Renfrewshire (/ˈrɛnfrʃɪər, -ʃər/) (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Rinn Friù) is one of 32 council areas of Scotland.


Siorrachd Rinn Friù

Coat of arms

Council logo
Coordinates: 55°49′47″N 4°32′34″W
Admin HQPaisley
  BodyRenfrewshire Council
  ControlSNP minority (council NOC)
  ProvostLorraine Cameron
  Council LeaderIain Nicholson (SNP)

(SNP - Paisley and Renfrewshire South)

(SNP - Paisley and Renfrewshire North)

(SNP - Paisley)

(SNP - Renfrewshire South)

(SNP - Renfrewshire North and West)
  Total101.0 sq mi (261.5 km2)
Area rankRanked 24th
 (mid-2018 est.)
  RankRanked 10th
  Density1,800/sq mi (680/km2)
ONS codeS12000038
ISO 3166 codeGB-RFW

Located in the west central Lowlands, it is one of three council areas contained within the boundaries of the historic county of Renfrewshire, the others being East Renfrewshire to the east and Inverclyde to the west. It also shares borders with Glasgow, North Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire, and lies on the southern bank of the River Clyde.

The term Renfrewshire may also be used to refer to the historic county, also known as the County of Renfrew or Greater Renfrewshire, with origins in the 16th century. The larger Renfrewshire, containing Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and East Renfrewshire, remains in use as a registration county and lieutenancy area as well as a joint valuation board area for electoral registration and local tax valuation purposes.

The town of Paisley is the area's main settlement and centre of local government and contains the historic county town, the royal burgh of Renfrew.



The name of Renfrewshire derives from its county town, Renfrew, which has been attested since the Roman occupation of Britain. The name is believed to originate from Common Brittonic/Cumbric, from ren, as in Scottish Gaelic: rinn, or as in Welsh: rhyn (a point or cape of land) and from frew, as in Welsh: fraw, or ffrau (flow of water). This suggests a point of land near the flow of water, such as at the confluence of the Cart and Clyde rivers.[1]

Emergence as a county

The county of Renfrew was established by King Robert III from lands centring on the ancient lordship of Strathgryfe in 1402. Previously this had formed part of the county of Lanarkshire. Previously religious authority had extended over the area through the authority of Paisley Abbey over local churches in towns and villages.

Following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, Renfrewshire - as with the other counties of Scotland - gained greater powers and became governed by an elected county council, a position that remained until 1975. The centre of local government was moved from Renfrew to Paisley.

Local government reform

In 1973, the historic county of Renfrewshire was divided into three districts - Renfrew District, Inverclyde District and Eastwood District within the wider Strathclyde region. The modern council area of Renfrewshire was subsequently created as one of the 32 local council areas following the 1996 reform of local government in Scotland, with altered boundaries. Barrhead, Neilston and Uplawmoor which were formerly in Renfrew District joined with Eastwood District to form East Renfrewshire.

Boundary dispute with Glasgow

Following the creation of the Braehead shopping centre in 1999, the development formed part of a boundary dispute between Renfrewshire and the City of Glasgow, with the centre straddling the existing boundary line. In 2002, a Local Government Boundary Commission ruling eventually redrew the boundary to include all of the centre in Renfrewshire, as this was the original ancient boundary.[2] The boundary runs along Kings Inch Drive and is marked by a chain linked fence at this point.[3]

Culture and community

Renfrewshire contains several places of interest. In the west of Renfrewshire, Castle Semple Loch at Lochwinnoch and the wider Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park are natural areas of interest, as is the Gleniffer Braes country park in the south. Paisley contains several historic buildings and notable sites, including Paisley Abbey, Paisley Museum and Coats Observatory, Paisley Town Hall, Coats Memorial Church, Sma' Shot Cottages and St Mirren Park (home of St Mirren F.C.). Outside of Paisley, Elderslie, the claimed birthplace of Scottish knight William Wallace, contains a monument in his honour, while the Weaver's Cottage at Kilbarchan is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The town of Johnstone is notable for Johnstone Castle, the remains of a former mansion), Johnstone High Parish Church and for containing a museum within a supermarket.

The Braehead Arena in Renfrewshire close to the boundary with Glasgow is home to leading professional basketball team, the Scottish Rocks, who compete in the British Basketball League. The arena was also host to the 2000 Ford World Curling Championships.

Towns and villages


Renfrewshire Council

Renfrewshire Council is the elected local authority for Renfrewshire. Its consists of 43 directly elected councillors who elect from among their number a Provost to serve as the council's convener and ceremonial head and a leader of the council who is typically the head of the largest political group, often called the Administration.

The council meets collectively as a full council and carries out a number of functions. Its Scheme of Delegated Functions sets out where the council has agreed to allow powers to be exercised by a committee (referred to as a "board" in Renfrewshire Council), a sub-committee, an officer of the council or a joint committee with one or more other councils. The council continues to reserve a number of functions that can only be carried out by the council acting as a whole.[4]

The council's paid service (known collectively as "officers") is headed by a chief executive, who is responsible to the elected council for the delivery of its policies. This executive wing is divided into seven departments: the Chief Executive's Department, Finance and Corporate Services, Education and Leisure Services, Environmental Services, Housing and Property Services, Planning and Transport, and Social Work.[5] Each department is headed by a Director, who is also a non-political, paid member of staff.[6]

Council composition

Following the 2017 Renfrewshire Council election, Renfrewshire Council is led by leader of the council Iain Nicholson who heads a Scottish National Party minority administration.[7] The Provost of Renfrewsihre is Lorraine Cameron who also serves as councillor for Paisley Southwest ward.

The full composition of the council is as follows:

Party Councillors
Scottish National Party 19
Labour 13
Conservative Party 8
Independents 2
Liberal Democrat 1

Electoral wards

For the purposes of elections to Renfrewshire Council, the Renfrewshire area is divided geographically into a number of wards which then elect either three or four councillors each by the Single Transferable Vote system.[8] The electoral system of local councils in Scotland is governed by the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004, which first introduced proportional representation to councils in Scotland.

These electoral wards, following a 2017 review and first used in the 2017 Renfrewshire Council election are as follows:

Ward 1: Renfrew North and Braehead (4 councillors)
Ward 2: Renfrew South & Gallowhill (3 councillors)
Ward 3: Paisley Northeast & Ralston (3 councillors)
Ward 4: Paisley Northwest (4 councillors)
Ward 5: Paisley East and Central (3 councillors)
Ward 6: Paisley Southeast (3 councillors)
Ward 7: Paisley Southwest (4 councillors)
Ward 8: Johnstone South and Elderslie (4 councillors)
Ward 9: Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch (4 councillors)
Ward 10: Houston, Crosslee & Linwood (4 councillors)
Ward 11: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir & Langbank (3 councillors)
Ward 12: Erskine & Inchinnan (4 councillors)

Scottish Parliament and House of Commons

The two House of Commons constituencies covering Renfrewshire are Paisley and Renfrewshire North and Paisley and Renfrewshire South, being represented by Gavin Newlands and Mhairi Black respectively. Created in 2005, both seats and their predecessor constituencies had traditionally been safe seats for the Labour Party, until the Scottish National Party gained them with swings of over 26% in the SNP landslide at the 2015 general election. Although both constituencies were only marginally held by the party over Labour at the 2017 snap election, they returned to safe SNP majorities in the 2019 general election.

Follwing the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the Labour Party held the three seats covering Renfrewshire, although with lower majorities than their House of Commons equivalents. Constituency boundaries were redrawn for the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, with the new constituencies of Renfrewshire North and West and Paisley being gained by Derek Mackay and George Adam, who became the first SNP parliamentarians in Renfrewshire. The remaining Labour seat, Renfrewshire South, was gained by the SNP's Tom Arthur at the 2016 Scottish election.

Referendum results

A majority of Renfrewshire rejected independence in the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, with 55,466 (47.2%) votes cast in favour and 62,067 (52.8%) against, on a high turnout of 117,612 (87.3%).

With a turnout of 69.2% (88,197), Renfrewshire voted to remain in the 2016 European Union membership referendum with 64.8% (57,119) of votes cast in favour of remaining while 35.2% (31,010) were for leaving.


Renfrewshire contains the University of the West of Scotland, a new university that was granted university status in 1992 as the University of Paisley. Prior to this, the Paisley Technical College and School of Art was a Central Institution or polytechnic. In 2007 the university merged with Bell College, a further education college in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire and the UWS name was adopted. The university today has sites across the west of Scotland, notably also in Ayr and a joint campus in Dumfries; the main campus remains in Paisley.

Further education is provided by Paisley Campus of West College Scotland in Paisley, which caters to around 20,000 students. The college also has sites in Inverclyde and West Dumbartonshire.[9]

Renfrewshire contains eleven state secondary schools, 51 primary schools and three schools for children with additional support needs.


Renfrewshire is home to Scotland's second busiest airport, Glasgow International Airport, at Abbotsinch between Paisley and Renfrew. The presence of the airport and the proximity to Glasgow means that Renfrewshire supports one of the busiest transport infrastructures in Scotland.

The airport is served by the M8 motorway, which terminates in the area, just east of Langbank, and is a major artery between northwest and southwest Scotland, via the Erskine Bridge.

Developments to ease traffic flow have included a lifting of tolls on the Erskine Bridge, plans to extend the rail network to connect to the airport, and the M74 extension – which will handle traffic from Renfrewshire heading south, diverting it away from Glasgow city centre.[10] Renfrewshire also has bus links provided by FirstGroup, McGill's Bus Services and other smaller operators.


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