Until the 20th century, the land around Newton Mearns was primarily agricultural. Ownership passed from the Pollocks (whose name is perpetuated in the nearby Glasgow housing estate of Pollok) to the Maxwells of Caerlaverock around 1300. It then passed to the Maxwells of Nether Pollok in 1648 and then the Stewarts of Blackhall in 1660. A new turnpike road from Eastwood Toll, now the main Ayr Road, was constructed in 1832. The 1893 'Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland' describes it as "pleasantly situated on a rising ground 410 feet above sea-level". It also reveals that it was a 'burgh of barony' which bestowed the right to hold a weekly market and two annual fairs. However, the Gazetteer also describes the village as being only a "single street on the Glasgow and Kilmarnock highroad" By the end of the 18th century quarrying had developed and more importantly numerous textile mills and finishing works became established availing themselves of the numerous rivers and lochs for water supply.From the early 20th century, with the introduction of improved roads and railways to the area, it gradually became a growing commuter suburb of Glasgow. In the 1930s, between speculative and local authority housing ventures, a further 6,000 houses were added to the area and after a lull during the war years, in the 1950s, house building began again in earnest. Unfortunately, the old core village suffered neglect during and after WW2 and was all but derelict by the 1960s. It was purchased and turned into a shopping centre which was later to become 'The Avenue at Mearns' in 1991.
Historical buildings in the area include the 15th century Mearns Castle, Greenbank House owned by the National Trust for Scotland and the 1813 Mearns Kirk.
At national level, Newton Mearns forms part of the Eastwood constituency (since renamed to its original name of East Renfrewshire), and historically, it was one of Scotland's safest Conservative seats. From the 1997 general election, when Barrhead and Neilston were added to the constituency, until 2015 the seat was held by Labour. Since the 2015 UK election it has been represented by the SNP's Kirsten Oswald MP in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Newton Mearns forms part of the Eastwood constituency in the Scottish Parliament. The seat was held by Labour's Ken Macintosh from 1999, when the parliament reconvened, until 2016. In 2016, Jackson Carlaw MSP, won the seat for the Conservatives.
Following the breakup of Strathclyde Regional Council in 1996, Newton Mearns became part of the new East Renfrewshire Council area.
On more than one occasion, Glasgow City Council has applied to the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland to have Newton Mearns re-allocated to its control.
As a result of the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote system for Scottish local council elections, it was planned that, in time for elections taking place in and after 2007, the town would be divided into two multi-councillor wards: Liboside and Newton Mearns North and Newton Mearns South. However, due to a number of complaints about the new divisions, the former was renamed Neilston, Uplawmoor and Newton Mearns North, in a move to keep Neilston an integral part of the council. The current councillors for the areas are as follows:
Newton Mearns is a primarily a residential area, with most of its inhabitants travelling by car or public transport to Glasgow for employment and shopping. However, there are a number of small businesses in the area, as well as an indoor shopping centre.
The Avenue Shopping Centre is the main large retail centre in Newton Mearns. It comprises a total of 44 stores, currently including two supermarkets, five banks, nine clothing stores, food shops, restaurants and library. The line of the main mall at the Avenue runs the course of the old Mearns Main Street. There are also shopping units and restaurants at Broom on the Ayr Road, shopping units and restaurants at Broomburn on the Mearns Road, and shopping units and restaurants at Crookfur on Harvie Avenue. The newly constructed Greenlaw Village close to the M77 at Crookfur Road also has a supermarket, a hotel, smaller shops and a number of restaurants.
Some significant businesses operating within Newton Mearns are: Vets 4 Pets, Eric N Smith, Claro Print, Specsavers, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Nicol Estate Agents, Pets N Vets,
Farming continues to be important to the south of Mearns Cross and stretching to Fenwick and Eaglesham Moors. A major Bleach Works and textile finishing centre was constructed at Netherplace, the site of which is still visible from the M77 motorway.
Traffic through the town was reduced significantly after the new M77 motorway was opened in the late 1990s. Transport links improved further in May 2006 with the opening of the Glasgow Southern Orbital dual carriageway, and its connection to the M77.
As well as minor and major roads, the town has bus links with the centre of Glasgow, Kilmarnock, and Ayr. The town is served by two local railway stations, Patterton and Whitecraigs which run trains to Glasgow Central station amongst others.
One factor that has made the area popular with families is the variety and quality of local schools. Mearns is served by four Primary schools and three High schools, as well as one independent school:Primary schools
Kirkhill Primary School
St. Cadoc's RC Primary School
Crookfur Primary School
Mearns Primary School
Isobel Mair School for children with special needs
Eastwood High School
Mearns Castle High School
St Ninian's RC High School, Giffnock
Belmont House School is an independent school for primary and secondary pupils
Isobel Mair School for children with special needs
Newton Mearns has numerous places of worship, notably four Church of Scotland churches, a Baptist church, a Roman Catholic church and two Jewish synagogues.
Newton Mearns contains a number of parks, including Broomburn Park, Mearns Park, Crookfur Park & Parklands Country Club and nearby Rouken Glen Park with its boating pond, gardens and leisure facilities. There are numerous golf clubs, a golf academy, a tennis club, bowling club and rugby club. A public swimming pool and leisure centre is located at Eastwood Park in nearby Giffnock, and the swimming pool and sports centre at Eastwood High School is open to the public. Between Mearns and Barrhead lie the former reservoirs and water runs of the Gorbals Water Works, pioneered in the 19th century, before the building of the Loch Katrine Water Works. The reservoirs and surrounding parklands now form the Dams to Darnley Country Park.
The biggest football club near Newton Mearns is the Junior club, Pollok F.C.. The club's home stadium is situated in Shawlands. Newton Mearns also has an amateur football club, Newton Mearns Rovers A.F.C. Established in 1962, the club is managed by Greig Taylor and competes in the Caledonian Amateur Football League. Newton Mearns has a Freemason's lodge, Lodge Newton Mearns No 1706, that meets in the Fairweather Hall, on Barrhead Road.
Newton Mearns was briefly mentioned in John McGrath's play Little Red Hen (1975, first publ. London: Pluto 1977, p. 34). More recently, the town appeared as the setting for the thriller novel Aztec Love Song (Weathervane Press 2009, ISBN 978-0-9562193-2-9) by Marty Ross, a Scottish author best known for his BBC radio plays, who grew up in the town and studied at Mearns Castle High School.