City of Edinburgh Council
|Full council election every 5 years|
|Preceded by||City of Edinburgh District Council|
Leader of the Council
since 27 May 2015
|Single transferable vote|
|5 May 2022|
|6 May 2027|
|Nisi Dominus Frustra|
|Edinburgh City Chambers|
The City of Edinburgh Council is the local government authority for the city of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. With a population of 518,500 in mid-2019, it is the second most populous local authority area in Scotland.
In its current form, the council was created in 1996 under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, to replace the City of Edinburgh District Council of the Lothian region, which had, itself, 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.
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.
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.
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 initially housed Edinburgh Town Council from 1893 to 1895, when that body was replaced by City of Edinburgh Corporation.
From 1895 to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 Edinburgh was administered by the single tier "Edinburgh Corporation", which covered the "City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh". 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. 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.
The Edinburgh Corporation also inherited from the Town Council the power to make Burgess (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. The new two-tier system consisted of Lothian Regional Council (with responsibility for water, education, social work and transport) and the City of Edinburgh District Council (with responsibility for cleansing and libraries). The City of Edinburgh became a single-tier council area in 1996, under the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, with the boundaries of the City of Edinburgh district of the Lothian region. The district had been created in 1975, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, to include the former county of city of Edinburgh; the former burgh of Queensferry, the district of Kirkliston and part of Winchburgh formerly within the county of West Lothian; and the district of Currie and the parish of Cramond formerly within the county of Midlothian.
Today Edinburgh's council remains headed by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, with six Bailies appointed by the council at large. Many of Edinburgh councils 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". 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 property), 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.
The majority of the local authority's territory (the same as the preceding 1975–1996 City of Edinburgh district within the Lothian region) is the urban area of Edinburgh, which is bounded to the north by the Firth of Forth and includes all of the neighbourhoods within the A720 City of Edinburgh bypass. While the landscape changes to green belt farmland at the north-western edge of the city (beyond the River Almond, Cammo estate, West Craigs and Gogar within the Almond ward), the council area extends around 4 miles (6.4 km) further west, 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, all considered to be separate localities in the Scottish Government's statistics due to their populated postcodes having no direct connection with those from the city proper. 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 road – Baberton, 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. 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.
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 and thus not within its statistical locality, although they are part of the city's defined settlement which groups together connected, distinct localities. Thus the local authority area cannot be described wholly as an urban environment, nor is it technically coterminous with Edinburgh as a city, nor is the entirety of the city's built-up area within the local authority's borders.
Main article: 2022 City of Edinburgh Council election
Members of the council represent 17 electoral areas called 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.
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; four men pleading guilty to corruption in the allocation of public building work contracts at the Council in 2015; and mis-spending of £400,000 of public money, and a subsequent bullying campaign against the whistle blower who brought this corruption to light in 2021.
|1972||No overall control||Progressive-Conservative minority|
|1973||No overall control||Conservative-Progressive minority|
|1974||No overall control||Labour minority|
|1980||No overall control||Conservative minority (Liberal support)|
|1992||No overall control||Labour|
|2007||No overall control||Lib Dem – SNP|
|2012||No overall control||Labour – SNP|
|2017||No overall control||SNP – Labour (minority coalition)|
|2022||No overall control||Labour minority (Conservative and Liberal Democrats support)|