Politics of Edinburgh
|The City of Edinburgh Council
Ceitie o Edinburgh Cooncil
Comhairle Cathair Dhùn Eideann
|• Body||The City of Edinburgh Council|
|• Control||Lab + SNP (council NOC)|
|• Total||101.7 sq mi (263.4 km2)|
|Area rank||Ranked 23rd|
|Population (mid-2016 est.)|
|• Rank||Ranked 2nd|
|• Density||4,990/sq mi (1,925/km2)|
|ISO 3166 code||GB-EDH|
The politics of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, are expressed in the deliberations and decisions of the council of Edinburgh, in elections to the council, the Scottish Parliament, the House of Commons and the European Parliament.
The City of Edinburgh became a unitary council area in 1996, under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, with the boundaries of the post-1975 City of Edinburgh district of the Lothian region.
As one of the unitary local government areas of Scotland, the City of Edinburgh has a defined structure of governance, generally under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, with The City of Edinburgh Council governing on matters of local administration such as housing, planning, local transport, parks and local economic development and regeneration. For such purposes the City of Edinburgh is divided into 17 wards.
The next tier of government is that of the Scottish Parliament, which legislates on matters of Scottish "national interest", such as healthcare, education, the environment and agriculture, devolved to it by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. For elections to the Scottish Parliament (at the Scottish Parliament Building, in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh), the city area is divided among six Scottish Parliament constituencies, each returning one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), and is within the Lothians electoral region.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom (at the Palace of Westminster) legislates on matters such as taxation, foreign policy, defence, employment and trade. For elections to the House of Commons of this parliament, the city area is divided among five United Kingdom Parliamentary constituencies, with each constituency returning one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.
Scotland constitutes a single constituency of the European Parliament, in which the electorate of the City of Edinburgh participate in electing six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.
- 1 The City of Edinburgh Council
- 1.1 Council and committees
- 1.2 Policy Development and Review Sub-Committees
- 1.3 Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee
- 1.4 Petitions Committee
- 1.5 Planning and Regulatory Committees
- 1.6 Neighbourhood partnerships
- 1.7 External Committees
- 1.8 Elections
- 1.9 Wards
- 2 The Edinburgh Corporation and former local government
- 3 Parliament of the United Kingdom
- 4 Scottish Parliament
- 5 Scottish Independence referendum, 2014
- 6 Footnotes
The City of Edinburgh Council
The current Lord Provost of Edinburgh is Frank Ross, who replaced Donald Wilson in 2017. In Scotland the Lord Provost fulfils many similar roles to that of a Mayor in some other countries.
Elections to the Council are held every four/five years electing 63 councillors. The most recent elections took place in May 2017 and the next election is in May 2022. Prior to May 2017, the Council was controlled by a Labour/Scottish National Party coalition which continues following the 2017 election except that the SNP is now the largest party.
The Council is currently the second highest employer in Edinburgh, with a total of 18,617 employees.
Council and committees
The City of Edinburgh Council is elected under proportional representation and there are 63 councillors in 17 multi-member wards. The Council meeting is made up of all the councillors elected to the City of Edinburgh Council.
The full Council meets once a month on a Thursday, except during recess and holiday periods, and is chaired by the Lord Provost.
The Council retains responsibility for a range of functions including:
- Electing the Leader, Deputy Leader, Lady Madeline and Deputy Leader of the Council;
- Appointing Committees of the Council
- Appointing of the Chief Executive, Chief Officers, members of Committees, joint boards and outside bodies;
- Setting council rules, bye-laws, regulations and standing orders;
- Setting the council tax, annual council budget and administering the city's capital investment programme.
In September 2012, The City of Edinburgh Council introduced a new committee system.
In addition to the full council this includes:
- Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee
- 7 Executive Committees with Policy Development and Review Sub-Committees
- Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee
- Petitions Committee
Policy Development and Review Sub-Committees
Each Executive Committee has a Policy Development and Review Sub-Committee. These sub-committees develop policy aided by witnesses who are invited to give evidence or provide their view on a particular policy. This approach aims to increase the public’s engagement with the democratic process and result in improved, more inclusive policies.
Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee
The Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee considers and scrutinises the financial and service performance of the Council, its companies and major projects. It also performs the audit function of the Council. The Convener of the Committee is an opposition Councillor.
The Petitions Committee allows a new method for individuals, community groups and organisations can get involved in what the Council does. It allows people to raise issues of public concern and gives Councillors the opportunity to consider the need for change. The Convener of the Committee is an opposition Councillor.
Planning and Regulatory Committees
The Planning Committee is principally concerned with issues of planning and development, including the granting of planning permission and street naming. The Regulatory Committee deals with issues such as health and safety and buildings in need of repair as well as determining individual applications for registration and licensing of food premises, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and other statutory powers. Membership of such committees reflects the party balance on the council.
In June 2007 the six local development committees in Edinburgh, one for each Scottish Parliamentary Constituency were replaced by neighbourhood partnerships. Typically these combine the councillors from two council wards with representatives of community councils. Neighbourhood partnerships are tasked with dealing with issues that are specific to their local area and influencing the delivery of key council services including street cleaning, urban parks, libraries, local development, road maintenance, traffic and parking issues. Local committees meet several times each year.
The Council also appoints elected members to serve on:
- The Licensing Board
- Lothian Valuation Joint Board
- Forth Estuary Transport Authority
Members of the council represent 17 electoral areas called wards. As a result of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, multi-member wards were introduced for the 2007 election, each electing three or four councillors by the single transferable vote system, to produce a form of proportional representation. Previously each of 58 wards elected one councillor by the first past the post system of election.
Council political composition
|Ward number||Ward name||Seats|
|1972||No overall control||Progressive-Conservative minority|
|1973||No overall control||Conservative-Progressive minority|
|1974||No overall control||Labour minority|
|1980||No overall control||Conservative minority (Liberal support)|
|1992||No overall control||Labour|
|2007||No overall control||Lib Dem – SNP|
|2012||No overall control||Labour – SNP|
|2017||No overall control||SNP - Labour|
The Edinburgh Corporation and former local government
Prior to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 Edinburgh was administered by the single tier "Edinburgh Corporation", which covered the "City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh". As such, the Edinburgh Corporation was responsible for local government services, such as the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Department (Edinburgh Corporation Tramways until 1928). The Edinburgh Corporation had the power to make 'Burgess' (freemen) of the City of Edinburgh and to grant "Seals of Cause" to Guilds and trade organisations. The Edinburgh Corporation awarded Burgess Ticket through the Lord Dean of Guild, an office in the Corporation. Like the Corporation of the City of London, Burgess Tickets were often awarded along with a 'Freedom Casket' - a container to hold the ticket. Bodies such as the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, the Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh and The High Constables of Edinburgh formed part of the corporation, contributing councilors and law enforcement officers. The Edinburgh Corporation had the power to institute these organisations via the granting of a "Seal of Cause". This empowered the societies as "a legal corporation with power to hold property, make its own by-laws and regulations". Other organisations to receive the "Seal of Cause" include The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh, who received their seal on the 2nd July 1800. The history of the corporation lives on elsewhere around the city, for example in the name of the members of Muirfield golf club, who were granted a charter by the corporation in 1800 becoming "The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers". Many of Edinburgh's ceremonies and traditions date back to the days of the Edinburgh Corporation, such as the Edinburgh Ceremony of the Keys, where the Lord Provost symbolically hands the keys to the City of Edinburgh to the monarch, who hands them back to the Lord Provost proclaiming "that they cannot be placed in better hands than those of the Lord Provost and Councillors of my good City of Edinburgh".
In 1975, Edinburgh Corporation was abolished. The new two-tier system consisted of Lothian Regional Council (with responsibility for water, education, social work and transport) and the City of Edinburgh District Council (with responsibility for cleansing and libraries). The City of Edinburgh became a single-tier council area in 1996, under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, with the boundaries of the City of Edinburgh district of the Lothian region. The district had been created in 1975, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, to include the former county of city of Edinburgh; the former burgh of Queensferry, the district of Kirkliston and part of Winchburgh formerly within the county of West Lothian; and the district of Currie and the parish of Cramond formerly within the county of Midlothian.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
For elections to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the city is divided among five constituencies, each of which elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election. All five constituencies are entirely within the city area.
Prior to the United Kingdom general election, 2005, Edinburgh House of Commons constituencies had exactly the same names and boundaries as the Scottish Parliament constituencies listed above. However, in order to reduce Scotland's historical over representation in the House of Commons, Scotland's share of constituencies was reduced from 72 to 59, in accordance with proposals drawn up by the Boundary Commission for Scotland. The Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004 enabled Scottish Parliament constituencies to remain unaltered despite new arrangements for House of Commons constituencies, which resulted in the loss of one Edinburgh constituency and redrawing of boundaries for the others. As a result of the boundary review:
- Edinburgh Central constituency was abolished and split between the original Edinburgh North and Leith and Edinburgh West constituencies and an entirely new constituency that was created - Edinburgh South West.
- Edinburgh East and Musselburgh took in parts of the Edinburgh North and Leith seat, with the town of Musselburgh being transferred into the East Lothian constituency, with the new seat renamed Edinburgh East.
- Edinburgh Pentlands constituency was also divided between the new Edinburgh South West seat and the existing Edinburgh South seat.
- Edinburgh North and Leith was increased in size by taking in parts of the old Edinburgh Central constituency.
- Edinburgh South was expanded in size taking in elements of the old Edinburgh Pentlands seat.
- Edinburgh South West was an entirely new constituency created for the 2005 UK general election taking in elements of the old Edinburgh Central seat, the original Edinburgh West seat and Edinburgh Pentlands seat.
- Edinburgh West was expanded to include some parts of the defunct Edinburgh Central seat.
Current political composition:
|Scottish National Party||Edinburgh East||Tommy Sheppard|
|Scottish National Party||Edinburgh North and Leith||Deidre Brock|
|Labour Party||Edinburgh South||Ian Murray|
|Scottish National Party||Edinburgh South West||Joanna Cherry|
|Liberal Democrats||Edinburgh West||Christine Jardine|
Constituencies since 1708
Edinburgh has been used in ten different constituency names since 1708, the date of the first election to the Parliament of Great Britain (which was merged into the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1801). There have been up to six Edinburgh constituencies at any one time.
Two names, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh West have been in continuous use since 1885. One name, Edinburgh East, also first used in 1885, fell out of use in 1997 and returned to use in 2005.
Survival of a name does not in itself mean that a constituency's boundaries have been unaltered.
Lists of constituencies:
|1708 to 1885||Edinburgh|
|1885 to 1918||Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh East, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh West|
|1918 to 1950||Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh East, Edinburgh Leith, Edinburgh North, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh West|
|1950 to 1983||Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh East, Edinburgh Leith, Edinburgh North, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh West|
|1983 to 1997||Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh East, Edinburgh Leith, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh West|
|1997 to 2005||Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, Edinburgh North and Leith, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh West|
|2005 to present||Edinburgh East, Edinburgh North and Leith, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh South West and Edinburgh West|
For elections to the Scottish Parliament, the city is divided among six of the nine constituencies in the Lothian electoral region. Each constituency elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the first past the post system of election, and the region elects seven additional members (also called MSPs) to produce a form of proportional representation.
Until the United Kingdom general election, 2005, Edinburgh Scottish Parliament and Parliament of the United Kingdom constituencies were coterminous (shared the same geographical boundaries). The Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004, a piece of United Kingdom Parliament legislation, had removed the link, to enable Scottish Parliament constituencies to retain established boundaries despite the introduction of new boundaries for United Kingdom Parliament constituencies.
|Conservative||Edinburgh Central||Ruth Davidson|
|Scottish National Party||Edinburgh Eastern||Ash Denham|
|Scottish National Party||Edinburgh Northern and Leith||Ben Macpherson|
|Scottish National Party||Edinburgh Pentlands||Gordon MacDonald|
|Labour||Edinburgh Southern||Daniel Johnson|
|Liberal Democrats||Edinburgh Western||Alex Cole-Hamilton|
The following additional members were elected to represent the Lothian electoral region:
|Scottish Green||Alison Johnstone|
|Scottish Green||Andy Wightman|
Scottish Independence referendum, 2014
At the 2014 Scottish independence referendum voters in Edinburgh rejected independence by a margin of 61.1% No to 38.9% Yes. Turnout was 84.4%. Numerically, Edinburgh had the largest number of No votes out of all 32 council areas in Scotland with 194,638 No votes to 123,927 Yes votes. The difference between the number of Yes and No votes was largest in Edinburgh by comparison to any other council area in Scotland at 70,711.
Results by UK Parliament constituency
|UK Parliament constituency ||Yes votes||No votes||Yes (%)||No (%)||Valid votes|
|Edinburgh North and Leith||28,813||43,253||40.0%||60.0%||72,181|
|Edinburgh South West||24,659||39,509||38.4%||61.6%||64,249|
|City of Edinburgh||123,927||194,638||38.9%||61.1%||319,025|
- List of Lord Provosts of Edinburgh
- Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004
- Lothian Regional Council
- Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh
- "Indyref". BBC. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- "Edinburgh by Numbers 2013/14" Archived 16 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Local Election Results | COSLA". www.cosla.gov.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- BBC News 2002 Political landscape set to change
- Boundary Commission for Scotland, 2004 Fifth Periodical Review of Constituencies Archived 21 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Scottish Independence Referendum Results". City of Edinburgh council. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2016.