North Ayrshire

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North Ayrshire
Scottish Gaelic : Siorrachd Àir a Tuath
North Ayrshire in Scotland.svg
North Ayrshire coat of arms.svg
North Ayrshire Council.svg
Coordinates: 55°40′N4°47′W / 55.667°N 4.783°W / 55.667; -4.783 Coordinates: 55°40′N4°47′W / 55.667°N 4.783°W / 55.667; -4.783
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Lieutenancy area Ayrshire and Arran
Admin HQCunningham House, Irvine
  BodyNorth Ayrshire Council
  Control Scottish National Party minority (council NOC)
  Total341.9 sq mi (885.4 km2)
  Rank Ranked 17th
  Rank Ranked 15th
  Density400/sq mi (150/km2)
ONS code S12000021
ISO 3166 code GB-NAY

North Ayrshire (Scottish Gaelic : Siorrachd Àir a Tuath, pronounced  [ˈʃirˠəxk aːɾʲ ə t̪ʰuə] ) 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 135,280 people. [2] The largest settlements 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 the 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. Departing - panoramio.jpg
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. A View From Millport Isle Of Cumbrae - panoramio.jpg
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]

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
North Ayrshire Council.svg
Council logo
Marie Burns,
since 18 May 2022 [7]
Anthea Dickson,
since 18 May 2022
Seats33 councillors
12 / 33
10 / 33
9 / 33
2 / 33
Single transferable vote
Last election
6 May 2022
Meeting place
Cunningham House, Irvine.jpg
Cunninghame House, Friars Croft, Irvine, KA12 8EE
Map of the council area's electoral wards, as of 2017 North Ayrshire UK ward map 2017 (blank).svg
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. [8] The next election is due in 2027.

Political control

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: [9]

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


The leaders of the council since 1996 have been: [10]

Jimmy Clements [11] Labour 1 Apr 1996May 1999
David O'Neill Labour 20 May 1999May 2012
Willie Gibson SNP 17 May 2007Aug 2016
Joe Cullinane Labour 30 Aug 2016May 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: [9] [12]

YearSeats SNP Conservative Labour Liberal Democrats Independent / Other Notes
1995 30112800Labour majority
1999 30222501New ward boundaries. [13] Labour majority
2003 30342201Labour majority
2007 30831225New ward boundaries. [14]
2012 301211106
2017 331171104New ward boundaries. [15]
2022 331210902New ward boundaries. [16] 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. [17] [18] [19]


    As of 2022, the council area is divided into nine multi-member wards returning 33 members, composed as follows: [16]

    Wider politics

    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.

    Towns and villages

    The main administration centre and largest settlement in North Ayrshire is Irvine, a new town on the coast of the Firth of Clyde, with a population of 33,698.

    The second biggest settlement is Kilwinning which has a population of over 18,000. Other major population centres include Largs, and 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.

    Towns (mainland)

    Villages (mainland)

    Irvine is the most populous town and the administrative centre for North Ayrshire Council Irvine's steeples, North Ayrshire, Scotland.jpg
    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 Ardrossan Scotland.jpg
    Ardrossan is one of the largest towns in North Ayrshire by population

    Suburbs (mainland)

    Villages (Isle of Arran)

    Great Cumbrae as seen from Largs Cumbrae from above Largs - - 886255.jpg
    Great Cumbrae as seen from Largs

    Settlements (Great Cumbrae)

    Places of interest

    Related Research Articles

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Ayrshire</span> Historic county in Scotland

    Ayrshire is a historic county and registration county in south-west Scotland, located on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. Its principal towns include Ayr, Kilmarnock and Irvine and it borders the counties of Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire to the north-east, Dumfriesshire to the south-east, and Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire to the south. Like many other counties of Scotland it currently has no administrative function, instead being sub-divided into the council areas of East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire. It has a population of approximately 366,800.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Cunninghame</span> Area of Scotland, comprising the northern part of Ayrshire

    Cunninghame is a former comital district of Scotland and also a district of the Strathclyde Region from 1975 to 1996.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Saltcoats</span> Town in Scotland

    Saltcoats is a town on the west coast of North Ayrshire, Scotland. The name is derived from the town's earliest industry when salt was harvested from the sea water of the Firth of Clyde, carried out in small cottages along the shore. It is part of the 'Three Towns' conurbation along with Ardrossan and Stevenston and is the third largest town in North Ayrshire.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Kilwinning</span> Town and former civil parish in Scotland

    Kilwinning is a town in North Ayrshire, Scotland. It is on the River Garnock, north of Irvine, about 21 miles (34 km) southwest of Glasgow. It is known as "The Crossroads of Ayrshire". Kilwinning was also a Civil Parish. The 2001 Census recorded the town as having a population of 15,908. The estimated population in 2016 was 16,460.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Stagecoach West Scotland</span>

    Stagecoach West Scotland is an operating region of Stagecoach UK Bus, comprising Western Buses Ltd based in Ayr, Scotland.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">North Ayrshire and Arran (UK Parliament constituency)</span> Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 2005 onwards

    North Ayrshire and Arran is a constituency of the British House of Commons, located in the south-west of Scotland within the North Ayrshire council area. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) at least once every five years using the first-past-the-post voting system of voting.

    Ayrshire Football League is a defunct soccer league in Scotland.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">River Garnock</span> River in Scotland

    The River Garnock, the smallest of Ayrshire's six principal rivers, has its source on the southerly side of the Hill of Stake in the heart of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. About a mile and a half south of this starting point the untested stream tumbles over the Spout of Garnock, the highest waterfall in Ayrshire, once thought to be the river's origin. The river then continues, for a total length of 20 miles (32 km) or so, through the towns of Kilbirnie, Glengarnock, Dalry and Kilwinning to its confluence with the River Irvine at Irvine Harbour.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Cunninghame North (Scottish Parliament constituency)</span> Region or constituency of the Scottish Parliament

    Cunninghame North is a constituency of the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood) covering part of the council area of North Ayrshire. It elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the first past the post method of election. It is also one of ten constituencies in the West Scotland electoral region, which elects seven additional members, in addition to the ten constituency MSPs, to produce a form of proportional representation for the region as a whole.

    The Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway (L&AR) was an independent railway company built to provide the Caledonian Railway with a shorter route for mineral traffic from the coalfields of Lanarkshire to Ardrossan Harbour, in Scotland.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">A78 road</span> Road in Scotland

    The A78 is an A road in Scotland. It connects Greenock and Prestwick on a route which follows the northern section of the Ayrshire coast.

    North Ayrshire was a county constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1868 until 1918. It returned one Member of Parliament (MP), using the first-past-the-post voting system.

    The Largs Branch is a railway line in Scotland, serving communities on the north Ayrshire Coast, as well as the deep water ocean terminal at Hunterston. It branches from the Glasgow to Ayr line at Kilwinning.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman Catholic Diocese of Galloway</span> Roman Catholic diocese in Scotland

    The Roman Catholic Diocese of Galloway is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. The pre-Reformation Diocese of Galloway, held to have been founded by St Ninian in the fifth century, had broken allegiance with Rome in 1560, and disappeared in 1689 in the (official) Church of Scotland but continued in the Episcopal Church of Scotland. The modern Roman Catholic diocese incorporates the local authority areas of Dumfries and Galloway, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and parts of North Ayrshire, (Cumbrae). The bishop's cathedra is at St Margaret's Cathedral, Ayr.

    St. Matthew's Academy is a Roman Catholic secondary school in the Scottish town of Saltcoats, North Ayrshire.

    Elections to North Ayrshire Council took place on 5 May 2022 on the same day as the 31 other Scottish local government elections.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">North Coast (North Ayrshire ward)</span>

    North Coast is one of the nine wards used to elect members of the North Ayrshire council. Created in 2007 as North Coast and Cumbraes and covering Fairlie, Largs, Millport and Skelmorlie along the Firth of Clyde, plus a sparsely-populated area inland covering part of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, it elected four Councillors. It was unaffected by a national boundary review prior to the 2017 local elections, but after the introduction of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, North Ayrshire's wards were re-organised for the 2022 election: West Kilbride was added from the previous Dalry and West Kilbride ward along with one extra councillor, and the name was shortened to North Coast – although the Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae islands were still included.


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    4. "Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973", , The National Archives, 1973 c. 65, retrieved 29 December 2022
    5. "The Lord-Lieutenants (Scotland) Order 1996", , The National Archives, SI 1996/731, retrieved 5 January 2023
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    8. "Your Council". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
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    12. "Election results". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 5 January 2023.
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    14. Scottish Parliament. The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006 as made, from .
    15. Scottish Parliament. The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2016 as made, from .
    16. 1 2 Scottish Parliament. The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Regulations 2021 as made, from .
    17. "£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...
    18. "No. 19973". The London Gazette . 2 November 1976. p. 1466.
    19. "Irvine, Friar's Croft, Cunninghame House". Canmore. Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 5 January 2023.