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Local government areas of Scotland (1975–1996)

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The local government areas of Scotland were redefined by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and redefined again by the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994.

The 1973 Act created a system of nine two-tier regions and three islands areas, and this system completely replaced local government counties and burghs in 1975.[1] The new regions were generally very different from the counties which had been in use since the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. Also, the districts were very different from the subdivisions of counties, also called districts, which had been in use since the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929.



The reorganisation of local government in Scotland was a matter of political debate from the mid-1960s. In June 1963 the Scottish Office published a white paper titled The Modernization of Local Government in Scotland (Cmnd.2067). This proposed a large decrease in the number of local authorities in the country. There was to be a reduction from thirty-three county councils to between ten and fifteen. At the same time, new "second-tier councils" were proposed, with burghs being merged with the surrounding "landward" rural areas. The minimum population for the areas of these councils was to be 40,000. It was hoped that the reforms could be carried out quickly, with existing authorities agreeing to amalgamation and boundary alterations prior to legislation being passed.[2] The white paper was rejected by the Association of Large Burghs, and by the Scottish Labour Party.[3][4] At the 1964 general election Labour came to power, and the scheme was not pursued.[3] Instead a royal commission under the chairmanship of Lord Wheatley was appointed in 1966 to enquire into local administration. Wheatley commented that "Our terms of reference are far-reaching: we have a free hand to recommend whatever arrangement of authorities, boundaries and functions seem likely to be right for a long time to come".[5]

The commission's report was delivered on 25 September 1969, and recommended a two-tier system of 7 regions and 37 districts.[6] The incoming Conservative government accepted the broad principles of the commission's report in their white paper Reform of Local Government in Scotland (Cmnd. 4583), published in February 1971. The number of regions was increased to 8, and of districts to 49. Also Orkney and Shetland were to become "most-purpose" authorities, separated from the Highland Region.[7] Following consultation, the structure was modified. The Western Isles, which was to have formed four districts of the Highland Region, became an islands area, with the same status as Orkney and Shetland. The number of districts was to remain at 49 in number, but with considerable boundary changes.[8] These were the areas included in the Local Government (Scotland) Bill as introduced to parliament in 1973. Considerable changes were made during the passage of the legislation. Fife, which was to have been divided between the South-East and East Regions, was to become a region on the same boundaries as the existing county. This increased the number of regions to nine. The number of districts was increased to 53, numerous boundary changes were made and regions and districts renamed.

The first elections to the new district and regional councils were held on 7 May 1974, with the councillors sitting as "shadow authorities" until 16 May 1975 when they came into their powers.[9]





Regions had a two-tier system of local government, with each region divided into districts, varying from 3 to 19 in number.

The top tier of local government was the regional council. Services provided at the regional level were those needing greater finance or resources, or best exercised over a wide area. These included police, fire services, consumer protection, education and transport.[1]

Each district had an elected district council. In the case of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, the districts had city status, although this did not confer any additional powers. District councils had responsibility for local services including local planning, housing, libraries and licensing.[1]

Islands areas


The islands areas were unitary local government areas, exercising the powers of both a regional and district council.

Regions and islands areas


Scotland was subdivided into regions and islands areas as follows:

on map
Region or islands area Headquarters[10] Area
Population (1994)
1 Strathclyde (region) Glasgow 1,350,283 2,286,800
2 Dumfries and Galloway (region) Dumfries 639,561 147,900
3 Borders (region) Newtown St Boswells 471,253 105,300
4 Lothian (region) Edinburgh 171,595 750,600
5 Central (region) Stirling 263,455 272,900
6 Fife (region) Glenrothes 131,201 351,200
7 Tayside (region) Dundee 749,650 395,200
8 Grampian (region) Aberdeen 869,772 528,100
9 Highland (region) Inverness 2,539,759 206,900
10 Western Isles (islands area) Stornoway 289,798 29,600
Not shown Shetland (islands area) Lerwick 143,268 22,522
Not shown Orkney (islands area) Kirkwall 97,581 19,600


Region Districts Headquarters[10] Population
Borders Berwickshire Duns 19,350
Ettrick and Lauderdale Galashiels 35,000
Roxburgh Hawick 35,350
Tweeddale Peebles 15,375
Central Clackmannan Alloa 47,643
Falkirk Falkirk 142,800
Stirling Stirling 81,630
Dumfries and Galloway Annandale and Eskdale Annan 37,130
Nithsdale Dumfries 57,220
Stewartry Kirkcudbright 23,690
(originally named Merrick)[1]
Stranraer 30,077
Fife Dunfermline Dunfermline 129,830
Kirkcaldy Kirkcaldy 148,450
North East Fife Cupar 69,930
Grampian Aberdeen, City of Aberdeen 213,000
Banff and Buchan Banff 88,020
Gordon Inverurie 77,080
Kincardine and Deeside Stonehaven 54,990
Moray Elgin 83,616
Highland Badenoch and Strathspey Kingussie 10,399
Caithness Wick 26,710
Inverness Inverness 62,245
Lochaber Fort William 19,195
Nairn Nairn 10,600
Ross and Cromarty Dingwall 49,184
Skye and Lochalsh Portree 11,870
Sutherland Golspie 13,190
Lothian East Lothian Haddington 85,140
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh 418,914
Midlothian Dalkeith 79,910
West Lothian Bathgate 146,430
Strathclyde Argyll and Bute
(originally Argyll)[11]
Lochgilphead 63,350
Bearsden and Milngavie Bearsden 41,000
Clydebank Clydebank 47,500
(originally named Lanark: renamed 1980)[1]
Lanark 58,290
Cumbernauld and Kilsyth
(originally named Cumbernauld)[1]
Cumbernauld 63,930
Cumnock and Doon Valley Cumnock 42,954
Cunninghame Irvine 139,020
Dumbarton Dumbarton 77,222
East Kilbride East Kilbride 82,777
Eastwood Giffnock 60,600
Glasgow, City of Glasgow 681,470
Hamilton Hamilton 105,202
Inverclyde Greenock 90,103
Kilmarnock and Loudoun Kilmarnock 79,861
Kyle and Carrick Ayr 112,658
Monklands Coatbridge 102,379
Motherwell Motherwell 143,730
Renfrew Paisley 201,000
(originally named Bishopbriggs and Kirkintilloch)[1]
Kirkintilloch 85,191
Tayside Angus Forfar 96,500
Dundee, City of Dundee 171,520
Perth and Kinross Perth 129,070



The 1994 Act created 29 new unitary local government areas, which completely replaced the regions and districts on 1 April 1996. The islands council areas continued in use and, therefore, Scotland now has 32 council areas.

See also


Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, c.65
  2. ^ "Fewer, Bigger Scots County Councils. Two-Tier Plan In White Paper". The Times. 28 June 1963. p. 10.
  3. ^ a b "Scottish White Paper "Unacceptable"". The Times. 17 September 1963. p. 15.
  4. ^ "South-East Plan Attacked". The Times. 6 April 1964. p. 6.
  5. ^ "Tasks set for new planners of local government Members of royal commissions named". The Times. 25 May 1966. p. 14.
  6. ^ "Pay for Scottish councillors urged". The Times. 26 September 1969. p. 4.
  7. ^ "Local Government Reform in Scotland". Hansard 1803-20005. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 23 March 1971. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Local Government Reform". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 22 December 1971. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
  9. ^ "Mixed Labour fortine in Scottish poll". The Times. 9 May 1974. p. 1.
  10. ^ a b c d e Whitaker's Concise Almanack 1995. London: J Whitaker & Sons Ltd. 1994. pp. 570–571. ISBN 978-0-85021-247-1.
  11. ^ According to minutes of district council meetings on 21 May and 27 August 1974 the name of the Argyll district was scheduled to change to Argyll and Bute on 1 September 1974, in accordance with the terms of section 23 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.