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Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, the seat of the Scottish parliament and government, and the second largest city in the country. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a 30 square miles (78 km2) rural area. Located in the south-east of Scotland, Edinburgh lies on the east coast of the Central Belt, along the Firth of Forth, near the North Sea.

The city was one of the historical major centres of the Enlightenment, led by the University of Edinburgh, helping to earn it the nickname Athens of the North.[3] The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 in recognition of the unique character of the Medieval Old Town and the planned Georgian New Town. It covers both the Old and New Towns together with the Dean Village and the Calton Hill areas. There are over 4,500 listed buildings within the city.[4] In May 2010, it had a total of 40 conservation areas covering 23% of the building stock and 23% of the population, the highest such ratios of any major city in the UK.[5] In the 2011 mid-year population estimates, Edinburgh had a total resident population of 495,360.[6]

The city hosts the annual Edinburgh Festival, a group of official and independent festivals held annually over about four weeks beginning in early August. The number of visitors attracted to Edinburgh for the Festival is roughly equal to the settled population of the city. The best-known of these events are the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest performing-arts festival in the world; the Edinburgh International Festival; the Edinburgh Military Tattoo; and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Other annual events include the Hogmanay street party and the Beltane Fire Festival. Edinburgh attracts over 1 million overseas visitors a year, making it the second most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom.[7]


The name "Edinburgh" appears to derive from the Celtic British place name Eidyn, mentioned in a number of medieval Welsh sources.[8][9][10] Kenneth H. Jackson argued strongly that "Eidyn" referred exclusively to the location of modern Edinburgh,[11] but others, such as Ifor Williams and Nora K. Chadwick, suggest it applied to the wider area as well.[12][13] The name "Eidyn" may survive today in other toponyms, such as Dunedin and Carriden (from Caer Eidyn), fifteen miles to the west.[10]

Present-day Edinburgh was the location of Din Eidyn, a dun or hillfort associated with the kingdom of the Gododdin.[14] The modern Scottish Gaelic name "Dn Eideann" derives directly from the British Din Eidyn; the English and Scots form are similar, adding the element -burgh, from the Old English burh, also meaning fort.[15] Some sources claim Edinburgh's name is derived from an Old English form such as Edwinesburh, in reference to the 7th century king Edwin of Northumbria.[16] However, modern scholarship refutes this, as the form Eidyn predates Edwin.[15][17] Stuart Harris in his, "The Place Names of Edinburgh", declares the "Edwinesburh" form to be a "palpable fake."

The first evidence of the existence of the town as a separate entity from the fort lies in an early 12th century royal charter, generally thought to date from 1124, by King David I granting land to the Church of the Holy Rood of Edinburgh. This suggests that the town came into official existence between 1018 (when King Malcolm II secured the Lothians from the Northumbrians) and 1124.[18] By the 1170s King William the Lion was using the name "Edenesburch" in a charter (in Latin) confirming the 1124 grant of David I.[19]


Humans have settled the Edinburgh area from at least the Bronze Age, leaving traces of primitive stone settlements at Holyrood, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills for example.[20] Local culture was influenced through the Iron Age by Hallstatt and La Tene Celtic cultures from central Europe. By the time the Romans arrived in Lothian at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, they discovered a Celtic Brythonic tribe whose name they recorded as Votadini, likely to be a Latin version of the name they called themselves. At some point before the 7th century AD, the Votadini or the Gododdin, who were probably their descendants, built a hillfort known as 'Din Eidyn or Etin almost certainly within the bounds of modern Edinburgh. Although the location of the Din Eidyn or Etin hillfort has not been identified, scholars have postualted that it may have been on the Castle Rock, Arthur's Seat or the Calton Hill.[21]

The Angles of the Kingdom of Bernicia had a significant influence in what would successively be Bernicia, Northumbria, England and finally South-East Scotland, notably from AD 638 when it appears the Gododdin stronghold was besieged by forces loyal to King Oswald of Northumbria. Whether or not this battle marked the passing of control over the Etin hillfort from the Brythonic Celts to the Northumbrians, it was around this time that the region of Edinburgh passed to the Northumbrians. Though far from exclusive (cf Picts and Scots), this influence continued over three centuries. It was not until c. AD 950 when, during the reign of Indulf, son of Constantine II, the city, referred to at this time in the Pictish Chronicle as 'oppidum Eden',[22] fell to the Scots and finally remained under their jurisdiction.[23] During this period of Anglo-Saxon rule in what is now south east Scotland, when the city's name gained its Germanic suffix, 'burgh', the seeds for the language we know today as Scots were sown.

By the 12th century Edinburgh, founded upon the famous castle rock, the volcanic crag and tail geological feature shaped by 2 million years of glacial activity, was well established becoming one of the earliest Scottish Royal Burghs. Founded in the mid 12th century, a separate Burgh of regality, known as the Canongate and held by the Abbey of Holyrood, developed to the East. Through the late medieval period Edinburgh grew quickly and continued to flourish economically and culturally through the Renaissance period. It was at the centre of the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the Wars of the Covenant a hundred years later.

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne, uniting the two kingdoms in a personal union known as the Union of the Crowns. Scotland remained a sovereign kingdom with the Parliament of Scotland in Edinburgh. King James VI progressed to London where he established his court, maintaining his rule in Scotland through his Privy Council which merely received his written instructions and executed his will.[24] Despite promising to return every three years, he returned to Edinburgh only once, in 1617.

Disputes between the Presbyterian Covenanters and the Episcopalians in 1639 led to the Bishops' Wars, the initial conflict of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. During the Third English Civil War Edinburgh was taken by the Commonwealth forces of Oliver Cromwell prior to Charles II's eventual defeat at the Battle of Worcester.

In 17th century Edinburgh a defensive wall, built in the 16th century largely as protection against English invasion following James IV's defeat at the Battle of Flodden and hence named the Flodden Wall, still defined the boundaries of the city. Due to the restricted land area available for development, houses increased in height instead. Buildings of 11 storeys were common and there are records of buildings as high as 14 or even 15 storeys,[25] an early version of the modern-day skyscraper. Many of the stone-built structures can still be seen today in the Old Town.

In 1706 and 1707 the Acts of Union were passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland uniting the two Kingdoms into the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, the Parliament of Scotland merged with the Parliament of England to form the Parliament of Great Britain, which sat at Westminster in London. The union was opposed by many Scots at the time and this led to riots within the city.[26]

From early times, and certainly from the 14th century, Edinburgh (like other royal burghs of Scotland) used armorial devices in many ways, including on seals. In 1732, the 'achievement' or 'coat of arms' was formally granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. These arms were used by Edinburgh Town Council until the reorganisation of local government in Scotland in May 1975, when it was succeeded by the City of Edinburgh District Council and a new coat of arms, based on the earlier one, was granted. In 1996, further local government reorganisation resulted in the formation of the City of Edinburgh Council, and again the coat of arms was updated.[27]

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Edinburgh was briefly occupied by Jacobite forces before their march into England. Following their ultimate defeat at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, there was a period of reprisals and pacification, largely directed at the Catholic Highlanders. In Edinburgh the Hanoverian monarch attempted to gain favour by supporting new developments to the north of the castle, naming streets in honour of the King and his family; George Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street and Princes Street, named in honour of George III's two sons.

The city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment.[28] Celebrities from across the continent would be seen in the city streets, among them famous Scots such as David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Adam, David Wilkie, Robert Burns, James Hutton and Adam Smith. Edinburgh became a major cultural centre, earning it the nickname Athens of the North because of the Greco-Roman style of the New Town's architecture, as well as the rise of the Scottish intellectual elite who were increasingly leading both Scottish and European intellectual thought.[29]

In the 19th century, Edinburgh, like many cities, industrialised, but did not grow as fast as Scotland's second city, Glasgow, which replaced it as the largest city in the country, benefiting greatly at the height of the British Empire.

The Scotland Act 1998 which came into force in 1999 established a devolved Scottish parliament and Scottish Executive, both based in Edinburgh responsible for governing Scotland, with reserved matters such as defence, taxation and foreign affairs remaining the responsibility of Westminster.


Bounded by the Firth of Forth to the north and the Pentland Hills, which skirt the periphery of the city to the south, Edinburgh lies in the eastern portion of the Central Lowlands of Scotland.[30] The city sprawls over a landscape which is the product of early volcanic activity and later periods of intensive glaciation.[31] Igneous activity between 350 and 400 million years ago, coupled with faulting led to the dispersion of tough basalt volcanic plugs, which predominate over much of the area.[31] One such example is Castle Rock which forced the advancing icepack to divide, sheltering the softer rock and forming a mile-long tail of material to the east, creating a distinctive crag and tail formation.[31] Glacial erosion on the northern side of the crag gouged a large valley resulting in the now drained Nor Loch. This structure, along with a ravine to the south, formed an ideal natural fortress which Edinburgh Castle was built upon.[31] Similarly, Arthur's Seat is the remains of a volcano system dating from the Carboniferous period, which was eroded by a glacier moving from west to east during the ice age.[31] Erosive action such as plucking and abrasion exposed the rocky crags to the west before leaving a tail of deposited glacial material swept to the east.[32] This process formed the distinctive Salisbury Crags, which formed a series of teschenite cliffs between Arthur's Seat and the city centre.[33] The residential areas of Marchmont and Bruntsfield are built along a series of drumlin ridges south of the city centre, which were deposited as the glacier receded.[31]

Other viewpoints in the city such as Calton Hill and Corstorphine Hill are similar products of glacial erosion.[31] The Braid Hills and Blackford Hill are a series of small summits to the south west of the city commanding expansive views over the urban area of Edinburgh and northwards to the Forth.[31]

Edinburgh is drained by the Water of Leith, which finds its source at the Colzium Springs in the Pentland Hills and runs for 29 kilometres (18 mi) through the south and west of the city, emptying into the Firth of Forth at Leith.[34] The nearest the river gets to the city centre is at Dean Village on the edge of the New Town, where a deep gorge is spanned by the Dean Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1832 for the road to Queensferry.[34] The Water of Leith Walkway is a mixed use trail that follows the river for 19.6 kilometres (12.2 mi) from Balerno to Leith.[35]

Designated in 1957, Edinburgh is ringed by a green belt stretching from Dalmeny in the west to Prestongrange in the east.[36] With an average width of 3.2 kilometres (2 mi) the principal objective of the green belt was to contain the outward expansion of Edinburgh and to prevent the agglomeration of urban areas.[36] Expansion within the green belt is strictly controlled but developments such as Edinburgh Airport and the Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston lie within the zone.[36] Similarly, urban villages such as Juniper Green and Balerno sit on green belt land.[36] One feature of the green belt in Edinburgh is the inclusion of parcels of land within the city which are designated as green belt even though they do not adjoin the main peripheral ring. Examples of these independent wedges of green belt include Holyrood Park and Corstorphine Hill.[36]


Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is divided into areas that generally encompass a park (sometimes known as "links"), a main local street (i.e. street of local retail shops), a high street (the historic main street, not always the same as the main local street, such as in Corstorphine) and residential buildings. In Edinburgh many residences are tenements, although the more southern and western parts of the city have traditionally been more affluent and have a greater number of detached and semi-detached villas.

The historic centre of Edinburgh is divided into two by the broad green swath of Princes Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, perched atop the extinct volcanic crag, and the long sweep of the Old Town trailing after it along the ridge. To the north lies Princes Street and the New Town. The gardens were begun in 1816 on bogland which had once been the Nor Loch.

To the immediate west of the castle lies the financial district, housing insurance and banking buildings. Probably the most noticeable building here is the circular sandstone building that is the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Old Town

The Old Town has preserved its medieval plan and many Reformation-era buildings. One end is closed by the castle and the main artery, the Royal Mile, leads away from it; minor streets (called closes or wynds) lead downhill on either side of the main spine in a herringbone pattern. Large squares mark the location of markets or surround public buildings such as St. Giles' Cathedral and the Law Courts. Other notable places nearby include the Royal Museum of Scotland, Surgeons' Hall and McEwan Hall. The street layout is typical of the old quarters of many northern European cities, and where the castle perches on top of a rocky crag (the remnants of an extinct volcano) the Royal Mile runs down the crest of a ridge from it.

Due to space restrictions imposed by the narrowness of the "tail", the Old Town became home to some of the earliest "high rise" residential buildings. Multi-storey dwellings known as lands were the norm from the 16th century onwards with ten and eleven storeys being typical and one even reaching fourteen or fifteen storeys.[37] Additionally, numerous vaults below street level were inhabited to accommodate the influx of immigrants during the Industrial Revolution.

New Town

The New Town was an 18th century solution to the problem of an increasingly crowded Old Town. The city had remained incredibly compact, confined to the ridge running down from the castle. In 1766 a competition to design the New Town was won by James Craig, a 22-year-old architect. The plan that was built created a rigid, ordered grid, which fitted well with enlightenment ideas of rationality. The principal street was to be George Street, which follows the natural ridge to the north of the Old Town. Either side of it are the other main streets of Princes Street and Queen Street. Princes Street has since become the main shopping street in Edinburgh, and few Georgian buildings survive on it. Linking these streets were a series of perpendicular streets. At the east and west ends are St. Andrew Square and Charlotte Square respectively. The latter, designed by Robert Adam, influenced Edinburgh street architecture into the early 19th century.[38] Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, is on the north side of Charlotte Square. Sitting in the hollow between the Old and New Towns was the Nor Loch, which had been both the city's water supply and place for dumping sewage. By the 1820s it was drained. Craig's original plans included Princes Street Gardens and an ornamental canal[39] in place of the Nor Loch. Excess soil from the construction of the buildings was dumped into the loch, creating what is now The Mound and the canal idea was abandoned. In the mid-19th century the National Gallery of Scotland and Royal Scottish Academy Building were built on The Mound, and tunnels to Waverley Station driven through it. The New Town was so successful that it was extended greatly. The grid pattern was not maintained, but rather a more picturesque layout was created.


A popular residential part of the city is its south side, comprising a number of areas including St Leonards, Marchmont, Newington, Sciennes, The Grange and Blackford. The Edinburgh "Southside" is broadly analogous to the area covered by the Burgh Muir, and grew in popularity as a residential area following the opening of the South Bridge. These areas are particularly popular now with families (many state and private schools are here), students (the central University of Edinburgh campus is based around George Square just north of Marchmont and the Meadows, and Napier University (with major campuses around Merchiston & Morningside), as well as with visiting festival-goers. These areas are also the subject of several works of fiction: Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus lives in Marchmont and worked in St Leonards; and Churchhill, in Morningside, was the home of Muriel Spark's Miss Jean Brodie.


Leith is the port of Edinburgh. It still retains a separate identity from Edinburgh, and it was a matter of great resentment when, in 1920, the burgh of Leith was merged[40] into the county of Edinburgh. Even today the parliamentary seat is known as 'Edinburgh North and Leith'. With the redevelopment of Leith, Edinburgh has gained the business of a number of cruise liner companies which now provide cruises to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Leith also has the Royal Yacht Britannia, berthed behind the Ocean Terminal and Easter Road, the home ground of Hibernian F.C.

Urban area

The urban area of Edinburgh is almost entirely contained within the City of Edinburgh Council boundary, merging with Musselburgh in East Lothian. Nearby towns close to the city borders include Dunfermline, Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith, Loanhead, Newtongrange, Penicuik, Livingston and Broxburn. The EU classifies this area as a Larger Urban Zone with a population of nearly 800,000 people.


Like much of the rest of Scotland, Edinburgh has a temperate, maritime climate which is relatively mild despite its northerly latitude.[41] Winters are generally mild, with daytime temperatures rarely falling below freezing, and compare favourably with places such as Moscow, Labrador and Newfoundland which lie at similar latitudes.[41] Summer temperatures are normally moderate, with daily upper maxima rarely exceeding 22 C.[41] The highest temperature ever recorded in the city was 31.4 C (88.5 F) on 4 August 1975[41] at Turnhouse Airport. The lowest temperature recorded in recent years was -14.6 C (5.7 F) during December 2010 at Gogarbank.[42]

The proximity of the city to the sea mitigates any large variations in temperature or extremes of climate. Given Edinburgh's position between the coast and hills, it is renowned as a windy city, with the prevailing wind direction coming from the south-west which is associated with warm, unstable air from the North Atlantic Current that can give rise to rainfall although considerably less than cities to the west, such as Glasgow.[41] Rainfall is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year.[41] Winds from an easterly direction are usually drier but colder, and are usually accompanied by Haar (fog), a persistent coastal fog. Vigorous Atlantic depressions, known as European windstorms, can affect the city between October and May.[41]


At the United Kingdom Census 2001, Edinburgh had a population of 448,624, a rise of 7.1% on 1991.[47] Estimates in 2010 placed the total resident population at 486,120 split between 235,249 males and 250,871 females.[6] This makes Edinburgh the second largest city in Scotland after Glasgow and the seventh largest in Britain.[47] According to the European Statistical agency, Eurostat, Edinburgh sits at the heart of a Larger Urban Zone covering 665 square miles (1,720 km2) with a population of 778,000.[49]

Edinburgh has a higher proportion of those aged between 16 and 24 than the Scottish average, but has a lower proportion of those classified as elderly or pre-school.[6] Over 95% of Edinburgh respondents classed their ethnicity as White in 2001, with those identifying as being Indian and Chinese at 1.6% and 0.8% of the population respectively.[50] In 2001, 22% of the population were born outside Scotland with the largest group of people within this category being born in England at 12.1%.[50] Since the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, a large number of migrants from the accession states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have settled in the city, with many working in the service industry.[51]

There is evidence of human habitation on Castle Rock from as early as 3,000 years ago.[52] A census conducted by the Edinburgh presbytery in 1592 estimated a population of 8,000 scattered equally north and south of the High Street which runs down the spine of the ridge leading from the Castle.[53] In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the population began to expand rapidly, rising from 49,000 in 1751 to 136,000 in 1831 primarily due to rural out-migration.[54] As the population swelled, overcrowding problems in the Old Town, particularly in the cramped tenements that lined the present day Royal Mile and Cowgate, were exacerbated.[54] Sanitary problems and disease were rife.[54] The construction of James Craig's masterplanned New Town from 1766 onwards witnessed the migration of the professional classes from the Old Town to the lower density, higher quality surroundings taking shape on land to the north.[55] Expansion southwards from the Royal Mile/Cowgate axis of the Old Town saw more tenements being built in the 19th century, giving rise to present day areas such as Marchmont, Newington and Bruntsfield.[56]

Early 20th century population growth coincided with lower density suburban development in areas such as Gilmerton, Liberton and South Gyle. As the city expanded to the south and west, detached and semi detached villas with large gardens replaced tenements as the predominant building style. Nonetheless, the 2001 census revealed that over 55% of Edinburgh's population live in tenements or blocks of flats compared to the Scottish average of 33.5%.[57]

Throughout the early to mid 20th century many new estates were built in areas such as Craigmillar, Niddrie, Pilton, Muirhouse, Piershill and Sighthill, linked to slum clearances in the Old Town.

There were estates built in North Edinburgh in the 1950s to cope with overcrowding in the inner city, Clermiston is one such estate.



The Church of Scotland claims the largest membership of any religious denomination in Edinburgh. As of 2010, there are 83 congregations in the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Edinburgh.[58] Its most notable church is St Giles' Cathedral, while St Cuthbert's, situated at the west end of Princes Street Gardens and in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, lays claim to being the oldest Christian site in city, although its magnificent and unique building designed by Hippolyte Blanc dates mainly from the late 19th century. Other Church of Scotland churches include Greyfriars Kirk, Barclay Church, Canongate Kirk and St Andrew's and St George's Church. In the south east of the city is the 12th century Duddingston Kirk. The Church of Scotland Offices are in Edinburgh, as is the Assembly Hall and New College on The Mound.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh has a large number of churches across the city, the number of parishes totalling 28, under the aegis of St Giles' City of Edinburgh Deanery.There are also a further 6 churches and chapels belonging to religious orders where Sunday Mass is offered. Its notable structures include St Mary's Cathedral (the mother church of Scots Catholicism), the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St Patrick's, St. Columba's, St. Peter's and Star of the Sea. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter fulfil their ministry in St. Andrews Church (Ravelston) and in St Cuthberts House Chapel. St. Margaret's and St. Leonard's Church (Newington) is an apostolate of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X. The leader of Scotland's Catholics, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has his official residence in the area of the city known locally as Holy Corner, and the diocesan offices are in Marchmont.[59]

The Scottish Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion, has 25 congregations across the city. Its centre is the late 19th century Gothic style St Mary's Cathedral in the West End's Palmerston Place. The historic former pro-cathedral of the city is Old Saint Paul's, off the Royal Mile, which was established in 1689 when St Giles' Cathedral and the wider Church of Scotland converted from Episcopal to Presbyterian governance.

In addition, there are a number of independent churches situated throughout the city; these churches tend to have a high percentage of student congregants and include Destiny Church, The Rock Elim Church, Kings Church Edinburgh, Charlotte Chapel, Carrubbers Christian Centre, Morningside Baptist Church, Bellevue Chapel and Deeper Life Bible Church, Stockbridge.

Biblical unitarians are represented by a Christadelphian church, established in Edinburgh since 1853.[60] The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) hold Meetings for Worship in several locations, especially the main Quaker Meeting House in Victoria Terrace.

Saint Giles is the patron saint of Edinburgh.[61]

Other faiths

Edinburgh Central Mosque Edinburgh's main mosque and Islamic Centre is on Potterrow, in the city's south side, near Bristo Square. It was opened in the late 1990s and the construction was largely financed by a gift from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.[62] There are other mosques in Annandale Street Lane, off Leith Walk, and in Queensferry Road, Blackhall as well as a number of other Islamic centres across the city.[63] The first recorded presence of a Jewish community in Edinburgh dates back to the late 18th century.[64] Edinburgh's Orthodox synagogue, which was opened in 1932, is in Salisbury Road and can accommodate a congregation of 2000. A Liberal Jewish congregation also meets in the city. There are a Sikh gurdwara and a Hindu mandir, both in Leith, and a Brahma Kumaris centre[65] in the Polwarth area. Edinburgh Buddhist Centre, run by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, is situated in Melville Terrace. A number of other Buddhist traditions are represented by groups which meet in the capital: the Community of Interbeing (followers of Thich Nhat Hanh), Rigpa, Samye Dzong, Theravadin, Pure Land and Shambala. There is a Soto Zen Priory in Portobello[66] and a Theravadin Thai Buddhist Monastery in Slateford Road.[67] Edinburgh is home to an active Baha'i Community,[68] a Theosophical Society, in Great King Street,[69] and the city has a number of practising Pagans. Edinburgh has an active Inter-Faith Association.


Following local government reorganisation in 1996, Edinburgh constitutes one of the 32 Unitary Authorities of Scotland.[70] Today, the City of Edinburgh Council is the administrative body for the local authority and has its powers stipulated by the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994.[71] Like all other unitary and island authorities in Scotland, the council has powers over most matters of local administration such as housing, planning, local transport, parks, economic development and regeneration.[71] The council is composed of 58 elected councillors, returned from 17 multi-member electoral wards in the city.[72] Each ward elects three or four councillors by the single transferable vote system, to produce a form of proportional representation. Following the 2007 Scottish Local Elections the incumbent Labour Party lost majority control of the council, after 23 years, to a Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition.[73]

Since 2007, the council has operated a committee structure, headed by the Lord Provost, who chairs the full council and acts as a figurehead for the city.[74] The Provost, currently Donald Wilson, also serves as ex officio the Lord Lieutenant of the city.[75] A Leader and Policy & Strategy Committee, appointed by the full council, are responsible for the day-to-day running of the city administration. Jenny Dawe was the Council Leader since May 2007, however she lost her seat in the elections in May 2012, with Andrew Burns now the Council leader, after Labour and SNP formed a coalition administration. Councillors are also appointed to sit on the boards of public bodies such as Lothian and Borders Police and the Forth Estuary Transport Authority.[74]

Edinburgh is represented in the Scottish Parliament. For electoral purposes, the city area is divided between six of the nine constituencies in the Lothians electoral region.[76] Each constituency elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the first past the post system of election, and the region elects seven additional MSPs, to produce a form of proportional representation.[76]

Edinburgh is also represented in the British House of Commons by five Members of Parliament elected from single member constituencies by the first past the post system.


Edinburgh is the most competitive large city in the UK according to the Centre for International Competitiveness.[77] Edinburgh also has the highest Gross value added per employee of any city in the UK outside London, measuring 50,256 in 2007.[78] A combination of these factors saw Edinburgh named the Best Small City of the future by fDi Magazine for 2010/11.[79] Education and health, finance and business services, retailing and tourism are the largest employers.[80] The economy of Edinburgh is largely based on the services sector centred around banking, financial services, higher education, and tourism. As of March 2010 unemployment in Edinburgh is comparatively low at 3.6%, and remains consistently below the Scottish average of 4.5%.[81] Banking has been a part of the economic life of Edinburgh for over 300 years, with the establishment of the Bank of Scotland now part of the Lloyds Banking Group by an act of the original Parliament of Scotland in 1695. Today, together with the financial services industry, with particular strengths in insurance and investment underpinned by the presence of Edinburgh based firms such as Scottish Widows and Standard Life, Edinburgh is the UK's second financial centre after London and Europe's fourth by equity assets.[82] In world terms, it ranks ahead of Dubai, Amsterdam and Washington D.C. in the Global Financial Centres Index.[82] The Royal Bank of Scotland opened its new global headquarters at Gogarburn in the west of the city in October 2005. Edinburgh has recently become home to the headquarters of Tesco Bank[83] and Virgin Money.[84]

Tourism is an important economic mainstay in the city. As a World Heritage Site, tourists come to visit such historical sites as Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Georgian New Town. This is augmented in August of each year with the presence of the Edinburgh Festivals, which bring in over 4.4 million visitors,[81] and generate in excess of 100m for the Edinburgh economy.[85]

As the centre of Scotland's government, as well as its legal system, the public sector plays a central role in the economy of Edinburgh, with many departments of the Scottish Government located in the city. Other major employers include NHS Scotland and local government administration.


Edinburgh Airport is Scotland's busiest airport and principal international gateway to the capital, handling just over 9 million passengers in 2009.[86] In anticipation of rising passenger numbers, the airport operator BAA outlined a draft masterplan in 2006 to provide for the expansion of the airfield and terminal building.[87] The possibility of building a second runway to cope with an increased number of aircraft movements has also been mooted.[87]

As an important hub on the East Coast Main Line, Edinburgh Waverley is the primary railway station serving the city. With more than 14 million passengers per year, the station is the second busiest in Scotland behind Glasgow Central.[88] Waverley serves as the terminus for trains arriving from London King's Cross and is the departure point for many rail services within Scotland operated by First ScotRail.

To the west of the city centre lies Haymarket railway station which is an important commuter stop. Opened in 2003, Edinburgh Park station serves the adjacent business park in the west of the city and the nearby Gogarburn headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Edinburgh Crossrail connects Edinburgh Park with Haymarket, Waverley and the suburban stations of Brunstane and Newcraighall in the east of the city.[89] There are also commuter lines to South Gyle and Dalmeny, which serves South Queensferry by the Forth Bridges, and to the south west of the city out to Wester Hailes and Curriehill

Lothian Buses operate the majority of city bus services within the City and to surrounding suburbs, with the majority of routes running via Princes Street. Services further afield operate from the Edinburgh Bus Station off St. Andrew Square. Lothian, as the successor company to the City's Corporation Trams, also operates all of the City's branded public tour bus services, the night bus network and airport buses.[90] Lothian's Mac Tours subsidiary has one of the largest remaining fleets of ex-London Routemaster buses in Britain, many converted to open top tour buses.[91] In 2007, the average daily ridership of Lothian Buses was over 312,000 a 6% rise on the previous year.[90]

In order to tackle traffic congestion, Edinburgh is now served by six park and ride sites on the periphery of the city at Sheriffhall, Ingliston, Riccarton, Inverkeithing (in Fife) and Newcraighall. A new facility at Straiton opened in October 2008. A referendum of Edinburgh residents in February 2005 rejected a proposal to introduce congestion charging in the city.

Edinburgh has been without a tram system since 16 November 1956.[92] Following parliamentary approval in 2007, construction began on a new Edinburgh tram line in early 2008. The first stage of the project was originally expected to be operational by July 2011[93] but, following delays, controversies and cost increases, is unlikely to be working before 2014.[94] The first phase will see trams running from Edinburgh Airport in the west of the city to York Place in the city centre. Plans exist to extend the line down Leith Walk to Ocean Terminal and Newhaven, but have been postponed due to cost.[95] If fully realised, the project will see trams run from Haymarket through Ravelston and Craigleith to Granton on the waterfront.[95] Future proposals include a line going west from the airport to Ratho and Newbridge, and a line running along the length of the waterfront.[96]


There are four universities in Edinburgh with over 100,000 students studying in the city.[97] Established by Royal Charter in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of Scotland's ancient universities and is the fourth oldest in the country after St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen.[98] Originally centred around Old College the university expanded to premises on The Mound, the Royal Mile and George Square.[98] Today, the King's Buildings in the south of the city contain most of the schools within the College of Science and Engineering. In 2002, the medical school moved to purpose built accommodation adjacent to the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France. The University was placed 20th in the world in the 2011 QS World University Rankings.[99]

In the 1960s Heriot-Watt University and Napier Technical College were established.[98] Heriot-Watt traces its origins to 1821 as the world's first mechanics' institute, when a school for technical education for the working classes was opened.[100] Based in Riccarton to the west of the city, Heriot-Watt specialises in the disciplines of engineering, business and mathematics.[101] Napier College was renamed Napier Polytechnic in 1986 and gained university status in 1992.[102] Edinburgh Napier University has campuses in the south and west of the city, including the former Craiglockhart Hydropathic and Merchiston Tower.[102] It is home to the Screen Academy Scotland.

Queen Margaret University was founded in 1875, as The Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy, by Christian Guthrie Wright and Louisa Stevenson.[103]

Further education colleges in the city include Jewel and Esk College (incorporating Leith Nautical College founded in 1903), Telford College, opened in 1968, and Stevenson College, opened in 1970. The Scottish Agricultural College also has a campus in south Edinburgh. Other notable institutions include the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh which were established by Royal Charter, in 1506 and 1681 respectively. The Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh was founded in 1760 an institution that became the Edinburgh College of Art in 1907.[104]

There are 18 nursery, 94 primary and 23 secondary schools in Edinburgh administered by the city council.[105] In addition, the city is home to a large number of independent, fee-paying schools including Edinburgh Academy, Fettes College, George Heriot's School, George Watson's College, Merchiston Castle School, Stewart's Melville College and The Mary Erskine School. In 2009, the proportion of pupils in education at independent schools was 24.2%, far above the national average of just over 4% and higher than in any other region of Scotland.[106]


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