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"Lothians" redirects here. For the Scottish Parliament electoral region, see Lothian (Scottish Parliament electoral region).
For the former Australian publisher, now imprint, see Lothian Books. For the town in Maryland, see Lothian, Maryland.
Lothian (Scots: Lowden; Scottish Gaelic: Lodainn)
Lothian Regional Council.svg
Lothian within Scotland
 • Total 666 sq mi (1724 km2)
 • 2014 858,090[1]
 • Origin Kingdom of Northumbria
 • Created In antiquity
 • Succeeded by Various
Status Traditional region of Scotland
 • HQ Edinburgh
 • Type Counties
 • Units East Lothian
West Lothian

Lothian (/ˈl.ði.ən/, Scottish Gaelic: Lodainn [ˈl̪ˠot̪ʰaɲ], archaic Gaelic: Labhdaidh) is a region of the Scottish Lowlands, lying between the southern shore of the Firth of Forth and the Lammermuir Hills. The principal settlement is the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Other significant towns include Livingston, Bathgate, Linlithgow, South Queensferry, Haddington, Tranent, North Berwick, Musselburgh, Dalkeith, Bonnyrigg and Dunbar.

Historically, the term Lothian is used for a province encompassing the present area plus the Scottish Borders region. In the 7th century it came under the control of the Anglian Bernicia, the northern part of the later Kingdom of Northumbria, for a time, but the Anglian grip on Lothian was quickly weakened following the Battle of Dun Nechtain in which they were defeated by the Picts. Lothian's distinction from Northumbria is indicated in the survival of its original Brittonic Celtic name, used even by English chroniclers. In 1018 AD Lothian was annexed by the Kingdom of Scotland.[2]

Subsequent Scottish history saw Lothian subdivided into the counties of East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian — leading to the popular term the Lothians.


The name of Lothian most likely derives from the Brittonic name *Lugudūniānā (Lleuddiniawn in Modern Welsh spelling), "Country of the fort of (the god) Lugus", first mentioned in early Welsh literature such as the Gododdin.[3] A popular legend is that the name comes from King Lot, who is king of Lothian in the Arthurian legend.

Lothian under the control of the Angles[edit]

Lothian was settled by Angles at an early stage and formed part of the Kingdom of Bernicia which extended south into present-day northern Northumberland. Many place names in the Lothians and Scottish Borders demonstrate that the English language became firmly established in the region from the sixth century onwards. In due course Bernicia united with Deira to form the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Little is recorded of Lothian's history specifically in this time. After the Norse settled in what became Yorkshire, Northumbria was effectively cut in two. How much Norse influence spread to the English north of the River Tees is uncertain. Bernicia continued as a distinct territory, sometimes described as having a king, at others an ealdorman (earl). Bernicia became distinct from other English territories at this time due to its links with the other Christian kingdoms in what is present-day Scotland and seems to have little to do with the Norse-controlled areas to the south. Roger of Wendover wrote that Edgar King of the English granted "Laudian" to the King of Scots in 973 on condition that he come to court whenever the English king, or his successors wore his crown. It is generally accepted by medieval historians that this marks the point at which Lothian came under Scottish control.

William the Conqueror invaded Lothian and crossed over the River Forth[4] but did not re-annex it. At this time Lothian appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Loðen or Loþen. As late as 1091, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes how the Scottish king, Malcolm, "went with his army out of Scotland into Lothian" and in the reign of King David I of Scotland, the people living in Lothian are referred to as "English" subjects of the king.

Henry of Huntingdon describes the southern boundary of Lothian as the River Tweed, describing a meeting on that river at Roxburgh.

The name 'Laudonia' appears on Bishop Leslie's map of Scotland from 1578 and is rendered as 'Louthiana' on Joan Blaeu's map of 1654.[5]

Lothian Regional Council (1975–1996)[edit]

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 abolished the counties and burghs as local government units, replacing them with regions and districts. Lothian Regional Council formally took over responsibility in May 1975. It was split into four districts: East, Mid and West Lothian, and the City of Edinburgh. The former had more or less identical boundaries to the old county of East Lothian, but West Lothian and Midlothian had large amounts of land taken from them to form the City of Edinburgh district. Towns such as Queensferry and Currie which had formerly been burghs of Mid and West Lothian, were now administered as part of Edinburgh, though they were geographically separate from the Capital.

The council was responsible for education, social work, water, sewerage, transport (including local buses within Edinburgh).

The two-tier system of local government was ended by the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, resulting in the abolition of Lothian Regional Council, and its replacement by a unitary system of local government. The former districts of the Lothian region became the basis for the new unitary councils. The last convener of Lothian Regional Council was Eric Milligan, who later served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Lothian Regional Council also organised a series of lectures known as the Lothian Lectures. A notable speaker was Mikhail Gorbachev.

Lothian Joint Valuation Board handles valuation and electoral registration in the region. Lothian Health Board (NHS) was not a local government responsibility.


In the post-Roman period, Lothian was dominated by Brittonic speakers whose language is generally called Cumbric and was closely related to Welsh. In Welsh tradition Lothian is part of the "Old North" (Hen Ogledd). Reminders exist in placenames such as Lothian, Tranent, Linlithgow and Penicuik.[6]

Although one of the few areas of mainland Scotland where the Gaelic language was never dominant, the presence of some Gaelic-derived placenames,[6][7] e.g. Dalry, Currie, Balerno and Cockenzie, has been attributed to the "temporary occupation...[and] the presence of a landowning Gaelic-speaking aristocracy and their followers for something like 150-200 years".[8]

Over time and due to various factors the language of Lothian and Northumbria, a northern variety of Middle English, known as "Inglis" (Early Scots), came to displace Gaelic as the language of all of Lowland Scotland and in time adopted for itself the name "Scottis" (Scots). This term had previously been used to refer to Gaelic, which English speakers later called "Erse" (meaning Irish)—now considered derogatory. The dialects of the modern Lothians are sometimes considered to be part of Central Scots.


  1. ^ "Estimated population by sex, single year of age and administrative area, mid-2014" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "Ancient Lothian Timeline". cyberscotia.net. 
  3. ^ Koch, John, Celtic Culture, ABC-CLIO, 2006, p. 1191.
  4. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  5. ^ C McWilliam (1978). The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian. Penguin. p. 17. ISBN 0-14-0710-66-3. 
  6. ^ a b "Ancient Lothian". cyberscotia.net. 
  7. ^ Craig Cockburn (2005-11-02). "Gaelic roots need to be unearthed". BBC News. 
  8. ^ W. F. H. Nicolaisen (2001). Scottish Place Names. John Donald Publishers. p. 240. ISBN 0-85976-556-3. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°54′33″N 3°05′04″W / 55.90917°N 3.08444°W / 55.90917; -3.08444