Scottish Counties - Parishes
The area became part of the kingdom of Scotland during the 11th century. In 1263, the Scots successfully drove
off of the Norwegian leidang-army in a skirmish known as the Battle of Largs
Counties were administrative units in Scotland from later medieval times until 1975. They began as judicial and
administrative areas (sheriffdoms).
Local justice and some civil administration in each sheriffdom was the responsibility a local judge and crown official
known as a sheriff. By the mid-nineteenth century the boundaries of some counties and sheriffdoms diverged.
The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889 established a uniform system of county councils in Scotland and realigned
the boundaries of many of Scotlandís counties.
In 1891, two separate counties, Ross-shire and Cromartyshire were combined to make the county of Ross and Cromarty.
Counties were abolished in 1975 and replaced by the two-tiered region and district system and three island council areas.
In 1996, this system was replaced local council areas of today. Some counties have been known by different names at
The main alternative names to bear in mind are:
Angus = Forfarshire = the County of Forfar
East Lothian = Haddingtonshire = the County of Haddington
Kincardineshire = Mearns = the County of Kincardine
Midlothian = Edinburghshire = the County of Edinburgh
Moray = Morayshire = Elginshire = the County of Elgin
Peeblesshire = The County of Peebles = Tweeddale
Selkirkshire = the County of Selkirk = Ettrick Forest
Shetland = Zetland
West Lothian = Linlithgowshire = the County of Linlithgow
In 1929 the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee were made counties of cities, meaning that these
four cities were treated as both burghs and counties for adnministrative purposes.
Scotland has been divided into parishes since early medieval times, but there have been many boundary changes,
amalgamations, changes of name and abolitions. It is important to distinguish between civil parishes and
ecclesiastical parishes. Initially parishes were areas of land, whose inhabitants were compelled to pay a
proportion of their produce or income (in Scotland called teinds) to support the Church. The Church was
originally responsible for education and poor relief but in the nineteenth century these functions were made
the responsibility of local government bodies (parochial boards and school boards) in most parishes and parishes
which had these bodies were known as civil parishes. Many classes of historical record are arranged by parish,
including valuation rolls, tax records, church records, poor relief records and education records. It is important,
therefore, to know which parish and county a place was in. Many civil parish boundaries changed between 1845 and
1975, especially around 1891-1900, when the Boundary Commission rationalised parish and county boundaries.
The ScotlandsPlaces Gazetteer attempts to take these changes into account. Boundary changes can explain why a
place might appear in the records in one parish for a while, and then, apparently, disappear.
Burghs were urban settlements which enjoyed trading privileges from medieval times until 1832 and which regulated
their own affairs to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the type of burgh) until the abolition of Scottish
burghs in 1975. Burgh status has implications for historical records. Separate valuation rolls and electoral
rolls were compiled by royal and police burghs until 1975. Burgh Records burghs produced characteristic forms
of historical record, such as court books, guild records, registers of deeds, financial accounts, and, latterly,
records of burgh institutions such as schools and libraries
Scottish New Towns
The term 'new town' has been used to describe settlements which were planned and created for a purpose. Examples
in the 18th and 19th centuries in Scotland have included Inveraray, Kinross, New Lanark, and the 'new town' of
Edinburgh. However, in terms of historical records, the term 'New Towns' is used with reference to five specific
areas of Scotland, which were given a special status in the second half of the twentieth century: East Kilbride
(1949), Glenrothes (1948), Cumbernauld (1956), Livingston (1962) and Irvine (1966). After the Second World War,
New Towns were seen as a way of alleviating overpopulation in inner cities, speeding up regeneration of industry
and increasing employment. A sixth New Town was proposed for Stonehouse, in Lanarkshire, but this was abandoned.
New Towns re-housed tens of thousands of people from west-central Scotland (especially Glasgow) attracted new
industrial and commercial developments and were key sites for modern planning and architecture. Many important
functions (housing, planning, architecture, etc) were performed by New Town corporations (as opposed to local
government) and supervised by government-appointed boards (rather than elected councillors). New Town corporations
were abolished in 1995-6 and their functions transferred to local authorities. Scottish
Regions and Districts
In 1975, the government implemented a new system of division in Scotland and the burghs and councils were replaced
by districts contained with regions. The three island areas, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles remained one-tier
systems. The regions varied in size and where one region may only have three districts, another may have nineteen.
Regions were controlled by regional councils who were responsible for police services and education. Regions were
divided up into smaller district which were run by district councils and were responsible for such things as local
planning, housing and libraries. In 1996, regions and districts were abolished and were replaced by the modern
Scottish Modern Council Areas
The modern council areas which are run by unitary authorities were implemented in 1996. Although many modern
council areas share the same (or similar) name to the older counties, the boundaries for the areas are quite
different. The modern councils are responsible for police and fire services, health services, electoral
registration and council tax, and transport
Ayrshire, under the name the County of Ayr, is a registration county.
Ayr county council was created in 1890, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889.
In 1930 the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929 was implemented. This re-designated the Burghs into large burghs and
Small Burghs. This new categorisation influenced the level of autonomy that the Burghs enjoyed from the county council.
The act also abolished the parish as a unit of local government in Scotland. In Ayrshire in excess of 30 parishes were
consolidated into ten district councils
In May 1975 the county council was abolished and its functions transferred to Strathclyde Regional Council. The county
area was divided between four new districts within the two-tier Strathclyde region: Cumnock and Doon Valley, Cunninghame,
Kilmarnock and Loudoun and Kyle and Carrick. The Cunninghame district included the Isle of Arran, Great Cumbrae and
Little Cumbrae, which had until then been administered as part of the County of Bute.
In 1996 the two-tier system of regions and districts was abolished and Ayrshire was divided between the unitary council
areas of East Ayrshire (covering the area of the former Kilmarnock & Loudon District and Cumnock & Doon Valley District),
North Ayrshire (covering the area of the former Cunninghame District Council) and South Ayrshire (covering the area of the
former Kyle and Carrick District
The electoral and valuation area named Ayrshire
covers the three council areas of South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire, therefore including the Isle of Arran,
Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae. The three islands were part of the County of Bute until 1975 and are not always included
when the term Ayrshire is applied to the region. The same area is known as Ayrshire and Arran in other contexts.