Scottish Borders

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Scottish Borders
The Mairches (Scots)
Crìochan na h-Alba (Scottish Gaelic)
Scottish Borders in Scotland.svg
Coordinates: 55°21′36″N2°29′24″W / 55.36000°N 2.49000°W / 55.36000; -2.49000
Sovereign state Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Country Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland
Lieutenancy areas Berwickshire, Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale, Tweeddale
Admin HQ Newtown St Boswells
  BodyScottish Borders Council
  Total1,827 sq mi (4,732 km2)
  Rank Ranked 6th
  Rank Ranked 18th
  Density64/sq mi (25/km2)
ONS code S12000026
ISO 3166 code GB-SCB
Topographic map of Scottish Borders and Lothian Topo map Scottish Borders, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian.png
Topographic map of Scottish Borders and Lothian

The Scottish Borders (Scots : the Mairches, lit. 'the Marches'; Scottish Gaelic : Crìochan na h-Alba) is one of 32 council areas of Scotland. [1] It is bordered by West Lothian, Edinburgh, Midlothian, and East Lothian to the north, the North Sea to the east, Dumfries and Galloway to the south-west, South Lanarkshire to the west, and the English ceremonial counties of Cumbria and Northumberland to the south. The largest settlement is Galashiels, and the administrative centre is Newtown St Boswells.


The term "Scottish Borders", is also used to designate the areas of southern Scotland and northern England that bound the Anglo-Scottish border, namely Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, and Cumbria. The county occupies approximately the same area as the historic shires of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire, and Selkirkshire.


The Scottish Borders are in the eastern part of the Southern Uplands. [2]

The region is hilly and largely rural, with the River Tweed flowing west to east through it. The highest hill in the region is Broad Law in the Manor Hills. In the east of the region, the area that borders the River Tweed is flat and is known as 'The Merse'. [3] The Tweed and its tributaries drain the entire region with the river flowing into the North Sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, and forming the border with England for the last twenty miles or so of its length.

The term Central Borders refers to the area in which the majority of the main towns and villages of Galashiels, Selkirk, Hawick, Jedburgh, Earlston, Kelso, Newtown St Boswells, St Boswells, Peebles, Melrose and Tweedbank are located.

Two of Scotland's 40 national scenic areas (defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to ensure their protection from inappropriate development) [4] lie within the region: [5]


The term Borders sometimes has a wider use, referring to all of the counties adjoining the English border, also including Dumfriesshire and Kirkcudbrightshire, as well as Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland in England.

Roxburghshire and Berwickshire historically bore the brunt of the conflicts with England, both during declared wars such as the Wars of Scottish Independence, and armed raids which took place in the times of the Border Reivers. During this period, at the western end of the border there was a strip of country, called the "Debatable Land", because the possession of it was a constant source of contention between England and Scotland until its boundaries were adjusted in 1552. [8] Thus, across the region are to be seen the ruins of many castles, abbeys and even towns. The only other important conflict belongs to the Covenanters' time, when the marquess of Montrose was defeated at the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645. Partly for defence and partly to overawe the freebooters and moss-troopers who were a perpetual threat until they were suppressed later in the 17th century, castles were erected at various points on both sides of the border. [9]

From early on, the two sovereigns agreed on the duty to regulate the borders. The Scottish Marches system was set up, under the control of three wardens from each side, who generally kept the peace through several centuries until being replaced by the Middle Shires under James VI/I. [9]

Administrative history

Prior to 1975 the area that is now Scottish Borders was administered as the four separate counties of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire, and Selkirkshire, plus part of Midlothian. An elected county council was established for each county in 1890 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. The county councils were abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which established a two-tier structure of local government comprising upper-tier regions and lower-tier districts. A region called Borders was created covering the area. The region contained four districts, called Berwickshire, Ettrick and Lauderdale, Roxburgh, and Tweeddale. [10]

Further local government reform in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 saw the area's four districts and the regional council abolished, with a new unitary authority created covering the same area as the former Borders Region. [11] The 1994 Act called the new council area "The Borders", but the shadow council elected in 1995 to oversee the transition changed the name to "Scottish Borders" prior to the changes coming into effect in 1996. [12]


Scottish Borders Council
Scottish Borders Council logo.svg
Watson McAteer,
since 19 May 2022
Euan Jardine,
since 19 May 2022 [13]
David Robertson
since January 2023 [14]
Seats34 councillors
Political groups
Administration (18)
  Conservative (15)
  Independent (3)
Other parties (16)
  SNP (8)
  Independent (4)
  Liberal Democrat (3)
  Green (1)
Single transferable vote
Last election
5 May 2022
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
Scottish Borders Council Headquarters at Newtown St Boswells (geograph 4367455).jpg
Council Headquarters, Bowden Road, Newtown St Boswells, Melrose, TD6 0SA

Political control

The council has been under no overall control since 1999. Since the 2022 election the council has been run by an administration of the Conservatives and three of the independent councillors. [15]

The first election to the Borders Regional Council was held in 1974, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until the new system came into force on 16 May 1975. A shadow authority was again elected in 1995 ahead of the reforms which came into force on 1 April 1996. Political control of the council since 1975 has been as follows: [16]

Borders Regional Council

Party in controlYears
Independent 1975–1978
No overall control 1978–1982
Independent 1982–1994
No overall control 1994–1996

Scottish Borders Council

Party in controlYears
Independent 1996–1999
No overall control 1999–present


The first leader of the council following the 1996 reforms was Drew Tulley, who had been the last leader of the former Ettrick and Lauderdale District Council. [17] The leaders since 1996 have been: [18]

Drew Tulley [17] Independent 19966 Mar 2002
John Ross Scott Liberal Democrats 6 Mar 20023 May 2003
David Parker Independent 12 Mar 200318 May 2017
Shona Haslam Conservative 18 May 201725 Nov 2021
Mark Rowley Conservative 25 Nov 202119 May 2022
Euan Jardine Conservative 19 May 2022


Scottish Borders Council is based at the Council Headquarters in Newtown St Boswells. The building had been the headquarters of Roxburghshire County Council prior to 1975, [19] and subsequently served as the served as the main office of the Borders Regional Council between 1975 and 1996. [20]


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: [16]

YearSeats Conservative SNP Liberal Democrats Green Labour Independent / Other Notes
1995 5838150230
1999 3414140114New ward boundaries [21]
2003 3411180014
2007 3411610007New ward boundaries [22]
2012 341096009SNP / Lib Dem / Independent coalition
2017 341592008Conservative / Independent coalition [23]
2022 341493107Conservative / Independent coalition [24]


There are two British Parliamentary constituencies in the Scottish Borders; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk covers most of the region and is represented by John Lamont of the Conservatives. The western Tweeddale area is included in the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale constituency and is represented by David Mundell of the Conservatives.

At Scottish Parliament level, there are also two seats. The eastern constituency is Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, which is currently represented by Conservative Rachael Hamilton. The western constituency is Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale and is represented by SNP Christine Grahame.


Map of the area's wards Scottish Borders UK ward map (blank).svg
Map of the area's wards

The council area is divided into 11 wards that elect 34 councilors:

Ward NumberWard NameLocationSeats
1 Tweeddale West Tweedale West.svg 3
2 Tweeddale East Tweedale East.svg 3
3 Galashiels and District Galashiels and District.svg 4
4 Selkirkshire Selkirkshire.svg 3
5 Leaderdale and Melrose Leaderdale and Melrose.svg 3
6 Mid Berwickshire Mid Berwickshire.svg 3
7 East Berwickshire East Berwickshire.svg 3
8 Kelso and District Kelso and District.svg 3
9 Jedburgh and District Jedburgh and District.svg 3
10 Hawick and Denholm Hawick and Denholm.svg 3
11 Hawick and Hermitage Hawich and Hermitage.svg 3


At the census held on 27 March 2011, the population of the region was 114,000 (provisional total), an increase of 6.78% from the 106,764 enumerated at the previous (2001) census.

Language and literature

Although there is evidence of some Scottish Gaelic in the origins of place names such as Innerleithen ("confluence of the Leithen"), Kilbucho and Longformacus, which contain identifiably Goidelic rather than Brythonic Celtic elements and are an indication of at least a Gaelic-speaking elite in the area, the main languages in the area since the 5th century appear to have been Brythonic (in the west) and Old English (in the east), the latter of which developed into its modern forms of English and Scots.

Border ballads occupied a distinctive place in literature. Many of them were rescued from oblivion by Walter Scott, who gathered materials for his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which appeared in 1802 and 1803. Border traditions and folklore, and the picturesque incidents of which the country was so often the scene, appealed strongly to James Hogg ("the Ettrick Shepherd"), John Wilson, writing as "Christopher North", and John Mackay Wilson, whose Tales of the Borders, published in 1835, enjoyed popular favour throughout the 1800s. [9]


Until September 2015, the region had no working railway stations. Although the area was well connected to the Victorian railway system, the branch lines that supplied it were closed in the decades following the Second World War. A bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament to extend the Waverley Line, which aimed to re-introduce a commuter service from Edinburgh to Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank. This section of the route re-opened on 6 September 2015, under the Borders Railway branding. The other railway route running through the region is the East Coast Main Line, with Edinburgh Waverley, Dunbar and Berwick being the nearest stations on that line, all of which are outwith the Borders. Since 2014 there has been discussion [25] of re-opening the station at Reston which is within the region and would serve Eyemouth. To the west, Carlisle, Carstairs and Lockerbie are the nearest stations on the West Coast Main Line.

The area is served by buses which connect the main population centres. Express bus services link the main towns with rail stations at Edinburgh and Carlisle.

The region also has no commercial airports; the nearest are Edinburgh and Newcastle, both of which are international airports.

The main roads to and from the region are:


In terms of television, the area is cover by BBC Scotland broadcasting from Glasgow and ITV Border which broadcast from Newcastle. Television signals are received from the Selkirk TV transmitter. [26]

Radio stations are provided by BBC Radio Scotland which broadcast the local opt-out from its studios in Selkirk. [27] The commercial radio station, Radio Borders broadcasts from Edinburgh but still broadcast local news bulletins to the area as well as to Berwick-upon Tweed in Northumberland.

The area is served by the main local newspapers: Southern Reporter [28] and The Border Telegraph. [29]


Scottish Borders UK location map.svg
The largest settlements in Scottish Borders

Largest settlements by population:

2011 [30] (mid-2020 est.) [31]
Galashiels 14,994

15,490 [lower-alpha 1]

Hawick 14,294

13,620 [lower-alpha 2]

Peebles 8,376


Kelso 5,639


Selkirk 5,784


Jedburgh 4,030


Eyemouth 3,546


Innerleithen 3,031


Duns 2,753


Melrose 2,307


  1. Includes Langlee and Tweedbank
  2. Includes Burnfoot

Places of interest

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Local councils in Scotland". Directgov. Internet Memory Foundation. Archived from the original on 5 February 2008 via UK Government Web Archive – The National Archives.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. "Accommodation – Dumfries and Galloway – Ayrshire and Arran – Scottish Borders – Southern South West Scotland – Hotels – Bed and Breakfasts – Self Catering Holiday Cottages". Archived from the original on 8 November 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  3. p. 47 ofBanks, F. R. (Francis Richard) (1951), Scottish Border Country, Batsford, retrieved 20 October 2016
  4. "National Scenic Areas". Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  5. "National Scenic Areas – Maps". SNH. 20 December 2010. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  6. "Eildon and Leaderfoot National Scenic Area Map" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. 20 December 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 January 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  7. "Upper Tweeddale NSA Map" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 August 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  8. Chisholm 1911, p. 245.
  9. 1 2 3 Chisholm 1911, p. 246.
  10. "Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973", , The National Archives, 1973 c. 65, retrieved 22 November 2022
  11. "Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994", , The National Archives, 1978 c. 39, retrieved 22 November 2022
  12. "No. 23789". The Edinburgh Gazette . 26 May 1995. p. 1333.
  13. "Council minutes, 19 May 2022". Scottish Borders Council. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  14. "New chief executive appointed at Scottish Borders Council". BBC News. 20 January 2023. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  15. Kelly, Paul (19 May 2022). "New leader and convener of Scottish Borders Council appointed". Border Telegraph. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  16. 1 2 "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  17. 1 2 Janiak, Kevin (30 November 2020). "Drew gave 'total commitment'". Southern Reporter. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  18. "Council minutes". Scottish Borders Council. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  19. "Roxburgh County Offices, Newtown St Boswells". Canmore. Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 13 December 2022.
  20. Scottish Borders Council, Location, accessed 30 May 2023
  21. "The Scottish Borders (Electoral Arrangements) Order 1998", , The National Archives, SI 1998/3103, retrieved 15 December 2022
  22. Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Borders (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006 as made, from .
  23. "Conservatives and independents to run Scottish Borders Council". BBC News. 9 May 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  24. "Scottish election results 2022: First Green for Scottish Borders Council". BBC News. 6 May 2022. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  25. Rinaldi, Giancarlo (18 March 2016). "Borders Railway future goals drawn up". BBC News.
  26. "Selkirk (The Scottish Borders, Scotland) Full Freeview transmitter". 1 May 2004. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  27. Contact numbers for BBC Scotland
  28. "Southern Reporter". British Papers. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  29. "Border Telegraph". British Papers. 23 November 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  30. "Population of Scottish Borders towns (last count 2011)". Archived from the original on 12 January 2019.
  31. "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.

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