Ralston (Baile Raghnaill in Scottish Gaelic) is a small, suburban settlement in Renfrewshire, Scotland, bordering onto the eastern edge of the town of Paisley. The district straddles the A761 (formerly the A737), the main dual-carriageway between Renfrewshire and the City of Glasgow.
Ralston is situated primarily on a series of south-facing hillsides, looking towards the Gleniffer Braes and the Bullwood plantation. The district merges congruously with the sandstone villas of Paisley to its west. Here, Barshaw Park provides a convenient boundary between the district and its larger neighbour. To the east, Ralston’s painted stone cottages and their proudly-maintained front gardens define the Glasgow Road all the way to the Renfrewshire border and beyond, merging unobtrusively with the cottages of neighbouring Crookston. Ralston’s northern edge is defined by South Arkleston farm at the foot of Honeybog Hill; its southern extent is limited by Ralston Golf Course and the leeward side of Bathgo Hill.
To the north, the district’s official (ward) boundary extends beyond Honeybog Hill, to the main Paisley – Glasgow railway (Inverclyde Line), which forms the boundary between North and South Arkleston farms. To the south, Ralston’s ‘jurisdiction’ takes in the whole of Ralston Golf Course and extends beyond the Paisley Canal railway line to the White Cart Water at Ross Hall Mains farm.
Ralston’s northern boundary falls close to the new out-of-town retail development at Braehead on the River Clyde near Renfrew. To the west, Ralston’s boundary with Paisley is less well-defined. Despite Paisley’s pre-1974 burgh boundary intersecting the Glasgow Road at the corner of Oldhall Road, today, the district is considered by many, including the local community council, to include the part of Paisley between Hawkhead Road and the historic Paisley-Ralston boundary. This is primarily attributable to the fact that, in spite of the formal administrative boundaries, both current and traditional, children living east of Hawkhead Road have always fallen within the catchment area of Ralston Primary School.
Despite its close proximity to Paisley, Ralston has always remained independent of its larger neighbour, and until 1974, formed the most-part of Hurlet and Oldhall, the 3rd Landward District of the County of Renfrew.
In a local referendum, held in 1995 ahead of the planned abolition of the Strathclyde Region and the partition of Renfrewshire into three separate local government areas, the residents of Ralston voted overwhelmingly against leaving the new Paisley-based (and Labour-dominated) Renfrewshire authority to become an annex of the newly-partitioned (and Conservative-run) East Renfrewshire. Despite East Renfrewshire’s assurance that a local government office would be set up within Ralston, locals were concerned that the district would be no more than a remote outpost, linked to the rest of the authority by a narrow strip of countryside with no direct road or public transport links connecting the two. By far the most persuasive reason against annexation, however, was that Ralston School was (and is) one of the three feeder primaries, serving Paisley’s Grammar School. Parents were concerned that if the district were to leave the jurisdiction of Renfrewshire’s education authority, local children would be prevented from attending Ralston’s closest secondary school. Ralston is now administered as a local government ward of the Renfrewshire authority. In terms of local democracy, the district is represented by the Ralston Community Council, which lobbies the Renfrewshire authority on matters of local significance. Nationally, the area falls within the Paisley North constituency of the Scottish Parliament and is represented in the UK Parliament as part of Paisley and Renfrewshire North.
Today, mainly as a result of postal addressing and local government reorganisation, many newcomers to Ralston are unaware that they do not technically live in Paisley. Nowadays, the only obvious, albeit subtle, reminder of Ralston’s separate identity is the fact that on crossing into Renfrewshire on the A761 Glasgow Road, drivers pass a “Welcome to Renfrewshire” sign a whole kilometre before they pass a sign welcoming them to Paisley.
Ralston’s current status, however, is that of a middle-class Paisley suburb.