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North Ayrshire

Coordinates: 55°40′N 4°47′W / 55.667°N 4.783°W / 55.667; -4.783
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North Ayrshire
Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Àir a Tuath
Coat of arms of North Ayrshire
Official logo of North Ayrshire
Coordinates: 55°40′N 4°47′W / 55.667°N 4.783°W / 55.667; -4.783
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Lieutenancy areaAyrshire and Arran
Admin HQCunninghame House, Irvine
 • BodyNorth Ayrshire Council
 • ControlScottish National Party minority (council NOC)
 • MPs
 • MSPs
 • Total342 sq mi (885 km2)
 • RankRanked 17th
 • Total133,490
 • RankRanked 15th
 • Density390/sq mi (150/km2)
ONS codeS12000021
ISO 3166 codeGB-NAY

North Ayrshire (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Àir a Tuath, pronounced [ˈʃirˠəxk aːɾʲ ə ˈt̪ʰuə]) is one of 32 council areas in Scotland. The council area borders Inverclyde to the north, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire to the northeast, and East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire to the east and south respectively. The local authority is North Ayrshire Council, formed in 1996 with the same boundaries as the district of Cunninghame which existed from 1975 to 1996.

Located in the west central Lowlands with the Firth of Clyde to its west, the council area covers the northern portion of the historic county of Ayrshire, in addition to the islands of Arran and The Cumbraes from the historic county of Buteshire.[1] North Ayrshire has a population of roughly 133,490 people.[2] Its largest towns are Irvine and Kilwinning.


North Ayrshire was created in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, which replaced Scotland's previous local government structure of upper-tier regions and lower-tier districts with unitary council areas providing all local government services. North Ayrshire covered the same area as the abolished Cunninghame district, and also took over the functions of the abolished Strathclyde Regional Council within the area.[3] The area's name references its location within the historic county of Ayrshire, which had been abolished for local government purposes in 1975 when Cunninghame district and Strathclyde region had been created, although the islands of Arran and The Cumbraes had been in Buteshire prior to 1975.[4] North Ayrshire forms part of the Ayrshire and Arran lieutenancy area.[5]


The council headquarters are located in Irvine, which is North Ayrshire's largest town. The area also contains the towns of Ardrossan, Beith, Dalry, Kilbirnie, Kilwinning, Largs, Saltcoats, Skelmorlie, Stevenston, West Kilbride, as well as the Isle of Arran and Great and Little Cumbrae. The Isle of Arran covers nearly half of the council area's territory, but is home to less than 4% of the population. North Ayrshire is known for its rural countryside, coastlines, beaches and landmarks.

The towns in the north of the area, Skelmorlie, Largs, Fairlie and West Kilbride are affluent commuting towns and with them being on the coast, are very popular with tourists during the summer months. Towns in the south include Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston. Towards the south of the area is Kilwinning and Irvine, the main settlement and largest town in the area. The inland towns of Dalry, Kilbirnie and Beith were steel towns with large steel mills, but these are long gone. Tourism is the main industry on Arran and Cumbrae; however, the number of holiday homes on the latter has begun to squeeze locals out of the housing market. Regeneration is currently taking place at Ardrossan Harbour and Irvine town centre, and there has been a rapid increase in the construction of new housing in recent years.

Kelburn Castle, Fairlie, is the home of the 10th Earl of Glasgow, Patrick Robin Archibald Boyle. The grounds have belonged to the Boyle family since the 1100s. In 2007, the castle was transformed by the Graffiti Project.


Brodick, a settlement in North Ayrshire on the Isle of Arran.
A view from Millport. Tourism, particularly in the islands, is a strong sector of North Ayrshire's economy.

North Ayrshire has a slightly higher level of unemployment compared to the Scottish average. North Ayrshire launched an Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy in September 2020 focusing on economic recovery and a renewal approach which aims to sets out a comprehensive plan for an inclusive and green economic recovery for North Ayrshire. An £8.8 million Investment Fund will be used as a key element of a Green New Deal by:[6]

  • Maximising renewable energy generation using the council's land and assets.
  • The creation of a new Green Jobs Fund to ensure a just transition for North Ayrshire.
  • Investing in commercial estate including improving sustainability.
  • Tackling vacant and derelict land and buildings in town centres.
  • Supporting community economic development including through community regeneration and ownership.
  • A tree-planting programme to support carbon absorption.

In May 2020, North Ayrshire Council became the first council in Scotland to become a Community Wealth Building (CWB) Council, setting out a new economic model focused on wellbeing and inclusion. North Ayrshire Council seeks to use Community Wealth Building objectives to support the recovery and renewal of North Ayrshire by creating an economy that works for people, place and planet.

The North Ayrshire approach will see the creation of a new £660,000 Community Wealth Building Business Fund to provide assistance to local business and facilitating the development of co-operatives, employee ownership and social enterprises, supporting local supply chains, fair employment, digital adoption and the transition to a green economy. North Ayrshire is to benefit from the Ayrshire Growth Deal, an economic plan created by both the Scottish Government and UK Government. The £250 million Ayrshire Growth Deal is also central to the plans to support economic recovery through a bold and ambitious investment programme to create and secure jobs within the area of North Ayrshire.[6]


North Ayrshire
Council logo
Anthea Dickson,
since 18 May 2022
Marie Burns,
since 18 May 2022[7]
Craig Hatton
since October 2018[8]
Seats33 councillors
Results of the 2022 election:
Political groups
Administration (12)
  SNP (12)
Other parties (17)
  Conservative (10)
  Labour (9)
  Independents (2)
Single transferable vote
Last election
6 May 2022
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
Cunninghame House, Friars Croft, Irvine, KA12 8EE
Map of the council area's electoral wards, as of 2017

The council has been under no overall control since 2007, with various minority administrations led by both Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP) operating since then. Following the 2022 election the council is under no overall control, being led by an SNP minority administration.[9] The next election is due in 2027.

Political control[edit]

The first election to North Ayrshire Council was held in 1995, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until the new system came into force on 1 April 1996. Political control of the council since 1996 has been as follows:[10]

Party in control Years
Labour 1996–2007
No overall control 2007–


The leaders of the council since 1996 have been:[11]

Councillor Party From To
Jimmy Clements[12] Labour 1 Apr 1996 May 1999
David O'Neill Labour 20 May 1999 May 2012
Willie Gibson SNP May 2012 Aug 2016
Joe Cullinane Labour 30 Aug 2016 May 2022
Marie Burns SNP 18 May 2022


Since 2007 elections have been held every five years under the single transferable vote system, introduced by the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004. Election results since 1995 have been as follows:[10][13]

Year Seats SNP Conservative Labour Liberal Democrats Independent / Other Notes
1995 30 1 1 28 0 0 Labour majority
1999 30 2 2 25 0 1 New ward boundaries.[14] Labour majority
2003 30 3 4 22 0 1 Labour majority
2007 30 8 3 12 2 5 New ward boundaries.[15]
2012 30 12 1 11 0 6
2017 33 11 7 11 0 4 New ward boundaries.[16]
2022 33 12 10 9 0 2 New ward boundaries.[17] SNP minority administration


The council is based at Cunnninghame House on Friars Croft in Irvine, which was built in 1975 as the headquarters for the Cunninghame District Council, forming part of the new town centre for Irvine following its designation as a New Town.[18][19][20]


As of 2022, the council area is divided into nine multi-member wards returning 33 members, composed as follows:[17]

Ward Name Seats
1 North Coast 5
2 Garnock Valley 5
3 Ardrossan 3
4 Arran 1
5 Saltcoats and Stevenston 5
6 Kilwinning 4
7 Irvine West 4
8 Irvine East 3
9 Irvine South 3

Wider politics[edit]

At the House of Commons, North Ayrshire is covered by the Central Ayrshire and North Ayrshire and Arran Parliamentary constituencies, both of which are represented by MPs belonging to the Scottish National Party. In the Scottish Parliament, the council area is divided into Cunninghame North and Cunninghame South, both represented by MSPs from the Scottish National Party.


The main administration centre and largest settlement in North Ayrshire is Irvine, a new town on the coast of the Firth of Clyde. The second biggest settlement is Kilwinning, followed by Saltcoats which is part of the 'Three Towns' - Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.

On the Isle of Arran, the largest village is Lamlash and there are numerous smaller villages. On Great Cumbrae, the only town on the island is Millport.

Largest settlements by population:

Settlement Population (2022)[21]


















West Kilbride


Towns (mainland)[edit]

Villages (mainland)[edit]

Irvine is the most populous town and the administrative centre for North Ayrshire Council
Ardrossan is one of the largest towns in North Ayrshire by population

Suburbs (mainland)[edit]

Villages (Isle of Arran)[edit]

Great Cumbrae as seen from Largs

Settlements (Great Cumbrae)[edit]

Places of interest[edit]


  1. ^ "East coast, Firth of Clyde" (PDF). Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  3. ^ "Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1994 c. 39, retrieved 29 December 2022
  4. ^ "Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1973 c. 65, retrieved 29 December 2022.
  5. ^ "The Lord-Lieutenants (Scotland) Order 1996", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1996/731, retrieved 5 January 2023.
  6. ^ a b Cullinane, Joe (9 November 2020). "North Ayrshire's Green New Deal". Local Government Information Unit. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Council minutes, 18 May 2022". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  8. ^ Dunn, Ross (2 October 2018). "Craig Hatton appointed new North Ayrshire Council chief executive". Daily Record. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  9. ^ "Your Council". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  10. ^ a b "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  11. ^ "Council minutes". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  12. ^ "Tributes after first North Ayrshire Council leader dies aged 88". Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald. 3 January 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  13. ^ "Election results". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  14. ^ "The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Order 1998", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1998/3179, retrieved 5 January 2023.
  15. ^ Scottish Parliament. The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006 as made, from legislation.gov.uk.
  16. ^ Scottish Parliament. The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2016 as made, from legislation.gov.uk.
  17. ^ a b Scottish Parliament. The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Regulations 2021 as made, from legislation.gov.uk.
  18. ^ "£77,000 to fit out this house". Irvine Herald. 26 September 1975. p. 2. Retrieved 5 January 2023. Work on the five-storey office block to be known as Cunninghame House is expected to be completed by the end of October...
  19. ^ "No. 19973". The London Gazette. 2 November 1976. p. 1466.
  20. ^ "Irvine, Friar's Croft, Cunninghame House". Canmore. Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
  21. ^ "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.

External links[edit]