South Ayrshire

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South Ayrshire
Sooth Ayrshire
Siorrachd Àir a Deas
South Ayrshire coastline on the Firth of Clyde
South Ayrshire coastline on the Firth of Clyde
Coat of arms of South Ayrshire Sooth Ayrshire Siorrachd Àir a Deas
Official logo of South Ayrshire Sooth Ayrshire Siorrachd Àir a Deas
South Ayrshire in Scotland.svg
Coordinates: 55°17′N 4°42′W / 55.283°N 4.700°W / 55.283; -4.700Coordinates: 55°17′N 4°42′W / 55.283°N 4.700°W / 55.283; -4.700
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryScotland
Lieutenancy areaAyrshire and Arran
Admin HQCounty Buildings, Ayr, Wellington Square
 • BodySouth Ayrshire Council
 • ControlConservative (council NOC)
 • MPs
 • MSPs
 • Total472 sq mi (1,222 km2)
 • RankRanked 15th
 (mid-2019 est.)
 • Total112,550
 • RankRanked 19th
 • Density240/sq mi (92/km2)
ONS codeS12000028
ISO 3166 codeGB-SAY

South Ayrshire (Scots: Sooth Ayrshire; Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Àir a Deas, pronounced [ˈʃirˠəxk ə tʲes̪]) is one of thirty-two council areas of Scotland, covering the southern part of Ayrshire. It borders onto Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire. On 30 June 2020, the population of South Ayrshire was 112,140.

Following the 2022 council election, the Scottish National Party (SNP) announced an agreement to control the council, despite having a minority of elected members, with the SNP's Peter Henderson serving as Leader of the Council.[1]

Overview and history[edit]

Creation and history[edit]

The administrative boundaries were formed in 1996 as a direct successor to the Kyle and Carrick district council area, with the district of Dalmellington – located along the south-east of Kyle and Carrick – being transferred over to the newly formed East Ayrshire Council area. South Ayrshire's Headquarters, County Buildings, are located in Wellington Square, Ayr.[2] The former council offices, Burns House on Burns Square and Parkhouse Street, were demolished in 2021, creating a new open space, landscaped with funding from the Scottish Government.[3]

Geography and climate[edit]

The South Ayrshire coast showing Ailsa Craig in the background

Geographically, South Ayrshire is located on the western coast of Scotland, sharing borders with neighbouring local authorities East Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and North Ayrshire. The climate in South Ayrshire, typical of that in Western Scotland, is milder than that of Eastern Scotland due to the stronger maritime influence, as the prevailing winds blow from the sea into South Ayrshire, which is located primarily on the western coast of Scotland. The warm Gulf Stream also has a strong influence on Western Scotland. With winds mainly blowing from the sea the annual mean temperatures are in the range 9.5 to 9.9 °C (49.1 to 49.8 °F) in coastal areas of South Ayrshire such as Ayr and Troon. The sea reaches its lowest temperature in February or early March so that on average February is the coldest month in some coastal parts of South Ayrshire along with the Rinns of Galloway, Kintyre and the Hebrides. In February the mean daily minimum temperature varies from about 2 °C in most of the islands, 1 to 2 °C along most of the Solway Firth and lowland inland areas, but less than −1 °C in parts of the Southern Uplands and central Highlands. Inland, where the influence of the sea is less, January is the coldest month with mean daily minimum temperatures generally between −3 and 0 °C.[4]

The number of hours of natural sunshine in South Ayrshire is controlled by the length of day and by cloudiness. In general, December is the dullest month and May or June the sunniest. Sunshine duration decreases with increasing altitude, increasing latitude and distance from the coast. Local topography also exerts a strong influence and in the winter deep glens and north-facing slopes can be in shade for long periods. Industrial pollution and smoke haze can also reduce sunshine amounts, but the decline in heavy industry in the Ayrshire area, primarily in Ayr in South Ayrshire along with Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire, has resulted in an increase in sunshine duration particularly in the winter months.[4]

Average annual rainfall totals range from less than 1,000 mm (39 in) in the upper Clyde valley and along the coasts of Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway to on average over 3,500 mm (140 in) over the higher parts of the west Highlands, approaching the maximum values found in the UK (over 4,000 millimetres or 160 inches further north).[4]


Ayr is the largest settlement within South Ayrshire in terms of both area and population.
Troon, after Ayr, is one of South Ayrshire's largest settlements in terms of population and a major tourist attraction, attracting visitors to its beaches and golf courses.

South Ayrshire's population is mostly concentrated around the adjoining coastal towns of Ayr, Prestwick and Troon located to the north-west of the council, which represents 68% of the council's total population according to data derived from the 2011 census, with a combined population of 76,846. Other areas of significance include the towns of Maybole and Girvan which are located to the south of the council area in the district of Carrick.

A list of settlements in South Ayrshire may be found below:


Villages and hamlets[edit]

Places of interest[edit]

Culzean Castle & Palm Garden, a major tourist attraction in South Ayrshire


Rural landscape in South Ayrshire, a common source of employment through agriculture and farming industries

The economy of South Ayrshire, like many other areas, was badly affected during the worldwide financial crisis from 2009–2012. Despite this, total Gross Value Added for South Ayrshire has seen a steady increase over the last 20 years, reaching a peak in 2015 of £2.4 million. South Ayrshire’s GVA represents 1.9% of the total Scottish Gross Value Added income which is consistent with the previous 20 years. The largest employment industry in South Ayrshire and Scotland is the public admin, education and health sector. Compared with Scotland, proportionally there are more South Ayrshire residents employed in this sector than Scotland, while there are proportionally fewer employed in banking, finance and insurance sector than Scotland. Despite being a costal area, the smallest employment in South Ayrshire is in the agriculture and fishing sector.[6]

In 2008, South Ayrshire Council established the Economic Development Partnership, with the main purpose of the partnership of working with partners to develop the local economy of South Ayrshire for the benefit of its businesses and residents and to attract visitors and inward investment. The Partnership has responsibility for delivering the Prosperous, Learning and Achieving related outcomes of the South Ayrshire Single Outcome Agreement. These include objectives related to supporting business development and growth, promoting learning and employability, developing tourism and the social economy and improving transport links and infrastructure. The Partnership currently has three sub groups which progress much of the operational work needed to deliver outcomes related services namely:

  • Lifelong Learning Partnership: responsible for community based learning and literacies services.
  • South Ayrshire Employability Partnership: responsible for employment and training services.
  • Local Social Economy Partnership: responsible for developing and supporting social enterprises.

The following organisations are currently members of the Partnership:


Pow Burn, a small loch near the estate of Coodham and is narrow until it reaches Prestwick

In South Ayrshire, the council places an emphasis on Community Planning being based on the core idea that if everyone works more effectively together then public services will improve for those who use them (within South Ayrshire). Community Planning starts with the service providers, such as South Ayrshire Council, the National Health Service (NHS Ayrshire and Arran) and Police Scotland, whereby they engage with local communities and service users to find out what their needs are and then jointly agree on priorities. The next stage is to jointly design local services to meet these identified priorities and ensure that they are delivered effectively.

Following an independent review of community planning in South Ayrshire which took place throughout 2014, new priorities and governance structures were agreed, including the establishment of a Community Planning Executive, three new Strategic Delivery Partnerships to deliver these priorities which include Economy & Employment, Health & Wellbeing and Community Safety. A Shortlife Working Group on Prevention and Early Intervention has also been set up as part of the new arrangements.[7]

The Community Planning Board is the executive and decision making body of the South Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership (CPP). The board is chaired by the Leader of the Council, currently Councillor Douglas Campbell of the Scottish National Party. It makes decisions on priorities, strategic outcomes and objectives for the Community Planning Partnership in South Ayrshire where it has responsibility for the delivery of the South Ayrshire Single Outcome Agreement.[7] The board is composed of various councillors and officials within South Ayrshire Council, as well as the Chief Executive, Eileen Howatt, Tim Eltringham, the Director of Health & Social Care at the South Ayrshire Partnership and Heather Dunk OBE, currently the principal of Ayrshire College (which has one of its main campuses in Ayr, the administrative town of South Ayrshire Council).[7]


Lyndsay McRoberts, current Director of Education for South Ayrshire since April 2022

Educational provision in South Ayrshire is offered via eight secondary schools, forty-one primary schools, two special needs schools and five stand-alone Early Years Centres (although some primary schools have Early Years Centres attached).[8][9] In terms of early years provision, there are also a number of private establishments which are operated in conjunction with South Ayrshire Council, rather than managed and operated entirely by the council.[9] Based on figures from the 2016-2017 academic year, within South Ayrshire, there were 6,091 secondary school aged pupils,[10] 7,855 primary school aged pupils[10] and 251 pupils attending special educational needs provision establishments.[10] Educational Services within South Ayrshire Council, which is currently managed by Lyndsay McRoberts, is responsible for all aspects of educational provision within the authority, including early years, primary, secondary, out of school care, creche services, pupil attainment, behaviour, behaviour management strategies and pupil welfare.[11]

Across South Ayrshire, a number of schools have either undergone a period of extensive refurbishment or complete rebuilding. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, in July 2017 it was highlighted that three schools within South Ayrshire – Marr College, Ayr Academy and Dalmilling Primary, were clad with the same cladding that caused the widespread of the fire at Grenfell Tower which is led to speculate why the fire was able to spread so quickly. Due to the low rise nature of the school building, South Ayrshire has issued a statement in which it states it is "fully confident" in the structure and design of the schools, and that the cladding used meets the strict fire restrictions used in building and planning operations in Scotland, further highlighting that all schools are fitted with enhanced fire prevention equipment such as sprinkler systems, fire alarms and vigorous fire evacuation procedures, in which Grenfell Tower did not.[12]

Queen Margaret Academy is the only secondary school in South Ayrshire which provides catholic education

South Ayrshire Council owns, operates and managed out-of-school care provision for children aged 3–14 years, taking children from early years, primary and the first few years of secondary school provision.[13] The Out of School Care provision within South Ayrshire is operated at five care clubs– Muirhead (Troon), Symington, Mossblown, Colyton and Dundonald.[13] In recent years, the staffing structure of after school care has changed to meet the demands of the wider council budget, and as of 2017, care clubs operated by South Ayrshire Council employ a Play Leader, responsible for the day-to-day operation of the service, alongside a Play Assistant, who assists in the provision and carries out responsibilities that can be delegate from the Play Leader or someone acting on their behalf. Staff employed to operate the care clubs are employed to provide child-centered play experiences for children which meet their individual needs and promote a safe and secure environment. Following on from Scotland's first Play Strategy introduced in 2013, South Ayrshire Council launched their own Let's Play - A Strategy for Early Learning and Childcare services in South Ayrshire policy in 2017 which runs until 2020.[14]

Care Clubs operated by South Ayrshire Council are registered with both the Care Inspectorate and the Childcare and Recreation Service (CARIS).[13] Like the educational services within South Ayrshire Council, the Childcare Services department, being part of the wider Educational Services, is managed by Lyndsay McRoberts, Director of Education.[11]

In line with most other Scottish local authorities, South Ayrshire Council has undertaken measures to ensure that services such as education and social work become more streamlined to ensure it is easier for professionals from both professions to communicate and share information in relation to children's care, welfare, learning and development. The Health and Social Care department within South Ayrshire, whilst being responsible for others such as the elderly, is an example of a more streamlined and integrated service to ensure all professionals are getting it right for the young people in South Ayrshire.[15] The Health and Social Care Partnership department in South Ayrshire was established in 2015 under the provisions of the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act, 2014.[15] The department is governed by an Integration Joint Board which is made up of eight voting members appointed by South Ayrshire Council as well as the NHS Ayrshire and Arran Board. Representatives from other sectors including the third sector (private sector), the independent sector, staff representatives and others representing the interests of patients, service users, carers and professionals also sit on the Board and contribute to its work. Separate Integration Joint Boards have also been established in the North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire Council authorities.[15]

The current Director of Education for South Ayrshire Council is Lyndsay McRoberts, who took up post in April 2022.[16]

Bid for city status[edit]

In 2021, South Ayrshire announced a candidacy to be recognised as a city and submitted a bid as part of the 2022 Platinum Jubilee Celebrations. The bid was based on the areas rich history and links to royalty, amongst other considerations.[17] The granting of city status aimed to boost tourism and recognition of the wider South Ayrshire area, and received backing from organisations and businesses including Ayrshire College and Scottish Enterprise.[18]

South Ayrshire would have become the third city to be an "area based" city, with the other two being the City of London and the City of Westminster.[19] The bid was ultimately unsuccessful, with 8 other settlements across the UK, overseas territories and crown dependencies being awarded city status, including Scottish town Dunfermline.[20]

Politics and governance[edit]

Council structure[edit]

South Ayrshire
Leader of the Council
Peter Henderson, SNP
since 25 June 2020
Deputy Leader of the Council
Brian McGinley, Labour
since 4 May 2017
Helen Moonie, Labour
since 3 May 2012
Seats28 councillors
South Ayrshire Council 2017.svg
12 / 28
8 / 28
5 / 28
3 / 28
Single transferable vote
Last election
4 May 2017
Meeting place
County Buildings, South Ayrshire HQ, Ayr.jpg
County Buildings, Wellington Square, Ayr

South Ayrshire Council is one of thirty-two local authority areas of Scotland. Its political structure consists of one Leader of the Council, one Deputy Leader of the Council and one Provost.[21][22] Following the 2017 Council election, the Scottish Conservative Party returned twelve councillors, the Scottish National Party returned nine councillors, Scottish Labour returned five councillors and two independent councillors were elected to the Council.[23] The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party returned the largest number of councillors, but did not have a majority. The Scottish National Party formed a working group along with Scottish Labour and the two independent councillors to run the council after the Scottish Conservatives failed to reach a deal with Scottish Labour, who had previously supported the Conservative-led administration following the 2012 Council election.[24]

South Ayrshire's provost, Helen Moonie (Scottish Labour Party), has been Provost of South Ayrshire since her appointment to the post in 2012 and was re-elected to serve as Provost in 2017.[21] The Provost of South Ayrshire is apolitical, which sees the post-holder carry out various duties across the authority acting as First Citizen of South Ayrshire. The Provost is mostly responsible for chairing meetings of the Council whilst ensuring the proper conduct of business in terms of the Council's Standing Orders. The Provost's role also involves representing the Council as its Civic Head at various events and working with numerous community groups, businesses and voluntary organisations in the interests of the local community.[21]

Local council elections results[edit]

Party Members
1995 1999 2003 2007 2012 2017
Conservative 4 13 15 12 10 12
SNP 0 0 0 8 9 9
Labour 21 17 15 9 9 5
Independent 0 0 0 1 2 2

† denotes an election held under the first-past-the-post electoral system. Elections held after this point were conducted under the single transferable vote, a form of proportional representation allowing for fairer representation of parties.

2017 election

The council has 28 councillors, elected in eight multi-member wards by single transferable vote. A list of South Ayrshire councillors may be found below, sorted by political party:

  • Conservative (12): Ian Campbell, Peter Convery, Ian Davis, Martin Dowey, Ian Fitzsimmons, Hugh Hunter, Mary Kilpatrick, Lee Lyons, Darek McCabe, Bob Pollok, Arthur Spurling and Margaret Toner.
  • Scottish National Party (9): Laura Brennan-Whitefield, Siobhian Brown, Douglas Campbell, Ian Cochrane, Chris Cullen, Julie Dettbarn, William Grant, Peter Henderson and Craig Mackay.
  • Labour (5): Andy Campbell, Ian Cavana, Brian McGinley, Helen Moonie and Philip Saxton
  • Independent (2): Alec Clark and Brian Connolly.


Map of the 2017 wards and election outcome

The 2017 elections resulted in the following representation:

Ward Members Representation
1. Troon 4 2xCON 1xSNP 1xLAB
2. Prestwick 4 2xCON 1xSNP 1xLAB
3. Ayr North 4 2xSNP 1xCON 1xLAB
4. Ayr East 3 1xCON 1xSNP 1xLAB
5. Ayr West 4 3xCON 1xSNP
6. Kyle 3 1xCON 1xSNP 1xLAB
7. Maybole, North Carrick and Coylton 3 1xCON 1xSNP 1xIND
8. Girvan and South Carrick 3 1xIND 1xCON 1xSNP

Council Management[edit]

Eileen Howatt, current Chief Executive of South Ayrshire Council

South Ayrshire Council, in line with other Scottish council areas, has a management team which runs the council.[11][25] As of August 2017, South Ayrshire Council is headed by a Chief Executive, who also acts as Returning Officer for the purposes of Scottish Parliamentary Elections, UK General Elections and elections to the European Parliament. The Chief Executive is the head of the corporate management team (CMT) and works with representatives and civil servants.[11][25]

South Ayrshire Council is divided into four main service areas – Economy, Neighbourhood and Environment, Educational Services, Resources, Governance and Organisation and Health and Social Care.[26] Each service area is headed by one Executive Director and then a number of Heads working under the direction of the director.[27][25]

UK Parliament[edit]

South Ayrshire forms part of two UK Parliamentary constituencies, listed below:

Constituency Member of Parliament Extent of constituency
Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock Allan Dorans SNP Official portrait of Allan Dorans MP crop 2.jpg Covering Ayr, Carrick and Coylton, alongside Cumnock and Doon Valley in East Ayrshire.
Central Ayrshire Philippa Whitford SNP Official portrait of Dr Philippa Whitford crop 2.jpg Covering Prestwick, Troon and Kyle, alongside Irvine and south-east Kilwinning in North Ayrshire

Scottish Parliament[edit]

Constituency MSPs South Ayrshire forms part of two Scottish Parliamentary constituency seats, listed below:

Constituency Member of Scottish Parliament Extent of constituency
Ayr Siobhian Brown SNP Covering Ayr, Prestwick and Troon.
Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley Elena Whitham SNP Covering Kyle and Carrick outside of Ayr, Prestwick and Troon, alongside Ballochmyle, Cumnock and Doon Valley in East Ayrshire.

Regional List MSPs As part of the South Scotland electoral region, South Ayrshire is represented by 7 regional MSPs who are elected to represent the entire South Scotland region – all regional list MSPs elected for the South Scotland region are listed below:

Constituency Member Party
South Scotland Sharon Dowey Conservative
Emma Harper Scottish National
Carol Mochan Labour
Craig Hoy Conservative
Brian Whittle Conservative
Martin Whitfield Labour
Colin Smyth Labour

Scottish independence referendum[edit]

At the 2014 Scottish independence referendum South Ayrshire rejected independence by an above-average margin of 57.9% "No" to 42.1% "Yes". With a turnout of 86.1%, there were 34,402 "Yes" votes and 47,247 "No" votes. Nationally 55.3% of voters voted "No" in the referendum compared to 44.7%, who voted "Yes" – resulting in Scotland remaining a devolved part of the United Kingdom.[28][29]

European Union membership referendum[edit]

At the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum a majority of voters in South Ayrshire voted for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union (EU), with 59% of voters in South Ayrshire voting for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the EU and 41% voting for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. With a turnout of 69.8%, 36,265 votes were cast for remain and 25,241 were cast for leave. 62% of Scottish voters voted remain whilst 38% voted leave, whilst nationally 51.8% of voters in the United Kingdom as a whole voting to leave and 48.2% voting to remain.[30][31]


  1. ^ Dyson, Kevin (10 May 2022). "SNP to run South Ayrshire as minority administration as Labour claim 'stitch-up'". Daily Record.
  2. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Ayr Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, including boundary wall (LB21820)". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  3. ^ Wilson, Stuart. "Huge mural on Odeon building would 'improve image' of Ayr town centre". Daily Record. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  4. ^ a b c This article contains OGL licensed text This article incorporates text published under the British Open Government Licence v3.0: "Western Scotland: climate". Met Office.
  5. ^ "Destination South Ayrshire".
  6. ^ "Story Map Journal".
  7. ^ a b c "Community Planning - Community Planning Partnership". South Ayrshire Council.
  8. ^ "Find a school in South Ayrshire - Secondary, Primary, Nursery and Special Schools". South Ayrshire Council.
  9. ^ a b "Early Years Centres and partnership centres". South Ayrshire Council.
  10. ^ a b c "Schools and learning - South Ayrshire Council" (PDF).
  11. ^ a b c d "Corporate Management Team - Departmental Structure". South Ayrshire Council.
  12. ^ "South Ayrshire Council News". South Ayrshire Council.
  13. ^ a b c "Out of school childcare". South Ayrshire Council.
  14. ^ "Schools and learning - South Ayrshire Council" (PDF).
  15. ^ a b c "South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership". South Ayrshire Council.
  16. ^ "Hometown girl Lyndsay unveiled as new head of education in South Ayrshire". 27 January 2022.
  17. ^ "SAC platinum civic honours competition".
  18. ^[bare URL PDF]
  19. ^ "Here are the Scottish towns in the mix to become a city in 2022".
  20. ^ "Eight towns to be made cities for Platinum Jubilee".
  21. ^ a b c "Provost". South Ayrshire Council. Archived from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Councillors". South Ayrshire Council.
  23. ^ "Elections and voting". South Ayrshire Council.
  24. ^ "Coalition formed to run South Ayrshire". 11 May 2017 – via
  25. ^ a b c[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "Management team". South Ayrshire Council.
  27. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Referendum 2014". Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  29. ^ "Indy red round-up: South Ayrshire votes No"
  30. ^ "EU Referendum 2016". South Ayrshire Council. Archived from the original on 2 February 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  31. ^ "South Ayrshire votes Remain with rest of Scotland - Carrick Gazette". 10 February 2018. Archived from the original on 10 February 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2020.

External links[edit]