Counties of Scotland

Learn more about Counties of Scotland

Jump to: navigation, search

The Counties of Scotland may trace their origins to the mormaerdoms, stewartries and sheriffdoms of the High Middle Ages. Many of these early entities, while sharing a root of a name with a later county, represent a greater or smaller area. The case of the Mormaerdom of Moray, which included parts the county of Moray, and of Nairnshire, Banffshire and Inverness-shire is a striking example of this difference.[1]

The counties became the basis of local government when 34 county councils were created in Scotland by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889. About 90 years later, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, these county authorities were abolished as local government bodies and were replaced with regions and districts and island council areas. Areas for Lieutenancy, areas similar to those of the counties, were created at the same time. Local government was reorganised again under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 to create the currently existing council areas.

Although the counties themselves no longer fulfil any administrative function, the boundaries of the majority remain in use by the Scottish Land Register as the registration counties - the only differences being that Glasgow forms a separate county from Lanarkshire and Orkney and Zetland together form a combined county for these purposes. The boundaries also remained in use in an adapted form as postal counties until 1996.

Some of the names, such as Aberdeenshire, have been revived for the post-1996 council areas. Some also remain in use for lieutenancy areas and for area committees of the present councils.


[edit] Counties until 1890

Counties of Scotland until 1890
  1. Caithness
  2. Sutherland
  3. Ross
  4. Cromarty
  5. Inverness
  6. Nairn
  7. Elgin
  8. Banff
  9. Aberdeen
  10. Kincardine
  11. Forfar
  12. Perth
  13. Argyll
  14. Bute
  15. Ayr
  16. Renfrew
  17. Dumbarton
  18. Stirling
  1. Clackmannan
  2. Kinross
  3. Fife
  4. Linlithgow
  5. Edinburgh
  6. Haddington
  7. Berwick
  8. Roxburgh
  9. Dumfries
  10. Kirkcudbright
  11. Wigtown
  12. Lanark
  13. Selkirk
  14. Peebles
Not shown:
Zetland (Shetland)


It may be noted that the map depicts a large number of exclaves physically detached from the county that they were politically deemed to be part of. Cromartyshire's borders, a particularly fragmentary example, were achieved as late as 1685, although at that time the word "county" was not applied to the sheriffdom.

The process whereby the patchwork of early mormaerdoms, sheriffdoms and stewartries became the later counties may be linked to the expansion, then concentration of sheriffdoms. Perhaps the earliest counties are those of the south-east, such as Haddingtonshire and Berwickshire, whose form was larger established in the High Middle Ages. For some northern counties, the process continued through the Late Middle Ages and beyond. In England, the term shire, as in Northamptonshire, the county associated with Northampton, can be considered a synonym for county, the same is not true for Scotland. Many small shires, of which Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire are the only surviving examples, existed until modern times. Examples are many. Proceeding downstream from Clackmannanshire on the north shore of the River Forth, the shires of Culross, Dunfermline, Kinghorn, and Crail, all lay within the traditional county, so-called, of Fife.

By the reign of James IV, the sheriffdoms were used to select Commissioners (MPs) to the Parliament of Scotland, forming the basis of the "landward constituencies", which existed distinct from the burgh constituencies until the Representation of the People Act 1918. Prior to the Union of 1707, Commissioners could represent multiple counties, or, on occasions, a part of one. After Union, eight counties were paired, electing a member at alternating elections to the Unreformed House of Commons. A number of sheriffdoms, such as those of Ross and Cromartyshire were also merged during the 18th century. As a result of the 1832 Reform Act the pairing system ended, and Elginshire and Nairnshire were merged into a single constituency, as were Ross and Cromartyshire and also Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire. Bute and Caithness, previously paired, became separate constituencies.

Orkney and Zetland (Shetland) were generally treated as a single county, with Orkney being described an 'Earldom' and Zetland being described as a 'Lordship'. They constituted a single Orkney and Shetland constituency in the House of Commons, as they had done in the Scots Parliament, and were counted together in the census. [2]

From the seventeenth century the counties started to be used for local administration. In 1667 Commissioners of Supply were appointed in each "shire" or "county" to collect the land tax. The commissioners eventually assumed other duties in the county. In 1794 Lords-Lieutenant were appointed to each county, and in 1797 county militia regiments were raised. In 1858 police forces were established in each county under the Police (Scotland) Act 1857. It should be noted, however, that burghs were largely outside the jurisdiction of county authorities.

Following the 1889 act, Elginshire became known officially as Morayshire or the County of Moray.

Dunbartonshire was also spelt 'Dumbartonshire' - the latter form would be more regular, as the county town remains Dumbarton. Kirkcudbrightshire is commonly called the 'Stewartry of Kirkcudbright', or just 'the Stewartry'.

[edit] Counties from 1890 - 1975

Further information: History of local government in the United Kingdom

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889 established county councils in Scotland. Unlike in England and Wales, where corresponding legislation created new entities called administrative counties, the Act amended the existing counties for local government purposes, including merging Ross and Cromartyshire into Ross and Cromarty, and setting up a boundary commission to make further changes as necessary. Generally speaking, exclaves were abolished, the only significant exclave left untouched being the part of Dunbartonshire between Stirlingshire and Lanarkshire.

These local government counties excluded from their area the 'counties of cities' in Scotland. Originally only the city and royal burgh of Edinburgh had this status, but Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen were added in 1893, 1894 and 1900 respectively. Each of these counties of cities were enlarged on a number of occasions at the expense of the surrounding counties. These are not shown on the map below as separate entities.

In 1921 the county of the city of Edinburgh was enlarged by the City of Edinburgh Extension Act 1920. The three counties adjoining the city were renamed as follows:

  • The County of Edinburgh became Midlothian
  • The County of Haddington became East Lothian
  • The County of Linlithgow became West Lothian

In 1928 Forfarshire was renamed Angus.

In 1930, the county councils were re-constituted, including two joint county councils covering Perthshire and Kinross-shire, and Morayshire and Nairnshire by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929. [3]

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947 created new administrative areas named 'counties', 'counties of cities', large burghs and small burghs. Although these had been established by earlier legislation, the Act listed the various counties and other divisions for the first time.

Counties of Scotland from 1890
  1. Caithness
  2. Sutherland
  3. Ross and Cromarty
  4. Inverness-shire
  5. Nairnshire
  6. County of Moray
  7. Banffshire
  8. Aberdeenshire
  9. Kincardineshire
  10. Angus (Forfarshire until 1928)
  11. Perthshire
  12. Argyll
  13. County of Bute
  14. Ayrshire
  15. Renfrewshire
  16. Dunbartonshire
  17. Stirlingshire
  1. Clackmannanshire
  2. Kinross-shire
  3. Fife
  4. East Lothian (Haddingtonshire until 1921)
  5. Midlothian (County of Edinburgh until 1921)
  6. West Lothian (Linlithgowshire until 1921)
  7. Lanarkshire
  8. Peeblesshire
  9. Selkirkshire
  10. Berwickshire
  11. Roxburghshire
  12. Dumfriesshire
  13. Kirkcudbrightshire
  14. Wigtownshire
Not shown:
Zetland (Shetland)


In 1963 the Government published a white paper which proposed a reduction in the number of counties from thirty-three to between ten and fifteen.<ref>The Modernisation of Local Government in Scotland (Cmnd. 2067)</ref> A process of consultation between county councils and officials from the Scottish Office was begun to affect the amalgamations. Following a change of government, it was announced in 1965 that a "more comprehensive and authoritative" review of local government areas would be undertaken.<ref>Scots council reform plans changed, The Times, March 6, 1965</ref> Accordingly a Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland, chaired by Lord Wheatley was appointed in 1966. <ref>Tasks set for planners of local government - Members of royal commissions named, The Times, May 25, 1966</ref> The commission's report in 1969 recommended the replacement of the counties with larger regions.<ref>Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland 1966 - 69 (Cmnd.4150)</ref> Another change in government control in 1970 was followed by the publication of a white paper in 1971 implementing the commission's reforms in a modified form.<ref>Reform of Local Government in Scotland (Cmnd. 4583)</ref> The abolition of counties for local government purposes was enacted by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, with counties playing no part in local government after May 16 1975.

[edit] County constituencies

Scotland still has county constituencies of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Westminster), and the same term is used in reference to constituencies of the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood), created in 1999.

Historically, county constituencies did represent specific counties (minus parliamentary burghs within the counties). Now, however, county in county constituency means predominantly rural. Similarly, burgh constituencies are predominantly urban constituencies.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

de:Traditionelle Grafschaften Schottlands fr:Comtés d'Écosse ga:Contaetha na hAlban gd:Siorrachdan na h-Alba it:Contee tradizionali della Scozia no:Tradisjonelt grevskap (Skottland) ru:Исторические области Шотландии sco:Scots coonties

Counties of Scotland

Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.