancy areas of Scotland

Former police and fire services


The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 resulted in the merger of local police and fire services on 1 April 2013 to form the Police Service of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Seirbheis Phoilis na h-Alba) and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS, Scottish Gaelic: Seirbheis Smàlaidh agus Teasairginn na h-Alba).

Prior to 1975 policing was the responsibility of the Cities and Burghs of Scotland (see List of burghs in Scotland). Between 1975 and 2013 Scotland was subdivided into Police and fire service areas based on the regions and districts and island council areas that were also formed in 1975. The police and fire service regions used between 1975 and 2013 are listed below.

Services Original area (former regions) Council areas Police Scotland Division[10]
Central Scotland Police
Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service
Central Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling Forth Valley (C Division)
Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary
Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries & Galloway (V Division)
Fife Constabulary
Fife Fire and Rescue Service
Fife Fife Fife (P Division)
Grampian Police
Grampian Fire and Rescue Service
Grampian Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray Aberdeenshire (A Division)
Lothian and Borders Police
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service
Lothians and the Scottish Borders City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Scottish Borders, West Lothian Lothian & Borders (J Division)

Edinburgh City (E Division)

Northern Constabulary
Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service
Highland, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles Highland, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles), Orkney
and Shetland
Highland & Islands (N Division)
Strathclyde Police
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue
Strathclyde Argyll and Bute, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire
East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde,
North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire,
South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire
Argyll & West Dunbartonshire (L Division)

Renfrewshire & Inverclyde (K Division)

Ayrshire (U Division)

Greater Glasgow (G Division)

Lanarkshire (Q Division)

Tayside Police
Tayside Fire and Rescue Service
Tayside Angus, Dundee City and Perth & Kinross Tayside (D Division)

Lower level subdivisions


Scotland is divided into 871 civil parishes which often resemble same-named but legally different ecclesiastical parishes. Although they have had no administrative function since 1930, they still exist and are still used for statistical purposes such as the census. Many former civil parish areas also continued to form registration districts until 1 January 2007. Many boundary changes have occurred over the years and an area currently derived from an old parish might no longer contain a place previously within that parish. Similarly, county boundaries (as still used for land registration) have also changed over the years such that a parish mentioned historically (generally before the 1860s) as being in one county (or sometimes two due to straddling a border) might now be in a neighbouring county and consequentially in a different succeeding council area.

For most administrative purposes, the base level of sub-division in Scotland is now that of communities, which may elect community councils. The main role of these bodies is to channel and reflect local opinion to other bodies; they otherwise have very limited powers. There are around 1,200 communities in Scotland. Not all communities have councils; some have joint councils.

Scottish communities are the nearest equivalent to civil parishes in England.

See also



  1. ^ "Local government facts and figures: Scotland". lgiu.org. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  2. ^ "Local Government (Gaelic Names) (Scotland) Act 1997".
  3. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  4. ^ "Electoral Statistics, UK, December 2023". Office for National Statistics. 11 April 2024. Table 1. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  5. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  6. ^ "Scottish Assessors – Scottish Assessors Association website".
  7. ^ "Information Paper - European statistical areas (NUTS and LAU) in Scotland" (PDF). Boundaries Scotland. 2022.
  8. ^ Registers of Scotland publication - Land Register Counties and Operational Dates
  9. ^ The Sheriffdoms Reorganisation Order 1974 S.I. 1974/2087 (S.191)
  10. ^ geo.fyi (5 April 2021). "Police Scotland Commands, Divisions and Subdivisions". geo.fyi. Retrieved 12 June 2023.