The Local Government Administrative Areas: 1975-2000

Douglas L Buttenshaw

In this essay:


From 16th May 1975 to 2000, the administrative areas of East Lothian were subjected to a number of boundary changes, which arose out of legislation in 1969, 1973, and in 1994. The essay identifies the changes, and explains the reasons, and the legislation, behind them over the period.

Legislative Background

A Royal Commission was appointed, on 31 May 1966, under the Chairmanship of The Rt. Hon. Lord Wheatley, with the following terms of references:

‘To consider the structure of local government in Scotland in relation to its existing functions: and to make recommendations for authorities and boundaries, and for functions and their division, having regard to the size and character of areas in which these can be most effectively exercised and the need to sustain a viable system of local democracy, and to report.’

The Royal Commission presented their Report (Cmnd. 4150) to Parliament in September 1969.

There followed the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 which, inter alia:

  1. created, for the administration of local government in Scotland, on and after the 16th May 1975, new local government areas constituting councils of regions, islands areas and districts. A two-tier system of local government supported by a system of community councils.
  2. gave powers to local authorities to submit to the Secretary of State for Scotland Schemes for the establishment of community councils. The Act provided, that, in addition to any other purpose which a community council may pursue, the general purpose of a community council shall be to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interest of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable.
  3. established the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland, to be known and referred to as the ‘Boundary Commission’, with powers, inter alia, to conduct reviews and make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Scotland effecting changes to boundaries appearing to the Commission desirable in the interests of effective and convenient local government.

Local government administrative arrangements in Scotland were next changed significantly by the provisions of the Local Government Etc (Scotland) Act 1994. Without a Royal Commission being appointed, this Act abolished the Region and District Councils. It created single purpose councils. First elections for the new councils were held on 6 April 1995 and councillors served for a shadow year in parallel with the existing councils. The new councils were brought in to full effect on the date of their first meeting on or after 1st April 1996 (see Malcolm Duncan, this volume).

The administrative areas of East Lothian

East Lothian to 1975

Prior to 16th May 1975 the East Lothian local government administrative area comprised of a County, within which there were seven small burghs, as prescribed in the First Schedule of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, and five district councils prescribed by East Lothian County Council in a Scheme made under section 38 of the said 1947 Act.

The said 1947 Act, provided that, on the application of the town council of a burgh, the sheriff shall have powers to alter (including power to extend or contract) the burgh boundaries of the burghs.

East Lothian 1975-1996; 1996-date

The position at 16 May 1975 was, by reference to the former administrative areas, that East Lothian local government administrative area comprised the county of East Lothian and, in the county of Midlothian, the burgh of Musselburgh and the parish of Inveresk (Map1). These came under East Lothian District Council for district council functions.

Lothian Regional Council, by reference to former administrative areas, comprised the county of the City of Edinburgh, the county of East Lothian, the county of Midlothian (except the electoral division of Heriot and Stow) and, the county of West Lothian (except the burgh of Bo’ness: and the district of Bo’ness) (Map 2). The Regional Council had separate regional functions for the whole area.

A Scheme for the establishment of community councils, covering the entire area of East Lothian, which Scheme was the first in Scotland to be lodged with the Secretary of State for Scotland, came into effect in on 26th April 1976. The Scheme was submitted by East Lothian District Council in terms of their powers under Section 53 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. It provided for nineteen community councils (Map 3). The East Lothian Council met for the first time, and came into effect on 1 April 1996, the local government administrative area boundaries being the same as those of the former East Lothian District Council.

Boundary Changes to the East Lothian Administrative Area

The Boundary Commission practice, in any review, is to give public notice of their invitation to local authorities to submit proposals and to consult with Members of Parliament and Community Councils: to consider any representations and to give public notice of their provisional recommendations, and, at that time to send copies to all parties they have consulted, to editors of local newspapers, to the local government press, to the Electoral Registration Office for the Region and to the Scottish Headquarters of the political parties.

During the period covered by this essay, the following changes were brought into effect in the East Lothian local government administrative area:

Monynut and Bothwell Valleys – effective 21 March 1983

This review was undertaken by the Boundary Commission, at the request of Lothian Regional Council, on behalf of Borders Regional Council and Berwickshire and East Lothian District Councils, under the Commission’s discretionary powers conferred by section 14(2) of the Local Government Act 1973.

The request was made for the following reasons:

  1. the revised boundary would lie closer to the natural watershed between the Forth and the Tweed
  2. the few roads and tracks from the area to the remainder of East Lothian District over the hills to the north are frequently difficult to negotiate or impassable due to adverse weather conditions
  3. the proximity of the area and ease of access to Cranshaws and Abbey St Bathans and beyond to Duns means that the inhabitants of the area look southwards for the provision of services, rather than over the hills to the North
  4. children from the Bothwell Valley attend Cranshaws School, which involves Lothian Region in the payment of fees to the Borders Region
  5. the adopted roads in the area are already maintained by Borders Region, on an agency basis for Lothian Region
  6. several of the inhabitants of the area expressed the view that they would be better served by the provision of basic local services, such as refuse collection, from Berwickshire District rather than from East Lothian District, due to their isolation from the remainder of East Lothian

The Boundary Commission recommendation, accepted by the Secretary of State for Scotland, was made on the grounds that transfer of the area shown, (Map 4), will make for more effective and convenient local government, will assist the local councils in the efficient provision of services to the inhabitants of the area and will more accurately reflect the community interest of the area of Monynut and Bothwell Valleys which has a stronger affinity with Cranshaws, Abbey St Bathans and Duns and which are within the area of the Border Region, than with the remainder of East Lothian District in Lothian Region. The area proposed for transfer, extending approximately to 7900 acres, contains a number of domestic and non-domestic properties and has an electorate of 38.

The consequential change in electoral areas involved an interchange of areas from Electoral Division 49 (Traprain) to Electoral Division 48 (Garleton), both in Lothian Region. As the number of electors involved was small, there was no material effect on the distribution of the electorate among district wards or regional electoral divisions.

The following three proposals by local authorities resulted from the Boundary Commission announcement, on 15 May 1985 by public advertisement, of the commencement of a comprehensive review of administrative boundaries, it being a statutory requirement that such comprehensive reviews be undertaken by the Commission at intervals of not less than ten years and not more than 15 years.

Marldean (Marldene), Fala – effective 8 June 1987

Midlothian District Council submitted a proposal to redraw the district boundary at Marldean by Fala, pointing out that whilst the property known as ‘Marldene’ is situated within East Lothian District, inhabitants access to social and schooling needs are met in Midlothian District along the line of the A68 trunk road. Additionally, refuse collection is carried out by Midlothian District Council. The Boundary Commission identified that Whitburgh House and adjoining cottages were also situated within East Lothian District and further suggested that an alternative boundary line with readily defined features on the ground be selected. Midlothian District agreed to these revisions to their proposals.

The Boundary Commission recommendation, accepted by the Secretary of State for Scotland, was made on the ground that the revised boundary proposed will remedy an anomalous situation in the vicinity of Marldean/Marldene by Fala by transferring an area of land, extending to 300 acres or thereby, containing several properties, with a total rateable vale of £6538, from East Lothian District to Midlothian District in Lothian Region (Map 5). There were ten electors involved, and, the proposal for consequential changes in electoral areas were straightforward involving a transfer between related wards and electoral divisions affected.

Newhailes, effective 14 September 1987

Lothian Regional Council submitted a proposal for the redrawing of the district boundary at Newhailes as the present boundary divided the locality by going through the Newhailes development of a series of small business ventures within the Newhailes estate. The Boundary Commission established that the burn which forms the current boundary in the vicinity of the area proposed for transfer had been culverted and soiled over and that the boundary was therefore defective and proposed therefore that the boundary to the North and South of the area should be realigned along the more easily identifiable features of a wall and field boundary fence.

The Boundary Commission recommendation, accepted by the Secretary of State for Scotland, that, an area comprising six acres or thereby containing properties with a total rateable value of £750, be transferred from The City of Edinburgh District to East Lothian District Council, was made on the grounds that a revised boundary will bring the whole of the industrial estate at Newhailes within the East Lothian District Council along a boundary more readily identifiable features and will result in more effective and convenient local government (Map 6).

Consequentially there was a change in electoral areas, which involved a change between electoral wards, in the District area, and electoral divisions in the Region area. Four electors were affected.

Whitehill Mains, effective 17 April 1989

Lothian Regional Council submitted a proposal for the realignment of the East/Midlothian District boundary at Whitehill Mains Farm, which would result in the farmhouse and outbuildings there being transferred to East Lothian District from Midlothian District. The reason for the change was stated to be that the construction of the Musselburgh Bypass has resulted in the closure of Whitehill/Mucklets Road to through traffic and vehicular access to Whitehill Mains can now only be achieved from Midlothian District.

At a site visit the Boundary Commission established that at nearby Newcraighall the public park is sited within City of Edinburgh District and to the east of the public park the present boundary alignment is an arbitrary straight line across country. It was also established that the existing boundary between East Lothian and Midlothian Districts to the south of Whitehill Mains and thereafter through Millerhill Marshalling Yards is not identifiable on the ground.

A further site visit established that a considerable amount of track at the Millerhill Yard had been lifted since the review began and that the main railway line through the Yard had been replaced by a different track layout: a track plan was obtained from British Rail showing the up to date position. It was also established that the station had being constructed at Mucklets Road to serve Musselburgh would be unmanned and that there would be no requirement for refuse collection from the station by a local authority.

On publication of the Boundary Commission provisional recommendations further responses from the local authorities were at variance. East Lothian took the view that the Marshalling Yard should be brought wholly within the territorial responsibility of one district authority. Whilst accepting that Newcraighall Public Park should be within the City of Edinburgh District, East Lothian District objected to the loss of more land than was considered necessary to the east side of the park and wished to retain the open countryside within their territorial responsibility. They considered it was a very important entrance to East Lothian, being the first opening out of countryside providing full views of the District and the open hinterland of Musselburgh. The District Council were also insistent that the new railway station at Mucklets Road should be located within the same district as Musselburgh which it serves. In addition they claimed that there is an ongoing problem of rubbish dumping along Mucklets Road which necessitates frequent amenity cleansing and that vehicular access to the road on the east side of the bypass can only be gained from Musselburgh. Midlothian District Council considered that the whole of the Millerhill Marshalling Yard should be within Midlothian District and that an alignment based on the Musselburgh Bypass and the railway loop line leading from the Marshalling Yard to the main East Coast railway line should be adopted. Lothian Region and City of Edinburgh District Council accepted the Boundary Commission provisional proposal.

The Boundary Commission approached all the authorities in an attempt to achieve a compromise solution based on the alignment suggested by Midlothian District Council at the Millerhill Yard and at the same time restricting the amount of land to be transferred between East Lothian and City of Edinburgh Districts east of Newcraighall Public Park on an alternative line originally suggested to the Commission by City of Edinburgh District Council. East Lothian District Council having discussed that matter informally with the other authorities at a meeting of the Association of District Councils in Lothian Region, put forward for consideration an alignment of boundary between East Lothian and Midlothian Districts which would follow a fence line and tree line bounding the east side of the Marshalling Yard between Whitehill/Mucklets Road and the existing boundary near Newton Cottages on the Old Craighall Road and agreed to accept the alternative proposal to the east of Newcraighall Public Park. Lothian Regional Council and City of Edinburgh District Council agreed to accept the alignment suggested by East Lothian District Council.

The final recommendation of the Boundary Commission, accepted by the Secretary of State for Scotland, was made on the grounds that the revised boundary changes will result in the correction of anomalous and defective boundaries in the vicinity of Whitehill Mains, Millerhill Marshalling Yard and Newcraighall and will result in the whole of the Millerhill Marshalling Yard being contained within Midlothian District and the inclusion of Newcraighall Public Park within the same district as Newcraighall Village, all of which will result in more efficient and convenient local government.

The Boundary Commission accordingly recommended that, in respect of the boundary at Whitehill Mains, Area A, which extends to some 46.1 hectares, should be transferred from East Lothian District to Midlothian District; Area B, which extends to some 4.55 hectares, should be transferred from Midlothian District to East Lothian District; Area C which extends to some 12.2 hectares should be transferred from East Lothian District to City of Edinburgh District; and, Area D which extends to some 1.3 hectares should be transferred from the City of Edinburgh District to East Lothian District (Map 7).

Consequential adjustments to the Wards of the Districts and Division of the Region were made. A transfer of property with a rateable value of £3410 from East Lothian to Midlothian District was involved and three electors were involved.


This essay merely records the factual changes in local government administrative areas in East Lothian during the years 1974 to 2000. It conceals the many campaigns fought along the way, generated often because of concern that change would result in loss of identity.

However, the four changes in administrative area, reported on here at length, demonstrate that proposals for change in administrative area, even of a relatively minor nature, affecting very few electors, are scrutinised thoroughly with the objective of achieving efficient and convenient local government and defining clear boundaries. The same may be said for significant change if supported by a Royal Commission, but otherwise might be open to question.