Subdivisions of Scotland

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Council areas of Scotland
CategoryAdministrative unit
Location Scotland
Populations21,400 (Orkney Islands) – 593,200 (Glasgow)
Areas21 square miles (54 km2) (Dundee) - 11,838 square miles (30,660 km2) (Highland)
  • Council government
  • None

For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas" (Scottish Gaelic : comhairlean), which are all governed by single-tier authorities designated as "councils". [1] They have the option under the Local Government (Gaelic Names) (Scotland) Act 1997 [2] of being known (but not re-designated) as a "comhairle" when opting for a Gaelic name; only Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Council of the Western Isles) has chosen this option, whereas the Highland Council (Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd) has adopted its Gaelic form alongside its English equivalent, informally.


The council areas have been in existence since 1 April 1996, under the provisions of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. Historically, Scotland was divided into 34 counties or shires. Although these no longer have any administrative function, they are still used to some extent in Scotland for cultural and geographical purposes, and some of the current council areas are named after them. There are also a number of other administrative divisions, some of which are handled by joint boards of the councils.

At the most local level, Scotland is divided into civil parishes, which are now used only for statistical purposes such as the census. The lowest level of administrative subdivision are the communities, which may elect community councils.

History of the subdivisions of Scotland

Traditionally burghs have been the key unit of the local government of Scotland, being highly autonomous entities, with rights to representation in the old Parliament of Scotland. Even after the Acts of Union 1707, burghs continued to be the principal subdivision. Until 1889, administration was on a burgh and parish basis.

The years following 1889 saw the introduction of a hierarchy of local government administration comprising counties, counties of cities, large burghs and small burghs.

With effect from 16 May 1975 and until 31 March 1996 the local government divisions of Scotland consisted of an upper tier of regions each containing a lower tier of districts except for the single-tier island council areas . Since 1996 there has only been a single tier of government, and the former island council areas are of equal status to the other councils.

Council areas

Coat of arms Council areaCouncilPopulation [3] Electors [4] Area (km2) [5] Density
(per km2)
Glasgow Coat of Arms 1996.svg Glasgow Glasgow City Council 635,130465,164174.63,637
Coat of Arms of the Edinburgh City Council.svg Edinburgh City of Edinburgh Council 526,470397,692263.41,999
Coat of Arms of the Fife Area Council.svg Fife Fife Council 374,730286,1261,325283
Coat of arms of North Lanarkshire Council.svg North Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire Council 341,400262,926470726
Coat of arms of South Lanarkshire.svg South Lanarkshire South Lanarkshire Council 322,630255,9241,772182
- Aberdeenshire Aberdeenshire Council 262,690205,7756,31342
Coat of Arms of the Highland Area Council.svg Scottish Highlands Highland Council 238,060187,42825,6539
Coat of arms of Aberdeen.svg Aberdeen Aberdeen City Council 227,430168,191185.61,226
Coat of arms of West Lothian Council.svg West Lothian West Lothian Council 185,580145,310427.7434
Coat of Arms of Renfrewshire.svg Renfrewshire Renfrewshire Council 179,940141,027261.5688
Coat of Arms of Falkirk.svg Falkirk Falkirk Council 160,700125,525297.1541
Coat of Arms of the Area Council of Perth and Kinross.svg Perth and Kinross Perth and Kinross Council 153,810119,9615,28629
Coat of arms of the Dumfries and Galloway area council 1996.svg Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway Council 148,790116,7136,42623
City of Dundee Coat of Arms.png Dundee Dundee City Council 147,720112,05059.82,470
North Ayrshire coat of arms.svg North Ayrshire North Ayrshire Council 134,220110,043885.3152
Coat of Arms of East Ayrshire.svg East Ayrshire East Ayrshire Council 122,02097,9201,26297
Coat of arms of the Angus Area Council.svg Angus Angus Council 116,12091,4162,18153
Scottish Borders Scottish Borders Council 116,02093,0674,73225
Coat of arms of South Ayrshire.svg South Ayrshire South Ayrshire Council 112,45092,8881,22292
Coat of arms of East Dunbartonshire.svg East Dunbartonshire East Dunbartonshire Council 108,90088,870174.5624
Coat of arms of East Lothian.svg East Lothian East Lothian Council 109,58087,919679.2161
Coat of arms of Moray Area Council.svg Moray Moray Council 96,41074,6412,23843
- East Renfrewshire East Renfrewshire Council 96,58073,583174.2554
Stirling Stirling Council 93,47070,9772,18643
Coat of arms of Midlothian District Council.svg Midlothian Midlothian Council 94,68075,401353.7268
Coat of arms of West Dunbartonshire.svg West Dunbartonshire West Dunbartonshire Council 87,79070,219158.8553
Coat of Arms Argyll & Bute.svg Argyll and Bute Argyll and Bute Council 86,22070,2476,90712
Coat of Arms Inverclyde.svg Inverclyde Inverclyde Council 76,70060,632160.4478
Coat of arms of Clackmannanshire.svg Clackmannanshire Clackmannanshire Council 51,54040,228159.2324
Coat of Arms of the Na h-Eileanan Siar (Outer Hebrides).svg Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar 26,64021,6263,0569
Shetland Islands Shetland Islands Council 22,94018,0591,46716
Orkney Orkney Islands Council 22,54017,669990.523

Other subdivisions

Scotland has several other administrative divisions, some of which are handled by joint boards of the councils.

Electoral and valuation

There are several joint boards for electoral registration and the purposes of property valuation for assessing council tax and rates. [6]

Joint board areaCouncil areas
Ayrshire East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire
Borders Scottish Borders
Central Scotland Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway
Dunbartonshire and Argyll & Bute Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire
Fife Fife
Grampian Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray
Glasgow Glasgow City
Highlands and Islands Highland and Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)
Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire
Lothian East Lothian, City of Edinburgh, Midlothian, West Lothian
Orkney and Shetland Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands
Renfrewshire East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire
Tayside Angus, Dundee City, Perth and Kinross


See also NHS Scotland

Health board areaCouncil areas
Ayrshire and Arran East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire
Borders Scottish Borders
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and Galloway
Fife Fife
Forth Valley Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling
Grampian Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray
Greater Glasgow and Clyde Glasgow City, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire,
Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire
Highland Argyll and Bute and Highland
Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire
Lothian City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian
Orkney Orkney Islands
Shetland Shetland Islands
Tayside Angus, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross
Western Isles (Eileanan Siar) Western Isles (Na h-Eileanan Siar)

Until 1 April 2014 the towns of Cambuslang and Rutherglen were in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area despite being located in South Lanarkshire. They are now part of NHS Lanarkshire.


The Scottish Government has created seven "Regional Transport Partnerships", for establishing transport policy in the regions. They broadly follow council area groupings.

RTP areaCouncil areas
NESTRANS Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire
TACTRAN Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Stirling
HITRANS Argyll and Bute (except Helensburgh and Lomond), Highland, Moray, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles), Orkney
ZetTrans Shetland
SEStran Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Midlothian, Fife, Scottish Borders, West Lothian
SWESTRANS Dumfries and Galloway
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport Argyll and Bute (Helensburgh and Lomond only), West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire

Eurostat NUTS

In the Eurostat Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), Scotland is a level-1 NUTS region, coded "UKM", which is subdivided as follows: [7]

NUTS 1CodeNUTS 2CodeNUTS 3Code
ScotlandUKMEastern ScotlandUKM2 Angus and Dundee UKM21
NUTS 3 regions of central and southern Scotland map.svg

NUTS 3 regions of Scotland map.svg
Clackmannanshire and Fife UKM22
East Lothian and Midlothian UKM23
Scottish Borders UKM24
Edinburgh UKM25
Falkirk UKM26
Perth and Kinross, and Stirling UKM27
West Lothian UKM28
South Western ScotlandUKM3 East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Helensburgh and Lomond UKM31
Dumfries and Galloway UKM32
East and North Ayrshire mainlandUKM33
Glasgow UKM34
Inverclyde, East Renfrewshire, and Renfrewshire UKM35
North Lanarkshire UKM36
South Ayrshire UKM37
South Lanarkshire UKM38
North Eastern ScotlandUKM5 Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire UKM50
Highlands and Islands UKM6 Caithness and Sutherland, and Ross and Cromarty UKM61
Inverness, Nairn, Moray, and Badenoch and Strathspey UKM62
Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Arran and Cumbrae, and Argyll and Bute (except Helensburgh and Lomond)UKM63
Eilean Siar (Western Isles)UKM64
Orkney Islands UKM65
Shetland Islands UKM66

Land registration

The current land registration system in Scotland divides Scotland into 33 Registration Counties, [8] each coming into effect on various dates between 1981 and 2003. These areas in most cases resemble those of the pre-1975 administrative counties with Glasgow being the only current city to form a registration county.

Registration countyOperational from
County of Renfrew 6 April 1981
County of Dunbarton 4 October 1982
County of Lanark 3 January 1984
County of the Barony and Regality of Glasgow 30 September 1985
County of Clackmannan 1 October 1992
County of Stirling 1 April 1993
County of West Lothian 1 October 1993
County of Fife 1 April 1995
County of Aberdeen 1 April 1996
County of Kincardine 1 April 1996
County of Ayr 1 April 1997
County of Dumfries 1 April 1997
County of Kirkcudbright 1 April 1997
County of Wigtown 1 April 1997
County of Angus 1 April 1999
County of Kinross 1 April 1999
County of Perth 1 April 1999
County of Berwick 1 October 1999
County of East Lothian 1 October 1999
County of Peebles 1 October 1999
County of Roxburgh 1 October 1999
County of Selkirk 1 October 1999
County of Argyll 1 April 2000
County of Bute 1 April 2000
County of Midlothian 1 April 2001
County of Inverness 1 April 2002
County of Nairn 1 April 2002
County of Banff 1 April 2003
County of Caithness 1 April 2003
County of Moray 1 April 2003
Counties of Orkney and Zetland 1 April 2003
County of Ross and Cromarty 1 April 2003
County of Sutherland 1 April 2003


Sheriffdoms are judicial areas. Since 1 January 1975, these have been six in number: [9]

Lieutenancy areas

The Lieutenancy areas of Scotland are the areas used for the ceremonial lord-lieutenants, the monarch's representatives. The areas are similar to the Historic Counties and the Registration Counties, but are not identical to either. Most notably, the four cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow form separate areas from the surrounding countryside, with the Lord Provost of each city acting ex officio as the lord-lieutenant.

Lieutenancy areas of Scotland

Former police and fire services

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 resulted in the merger of local police and fire services on 1 April 2013 to form the Police Service of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Seirbheis Phoilis na h-Alba) and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS, Scottish Gaelic: Seirbheis Smàlaidh agus Teasairginn na h-Alba).

Prior to 1975 policing was the responsibility of the Cities and Burghs of Scotland (see List of burghs in Scotland). Between 1975 and 2013 Scotland was subdivided into Police and fire service areas based on the regions and districts and island council areas that were also formed in 1975. The police and fire service regions used between 1975 and 2013 are listed below.

ServicesOriginal area (former regions)Council areasPolice Scotland Division [10]
Central Scotland Police
Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service
Central Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling Forth Valley (C Division)
Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary
Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Service
Dumfries and Galloway Dumfries and GallowayDumfries & Galloway (V Division)
Fife Constabulary
Fife Fire and Rescue Service
Fife FifeFife (P Division)
Grampian Police
Grampian Fire and Rescue Service
Grampian Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray Aberdeenshire (A Division)
Lothian and Borders Police
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service
Lothians and the Scottish Borders City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Scottish Borders, West Lothian Lothian & Borders (J Division)

Edinburgh City (E Division)

Northern Constabulary
Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service
Highland, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles Highland, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles), Orkney
and Shetland
Highland & Islands (N Division)
Strathclyde Police
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue
Strathclyde Argyll and Bute, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire
East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde,
North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire,
South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire
Argyll & West Dunbartonshire (L Division)

Renfrewshire & Inverclyde (K Division)

Ayrshire (U Division)

Greater Glasgow (G Division)

Lanarkshire (Q Division)

Tayside Police
Tayside Fire and Rescue Service
Tayside Angus, Dundee City and Perth & Kinross Tayside (D Division)

Lower level subdivisions

Scotland is divided into 871 civil parishes which often resemble same-named but legally different ecclesiastical parishes. Although they have had no administrative function since 1930, they still exist and are still used for statistical purposes such as the census. Many former civil parish areas also continued to form registration districts until 1 January 2007. Many boundary changes have occurred over the years and an area currently derived from an old parish might no longer contain a place previously within that parish. Similarly, county boundaries (as still used for land registration) have also changed over the years such that a parish mentioned historically (generally before the 1860s) as being in one county (or sometimes two due to straddling a border) might now be in a neighbouring county and consequentially in a different succeeding council area.

For most administrative purposes, the base level of sub-division in Scotland is now that of communities, which may elect community councils. The main role of these bodies is to channel and reflect local opinion to other bodies; they otherwise have very limited powers. There are around 1,200 communities in Scotland. Not all communities have councils; some have joint councils.

Scottish communities are the nearest equivalent to civil parishes in England.

See also

Related Research Articles

A county is a geographic region of a country used for administrative or other purposes in some nations. The term is derived from the Old French comté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. Literal equivalents in other languages, derived from the equivalent of "count", are now seldom used officially, including comté, contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, and zhupa in Slavic languages; terms equivalent to 'commune' or 'community' are now often instead used.

A unitary authority is a local authority responsible for all local government functions within its area or performing additional functions that elsewhere are usually performed by a higher level of sub-national government or the national government.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Inverclyde</span> Council area of Scotland

Inverclyde is one of 32 council areas used for local government in Scotland. Together with the East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire council areas, Inverclyde forms part of the historic county of Renfrewshire, which currently exists as a registration county and lieutenancy area. Inverclyde is located in the west central Lowlands. It borders the North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire council areas, and is otherwise surrounded by the Firth of Clyde.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glasgow City Council</span> Scottish unitary authority council in Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow City Council is the local government authority for Glasgow City council area, Scotland. In its modern form it was created in 1996. Glasgow was formerly governed by a corporation, also known as the town council, from the granting of its first burgh charter in the 1170s until 1975. From 1975 until 1996 the city was governed by City of Glasgow District Council, a lower-tier authority within the Strathclyde region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Local government in Scotland</span> System of state administration on a local level in Scotland

Local government in Scotland comprises thirty-two local authorities, commonly referred to as councils. Each council provides public services, including education, social care, waste management, libraries and planning. Councils receive the majority of their funding from the Scottish Government, but operate independently and are accountable to their local electorates. Councils raise additional income via the Council Tax, a locally variable domestic property tax, and Business rates, a non-domestic property tax.

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

Dunbartonshire or the County of Dumbarton is a historic county, lieutenancy area and registration county in the west central Lowlands of Scotland lying to the north of the River Clyde. Dunbartonshire borders Perthshire to the north, Stirlingshire to the east, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire to the south, and Argyllshire to the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shires of Scotland</span> Historic administrative and geographical division of Scotland

The shires of Scotland, or counties of Scotland, are historic subdivisions of Scotland established in the Middle Ages and used as administrative divisions until 1975. Originally established for judicial purposes, from the 17th century they started to be used for local administration purposes as well. The areas used for judicial functions (sheriffdoms) came to diverge from the shires, which ceased to be used for local government purposes after 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

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

Caithness is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area of Scotland.

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

Peeblesshire, the County of Peebles or Tweeddale is a historic county of Scotland. Its county town is Peebles, and it borders Midlothian to the north, Selkirkshire to the east, Dumfriesshire to the south, and Lanarkshire to the west.

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

Roxburghshire or the County of Roxburgh is a historic county and registration county in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. It borders Dumfriesshire to the west, Selkirkshire and Midlothian to the northwest, and Berwickshire to the north. To the southwest it borders Cumberland and to the southeast Northumberland, both in England.

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

The County of Kinross or Kinross-shire is a historic county and registration county in eastern Scotland, administered as part of Perth and Kinross since 1975. Surrounding its largest settlement and county town of Kinross, the county borders Perthshire to the north and Fife to the east, south and west.

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

Stirlingshire or the County of Stirling is a historic county and registration county of Scotland. Its county town is Stirling.

<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">Tweeddale</span>

Tweeddale is a committee area and lieutenancy area in the Scottish Borders council area in south-eastern Scotland. It had also been a province in the Middle Ages. From 1975 to 1996 it was a local government district. Its boundaries correspond to the historic county of Peeblesshire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Strathkelvin</span>

Strathkelvin is the strath (valley) of the River Kelvin in west central Scotland, lying north-east of Glasgow. The name Strathkelvin was used between 1975 and 1996 for one of nineteen local government districts in the Strathclyde region.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Renfrew (district)</span>

Renfrew District was, between 1975 and 1996, one of nineteen local government districts in the Strathclyde region of Scotland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Renfrewshire (historic)</span> Historic county and lieutenancy area of western Scotland

Renfrewshire or the County of Renfrew is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. The lieutenancy area covers the three modern council areas of Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, and this area is occasionally termed Greater Renfrewshire to distinguish it from the modern council area called Renfrewshire. The historic county additionally included territory on the south-western edge of Glasgow which was gradually transferred to the administrative area of the city as it grew.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hamilton (district)</span>

Hamilton was a local government district in the Strathclyde region of Scotland from 1975 to 1996, lying to the south-east of the regional capital Glasgow.

Local government areas covering the whole of Scotland were first defined by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. As currently defined, they are a result, for the most part, of the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994.


  1. "Local government facts and figures: Scotland". Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  2. "Local Government (Gaelic Names) (Scotland) Act 1997".
  3. "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2021". Office for National Statistics. 21 December 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  4. "Electoral Statistics, UK, December 2021". Office for National Statistics. 5 April 2022. Table 1. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  5. "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2021". Office for National Statistics. 21 December 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  6. "Scottish Assessors – Scottish Assessors Association website".
  7. "Information Paper - European statistical areas (NUTS and LAU) in Scotland" (PDF). Boundaries Scotland. 2022.
  8. Registers of Scotland publication - Land Register Counties and Operational Dates
  9. The Sheriffdoms Reorganisation Order 1974 S.I. 1974/2087 (S.191)
  10. (5 April 2021). "Police Scotland Commands, Divisions and Subdivisions". Retrieved 12 June 2023.