The City of Edinburgh Council

Comhairle Baile Dhùn Èideann
Coat of arms or logo
Preceded byCity of Edinburgh District Council
Robert Aldridge,
Liberal Democrat
since 26 May 2022[1]
Cammy Day,
since 26 May 2022[2]
Andrew Kerr
since 27 May 2015
Edinburgh City Council composition
Political groups
Administration (12)[2][3][4]
  Labour (12)

Opposition (51)

  Scottish National Party (18)
  Liberal Democrats (13)
  Green (10)
  Conservative (9)
  Independent (1)
Single transferable vote
Last election
5 May 2022
Next election
6 May 2027
Nisi Dominus Frustra
Meeting place
Edinburgh City Chambers
City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ

The City of Edinburgh Council (Scottish Gaelic: Comhairle Baile Dhùn Èideann) is the local government authority covering the City of Edinburgh council area. Almost half of the council area is the area of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. With a population of 526,470 in mid-2019, it is the second most populous local authority area in Scotland.

The council took on its current form in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, replacing the City of Edinburgh District Council of the Lothian region, which had been created in 1975. The history of local government in Edinburgh, however, stretches back much further. Around 1130, David I made the town a royal burgh and a burgh council, based at the Old Tolbooth is recorded continuously from the 14th century.

The council is currently based in Edinburgh City Chambers with a main office nearby at Waverley Court.


The date of Edinburgh's formation as a burgh is unknown, but it is referred to as a royal burgh from the reign of David I (reigned 1124–1153). The town council of the burgh was granted the right to appoint its own sheriff by James III in a charter dated 16 November 1482. This had the effect of making the town a county of itself, separating it from the jurisdiction of the surrounding county of Midlothian (which was formally called the "county of Edinburgh" or Edinburghshire until 1947).[5][6] The burgh was subsequently described as the "city and county of the city of Edinburgh" to distinguish it from the surrounding "county of Edinburgh" (Midlothian).[7]

Until 1975 the governing body of the city was formally called the "Lord Provost, Magistrates and Council of the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh", but was generally termed "Edinburgh Corporation".[8][9] As such, the Edinburgh Corporation was responsible for local government services, such as the Edinburgh Corporation Transport Department (Edinburgh Corporation Tramways until 1928).

Bodies such as the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, the Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh and The High Constables of Edinburgh formed part of the corporation, contributing councillors and law enforcement officers. The Edinburgh Corporation had the power to institute these organisations via the granting of a "Seal of Cause". This empowered the societies as "a legal corporation with power to hold property, make its own by-laws and regulations". Other organisations to receive the "Seal of Cause" include The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh, who received their seal on 2 July 1800.[10] The history of the corporation lives on elsewhere around the city, for example in the name of the members of Muirfield golf club, who were granted a charter by the corporation in 1800 becoming "The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers". The Corporation also awarded trophies to Edinburgh institutions, such as the silver arrow presented as a prize for archery in 1714 to the Royal Company of Archers, and the silver golf club presented to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.[11]

The Edinburgh Corporation had the power to make Burgesses (freemen) of the City of Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Corporation awarded its Burgess Tickets through the Lord Dean of Guild, an office in the Corporation holding the distinction of second citizen of Edinburgh, after the Lord Provost. Like the Corporation of the City of London, Burgess Tickets were often awarded along with a 'Freedom Casket' – a container to hold the ticket.

In 1975, Edinburgh Corporation was abolished under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which abolished the counties and burghs of Scotland as administrative areas and brought in a two-tier system of upper-tier regions and lower-tier districts. A new district called "City of Edinburgh" was created, covering the former city and county of the city of Edinburgh as well as the former burgh of Queensferry, the district of Kirkliston and part of Winchburgh (from West Lothian), and the district of Currie and the parish of Cramond (from Midlothian).[12] The governing body for the new district was called "City of Edinburgh District Council" and had responsibilities including town planning, cleansing and libraries.[13] The district was included within the Lothian region, and Lothian Regional Council had responsibilities including water, education, social work and transport.[12]

In 1996, under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, the Lothian Regional Council was abolished and the City of Edinburgh became a single-tier council area. The council became "City of Edinburgh Council" and provides all local government services within the council area.[14]

Today Edinburgh's council remains headed by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, with six Bailies appointed by the council at large. Many of Edinburgh council ceremonies and traditions date back to the days of the Edinburgh Corporation, such as the Edinburgh Ceremony of the Keys, where the Lord Provost symbolically hands the keys to the City of Edinburgh to the monarch, who hands them back to the Lord Provost proclaiming "that they cannot be placed in better hands than those of the Lord Provost and Councillors of my good City of Edinburgh".[15] The council continues to meet in the Edinburgh City Chambers and also holds and maintains properties from the days of the corporation, such as Lauriston Castle (which is used to host the Lord Provost's garden party), the Assembly Rooms and the Church Hill Theatre. Although no longer formally part of the City of Edinburgh Council, it retains a relationship with the Merchants Company, Incorporated Trades and High Constables of Edinburgh. The office of Lord Dean of Guild now operates from the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, and continues to issue Burgess tickets to create Burgesses of Edinburgh alongside the City of Edinburgh Council.[16]

Political control

The first election to the City of Edinburgh District 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:[17]

City of Edinburgh District Council

Party in control Years
No overall control 1975–1977
Conservative 1977–1980
No overall control 1980–1984
Labour 1984–1992
No overall control 1992–1996

City of Edinburgh Council

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


The leaders of the council since 1996 have been:[18]

Councillor Party From To
Keith Geddes Labour 1996 1999
Donald Anderson Labour 1999 24 Aug 2006
Ewan Aitken Labour 29 Aug 2006 May 2007
Jenny Dawe Liberal Democrats 24 May 2007 3 May 2012
Andrew Burns Labour 17 May 2012 4 May 2017
Adam McVey SNP 22 Jun 2017 May 2022
Cammy Day Labour 26 May 2022


Members of the council represent 17 wards. As a result of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, multi-member wards were introduced for the 2007 election, each electing three or four councillors by the single transferable vote system, to produce a form of proportional representation. Previously each of 58 wards elected one councillor by the first past the post system of election.

The last election to the council was held on Thursday, 5 May 2022. Due to an increase in the city's population, five extra seats on the council were added in 2017, along with some minor ward boundary changes.[19] Election results since 1995 have been as follows:[17]

Year Seats SNP Labour Liberal Democrats Greens Conservative Notes
1995 58 0 34 10 0 14 Labour majority
1999 58 1 31 13 0 13 New ward boundaries.[20] Labour majority
2003 58 0 30 15 0 13 Labour majority
2007 58 12 15 17 3 11 New ward boundaries.[21] Lib Dem / SNP
2012 58 18 20 3 6 11 Labour / SNP
2017 63 19 12 6 8 18 New ward boundaries.[22] SNP / Labour minority coalition
2022 63 19 13 12 10 9 Labour minority with Conservative and Lib Dem support.

Council area

City of Edinburgh Council area
Comhairle Baile Dhùn Èideann
Coordinates: 55°55′30″N 3°15′36″W / 55.925°N 3.26°W / 55.925; -3.26
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Lieutenancy areaEdinburgh
Admin HQEdinburgh
 • BodyCity of Edinburgh Council
 • Total101.7 sq mi (263.4 km2)
 • RankRanked 23rd
 • Total526,470
 • RankRanked 2nd
 • Density5,200/sq mi (2,000/km2)
ONS codeS12000036
ISO 3166 codeGB-EDH Edit this at Wikidata
City of Edinburgh Council is located in the City of Edinburgh council area
City of Edinburgh Council area showing the largest settlements. The territory of the council area includes much undeveloped land (denoted by cream colour) to the west of the built-up area (grey colour), but little to the south or east.

The council area borders the Firth of Forth to the north, East Lothian to the east, Midlothian to the south east, Scottish Borders to the south, and West Lothian to the west. About 45% of the council area is the urban area of Edinburgh, which is bounded to the north by the Firth of Forth, particularly including the areas north of the A720 City of Edinburgh bypass.

Edinburgh's city status attaches to the whole council area, despite the area including more rural parts outside the main urban area. The landscape changes to farmland, much of which is designated as green belt, at the north-western and western edge of the main urban area (beyond the River Almond, Cammo estate, West Craigs and Gogar within the Almond ward), and the council area extends around 4 miles (6.4 km) further west from the urban area, taking in the hamlets of Ingliston and Turnhouse adjacent to Edinburgh Airport, the separate villages of Kirkliston, Newbridge, Ratho Station, and the small town of South Queensferry beside the Forth Bridges. These are all considered to be separate localities in the Scottish Government's statistics on the basis of being separate urban areas.[23][24]

South of this, the Pentland Hills ward has a similar semi-rural profile: its furthest point is over 7 miles (11 km) from the A720, and Wester Hailes is its only component neighbourhood within the bypass. However, aside from the village of Ratho and Riccarton (location of Heriot-Watt University), the increasingly distant suburbs in this area along the A70 roadBaberton, Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno – are considered to be part of the locality of Edinburgh as their postcodes remain in a 'chain' with the rest of the city.[23][24] Almond and Pentland Hills are by far the largest of the council's wards by area due to their low population density balancing against that of inner-city wards.[25]

In contrast to the hinterland in the west, the local authority boundary with East Lothian in the east of the city (north of the end of the bypass within the Portobello/Craigmillar ward) is at the Brunstane Burn at Eastfield; the adjoining town of Musselburgh, and Wallyford beyond, are not within the council borders of Edinburgh, but are considered part of the Edinburgh settlement (urban area).[23][24] Thus the local authority area cannot be described wholly as an urban environment, whilst parts of the urban area of Edinburgh lie outside the council area.[25]


Largest settlements by population:

Settlement Population (mid-2020 est.)[26]


South Queensferry








Places of interest


Before 1368 the city was run from a pretorium (a Latin term for Tolbooth), and later from around 1400 from the Old Tolbooth next to St Giles' Cathedral. A Tolbooth is the main municipal building of a Scottish burgh providing council meeting chambers, a court house and a jail. The Old Tolbooth of Edinburgh was unique in that it housed both the Edinburgh Town Council and the Scottish Parliament. As a Royal Burgh the council was convened by a Lord Provost, who was assisted by a team of Bailies.

The Tolbooth had fallen into a state of disrepair by the 1560s, and was cramped, housing both the expanding Town Council of Edinburgh, and the Parliament of Scotland. Queen Mary believed the situation was intolerable, and requested extensive renovations take place. By 1639 Edinburgh Town Council paid for a new building, called Parliament House to be constructed nearby for the Parliament to meet in so they would no longer have to share the Old Tolbooth.[27]

In 1753 Edinburgh Town Council commissioned the construction of a new Royal Exchange as a meeting place for the city merchants, intended to rival the Royal Exchange of London. However the merchants preferred to carry on meeting at the Mercat Cross. Given the conditions of the Old Tolbooth and the underused status of the Royal Exchange, the council moved into the north range of the Royal Exchange in 1811 while a new fit for purpose permanent presence could be planned, and the Old Tolbooth was demolished. The former location of the Old Tolbooth (fully demolished in 1817) is now marked by the Heart of Midlothian, a heart Sett in the paving of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The only remaining part of the Old Tolbooth is a door which Walter Scott recovered and added to his home Abbotsford.[28]

Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street: Council's administrative headquarters since 2007

After The Canongate suburb merged into the city of Edinburgh in 1856, and the Canongate Tolbooth was abandoned, the north range of the Royal Exchange became too crowded once again and in 1893 the Council bought back the rest of the old Royal Exchange building and renamed it as the Edinburgh City Chambers. The City Chambers continues to be the council's meeting place and official headquarters. In 2006 the council built a new building called Waverley Court at 4 East Market Street to be the council's administrative offices.[29][30]


The council has been at the centre of several corruption scandals in recent years, including allegations of possible fraud, wrong-doing and incompetence in the Property Conservation Department in the BBC Scotland documentary Scotland's Property Scandal in 2011;[31] four men pleading guilty to corruption in the allocation of public building work contracts at the Council in 2015;[32] and mis-spending of £400,000 of public money, and a subsequent bullying campaign against the whistleblower who brought this corruption to light in 2021.[33]


City of Edinburgh Council is located in the City of Edinburgh council area
Map of the council's ward boundaries as of 2017.
Ward name[34] Seats Population
1 Almond 4 36,730[35]
2 Pentland Hills 4 32,703[36]
3 Drum Brae/Gyle 3 23,534[37]
4 Forth 4 31,823[38]
5 Inverleith 4 34,236[39]
6 Corstorphine/Murrayfield 3 24,192[40]
7 Sighthill/Gorgie 4 33,826[41]
8 Colinton/Fairmilehead 3 25,257[42]
9 Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart 3 23,715[43]
10 Morningside 4 32,586[44]
11 City Centre 4 32,410[45]
12 Leith Walk 4 34,651[46]
13 Leith 3 24,207[47]
14 Craigentinny/Duddingston 4 29,927[48]
15 Southside/Newington 4 37,696[49]
16 Liberton/Gilmerton 4 35,480[50]
17 Portobello/Craigmillar 4 31,957[51]
Total 63 524,930

See also


  1. ^ "Edinburgh appoints new Lord Provost". Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Edinburgh council: Labour will run city as minority administration after SNP-Green deal blocked".
  3. ^ "Edinburgh City Council to be controlled by Labour". BBC News. 26 May 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Labour to lead Council in Edinburgh". The City of Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  5. ^ Chalmers, George (1889). "Edinburghshire: Of its establishment as a shire". Caledonia. Paisley: Alexander Gardner. p. 579. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  6. ^ Marwick, J. D., ed. (1869). "Appendix: Abstracts of charters and other documents". Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1403–1528. Edinburgh: Scottish Burgh Records Society. pp. 314–339. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  7. ^ The Parliamentary Register. London: J. Almon. 1776. p. 429. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  8. ^ "Edinburgh and Leith Corporations Gas Act 1888",, The National Archives, 1888 c. 129, retrieved 27 December 2022 "...the lord provost, magistrates and council of the city of Edinburgh... hereinafter referred to as "the Corporation"..."
  9. ^ "City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh". Edinburgh Evening News. 5 April 1957. p. 1. Retrieved 27 December 2022. ...the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Council of the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh as local planning authority..
  10. ^ "1735 Royal Burgess Golf Society - Scottish Golf History". Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  11. ^ "1744 Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers - Scottish Golf History".
  12. ^ a b "Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973",, The National Archives, 1973 c. 65, retrieved 27 December 2022
  13. ^ "No. 19676". The Edinburgh Gazette. 30 May 1975. p. 769.
  14. ^ "Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994",, The National Archives, 1994 c. 39, retrieved 27 December 2022
  15. ^ "Queen presides over Ceremony of the Keys in Edinburgh". BBC News. 12 July 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  16. ^ "The Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh | Court of Deans of Guild of Scotland".
  17. ^ a b "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Council minutes". City of Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  19. ^ Edinburgh to have five more councillors from next year, Phyllis Stephen, The Edinburgh Reporter, 14 September 2016
  20. ^ "The City of Edinburgh (Electoral Arrangements) Order 1998",, The National Archives, SI 1998/3182, retrieved 27 December 2022
  21. ^ Scottish Parliament. The City of Edinburgh (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006 as made, from
  22. ^ Scottish Parliament. The City of Edinburgh (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2016 as made, from
  23. ^ a b c Data Tables [Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland], National Records of Scotland, 31 March 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2022
  24. ^ a b c "NRS – Background Information Settlements and Localities" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  26. ^ "Records of the Parliaments of Scotland".
  27. ^ "Edinburgh, 245-329 High Street, City Chambers | Canmore".
  28. ^ "Contact". City of Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  29. ^ "Edinburgh, 4 East Market Street, Waverley Court, City of Edinburgh Council Headquarters". Canmore. Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  30. ^ "Corruption claims against Edinburgh City Council". 20 September 2011.
  31. ^ "Four plead guilty to Edinburgh building contracts corruption". Scottish Construction Now.
  32. ^ Anderson, Joseph (25 June 2021). "Edinburgh whistleblower wins 'David and Goliath' court battle against council". EdinburghLive.
  33. ^ "United Kingdom: Scotland | Council Areas and Electoral Wards". City Population. 30 June 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  34. ^ Electoral Ward: Almond, Scottish Government Statistics
  35. ^ Electoral Ward: Pentland Hills, Scottish Government Statistics
  36. ^ Electoral Ward: Drum Brae/Gyle, Scottish Government Statistics
  37. ^ Electoral Ward: Forth, Scottish Government Statistics
  38. ^ Electoral Ward: Inverleith, Scottish Government Statistics
  39. ^ Electoral Ward: Corstorphine/Murrayfield, Scottish Government Statistics
  40. ^ Electoral Ward: Sighthill/Gorgie, Scottish Government Statistics
  41. ^ Electoral Ward: Colinton/Fairmilehead, Scottish Government Statistics
  42. ^ Electoral Ward: Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart, Scottish Government Statistics
  43. ^ Electoral Ward: Morningside, Scottish Government Statistics
  44. ^ Electoral Ward: City Centre, Scottish Government Statistics
  45. ^ Electoral Ward: Leith Walk, Scottish Government Statistics
  46. ^ Electoral Ward: Leith, Scottish Government Statistics
  47. ^ Electoral Ward: Craigentinny/Duddingston, Scottish Government Statistics
  48. ^ Electoral Ward: Southside/Newington, Scottish Government Statistics
  49. ^ Electoral Ward: Liberton/Gilmerton, Scottish Government Statistics
  50. ^ Electoral Ward: Portobello/Craigmillar, Scottish Government Statistics