Stornoway’s charter as a Burgh of Barony and Regality was granted in 1607 by James VI, entitling the inhabitants to be free burgesses and to elect Bailies.
Despite the Charter, no steps were taken to establish these new rights and the administration of the Burgh of Stornoway remained in the hands of the owners of the island until 1825. The then owner, the Hon. Mary Frederica Elizabeth Stewart-Mackenzie of Seaforth (the former Lady Hood), with the consent of her husband, James Alexander Stewart-Mackenzie, empowered the feu holders of Stornoway to elect nine of their number to be Magistrates and Councillors, two of whom were to be Bailies, one a Treasurer and the other six Councillors. A Directory of 1838, shows that Roderick McKenzie, Kenneth Street, who was a Writer and Notary was also Town Clerk and Clerk to the Baron Bailie Court. The Baron Bailie is listed as being Thomas Buchanan Drummond, Cromwell Street, who was also the Procurator Fiscal.
The Town Council of more recent times, came into being as a result of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1862. In April 1863, fifteen householders of the Burgh petitioned the Sheriff of the Counties of Ross and Cromarty to fix and define the boundaries of the Burgh, which the Sheriff did in a ‘deliverance’ dated 22nd October 1863. Following the adoption of the Act, nine householders were elected Commissioners of Police for the Burgh at a public meeting 1864.
From that date to the present day, local government in Stornoway has followed the pattern of other burghs of similar size, operating under the various Police and Local Government (Scotland) Acts. The Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892, fixed the number of Commissioners to be elected as nine and brought into being the offices of Provost and Bailies to replace Chief Magistrate and Junior Magistrates. With the Town Councils (Scotland) Act 1900, the office of Town Councillor was established, as distinct from Burgh Police Commissioners.
Following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, the Counties of Ross and Cromarty were united and many of the functions of the Town Council such as Public Health, Planning, Registration and the maintenance of classified roads, were transferred to the County Councils by the Local Government (Scotland) Acts of 1929 and 1947.
Stornoway Town Council disappeared on 15th May, 1975, following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which brought in to being the Western Isles Islands Council, now Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.