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Scotland (Alba in Scottish Gaelic) is a country or nation and former independent kingdom of northwest Europe, and one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Scotland has a land boundary with England on the island of Great Britain and is otherwise bounded by seas and oceans.

Scotland (English/Lowland Scots)
Alba (Scottish Gaelic)
Scottish Flag Royal Coat of Arms
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Royal motto: Nemo me impune lacessit
(Latin: No one provokes me with impunity)
Scotland's location within Europe
Scotland's location within the UK
Scotland's location within the UK
Official language English,
Scots Gaelic,
Lowland Scots
Capital Edinburgh
Largest city Glasgow
First Minister Jack McConnell
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 2nd UK
78,782 km²
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 2nd UK
Establishment Kenneth MacAlpin, 843
Currency Pound sterling () (GBP)
Time zone UTC, Summer: UTC +1
National anthem Flower of Scotland
(de facto)1
National flower Thistle
Patron saint St. Andrew
Internet TLD .uk2
Calling Code 442

(1) To date, Scotland does not officially recognise one single national anthem. Over the years, the role of the nation's anthem has been filled by various patriotic songs, including Flower of Scotland, Scotland the Brave and Scots Wha Hae. In the 1990s, one of the country's leading tabloid newspapers conducted a poll to determine which song should be classed as Scotland's anthem. Flower of Scotland won and is now used as the de facto national anthem at international sporting events, although there are those who still consider the other songs as having equal validity.

(2) Shared with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scotland's territorial extent is generally that established by the 1237 Treaty of York between Scotland and England and the 1266 Treaty of Perth between Scotland and Norway. Exceptions include the Isle of Man, which is now a crown dependency outside the United Kingdom, Orkney and Shetland, which are Scottish rather than Danish, and Berwick-upon-Tweed, which was defined as subject to the laws of England by the 1746 Wales and Berwick Act.

Scotland entered into a personal union with England in 1603, when the Scottish King James VI also became James I of England. This union was formalised on 1 May 1707 by the Act of Union 1707. The Scottish Parliament was abolished on March 26, 1707. The union merged both kingdoms, creating the Kingdom of Great Britain, with a new single Parliament sitting in Westminster, London, but some aspects of Scotland's institutions, notably the country's legal system, remained separate. The new state eventually became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In 1999, the people of Scotland voted to create a new parliament, established by the UK Government under the Scotland Act 1998. The new devolved Scottish Parliament has been given powers to govern the country on certain purely domestic matters and has limited tax varying capability.

The patron saint of Scotland is Saint Andrew, and Saint Andrew's Day is celebrated in the country on 30 November.


Head of state

HM Queen Elizabeth II, head of state of the United Kingdom, is descended from King James VI of Scotland, the first Scottish monarch to also be King of England (James I of England from 1603). While some controversy has simmered amongst the Scottish public over her official title since her coronation (many believe that, being the first Queen Elizabeth of Scotland, she should use the style "Elizabeth I"), the courts of Scotland have confirmed "Elizabeth II" as her official title. She has said that in the future monarchs will follow the international ordinal tradition that, where a monarch reigns in a number of non-independent territories (or independent territories that agree to share a monarch) that each have a differing number of previous monarchs of the same name, the highest ordinal used in any of the territories is the one used across all. (Past Scottish-English monarchs such as James VI & I and James VII & II reigned over legally separate kingdoms and hence used a dual ordinal.)

Properly, the Scottish monarch was known as "King/Queen of Scots", and referred to as "your Grace", rather than "your Majesty".


Scotland comprises the northern part of the island of Great Britain; it is bordered on the south by England. The country consists of a mainland area plus several island groups, including Shetland, Orkney, and the Hebrides, divided into the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. Three main geographical and geological areas make up the mainland: from north to south, the generally mountainous Highlands, the low-lying Central Belt , and the hilly Southern Uplands. The majority of the Scottish population resides in the Central Belt, which contains three of the country's six largest cities, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, and many large towns. Most of the remaining population lives in the North-East Lowlands where two of the remaining three cities, Aberdeen and Dundee, are situated. The final city, Inverness, is situated where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth, on the fault between the North-West Highlands and the Cairngorms.


Tectonic plate movement

When vulcanism actively occurred in East Lothian, 350 million years ago, the rocks which now comprise Scotland lay close to the equator, and formed part of the newly amalgamated supercontinent of Pangaea. The continental plates making up Pangaea continued to converge, and a major collision occurred with the continent of Gondwana.

The northern and southern parts of the island of Great Britain became adjoined only 75 million years before the onset of vulcanism in East Lothian. Before then, Scotland lay on the margin of the Laurentian continent, which included North America and Greenland. England and Wales lay some 40 of latitude further south, adjacent to Africa and South America in the Gondwanan continent. In the Early Ordovician, approximately 475 million years ago, England and Wales, on the Avalonian plate, rifted away from Gondwana and drifted northward towards Laurentia. The Iapetus Ocean, which separated the two land masses, began to close. By the mid-Silurian, about 420 million years ago, its margins had become attached along the Iapetus Suture, which roughly follows a line running West to East from the Solway Firth to Northumberland.

When the later episode of vulcanism occurred, approximately 270 million years ago, Scotland still comprised part of Pangaea, but had drifted northward. East Lothian stood at about 8 North. Consolidation of Pangaea had continued so that the nearest ocean, the Tethys seaway, lay between Eurasia and Africa.

See [1] and Geology of the United Kingdom.


Scotland has three distinct languages: English, Scottish Gaelic and Lowland Scots.

Almost all Scots speak Scottish Standard English. It is estimated that up to 30% of the population are also fluent in Lowland Scots, which differs markedly from standard English. Slightly greater than 1% of the population use Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language similar to Irish, as their language of everyday use, primarily in the northern and western regions of the country. Almost all Gaelic speakers also speak fluent English.

By the time of James VI's accession to the English throne, the old Scottish Court and Parliament spoke Lowland Scots, also known as Lallans. It is routinely argued that Lowland Scots developed from the Northumbrian form of Anglo-Saxon, spoken in Bernicia which, in the 6th century, conquered the Brythonic kingdom of Gododdin (modern-day Lothian) and renamed its capital, Dunedin to Edinburgh. But this ignores the strong resemblance of Lallans, particularly the Doric spoken in the northeast of the country, to Norse and Swedish, with many words and phrases almost identical. Given the penetration of Viking and Norse culture into Scotland, this is as strong a candidate as the southern spread of 'Inglis', and the two derivations need hardly be mutually exclusive. Lallans also contains a great number of borrowed and loaner words from Gaelic, the separation between the two cultural 'zones' often being over-exaggerated, at least in Scotland's earlier history. Furthermore, most of the area that currently speaks Lowland Scots is well outside the Lothians, and its spread was no doubt assisted by Anglo-Norman feudalism, Flemish merchants and the growth of towns.

To date, the Scottish Parliament recognises only English and Scottish Gaelic as the country's official languages.


See also the main article: History of Scotland.

Historically, from at least the reign of David I (ruled 1124 - 1153), Scotland began to show a split into two cultural areas - the mainly Scots, latterly English, speaking Lowlands, and the mainly Gaelic-speaking Highlands. This caused divisions in the country where the Lowlands remained, historically, more influenced by the English: the Lowlands lay more open to attack by invading armies from the south and absorbed English influence through their proximity to and their trading relations with their southern neighbours, although Scotland had strong trade links with continental Europe also. However, Gaelic persisted in parts of the Lowlands until quite late, notably in Galloway and Carrick up until the late 1700s and possibly the 1800s. It has also been recorded that the areas of Dunblane and Auchterarder were speaking the language after the Reformation. The Highland-Lowland Border, contrary to popular belief, has not been static, and has moved a number of times.

The clan system of the Highlands formed one of its more distinctive features. Notable clans include Clan Campbell, Clan MacGregor , Clan MacDonald, Clan MacKenzie, Clan Mackie , Clan MacLeod, Clan Robertson, Clan Grant and others.

Historically the Lowlands adopted a variant of the feudal system after the Norman Conquest of England, with families of Norman ancestry providing most of the monarchs after approximately 1100. These families included the Stewart or Stuart, Bruce , Douglas , Porteous, and Murray or Moray families.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence (approximately 1290 - 1363) the Scottish people rose up against English interference and invasion. Firstly, under the leadership of Sir William Wallace, and later, under that of Robert the Bruce. Bruce won a decisive victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

In 1603, the Scottish King James VI inherited the throne of England, and became James I of England. James moved to London and only returned to Scotland once. In 1707, the Scottish and English Parliaments signed the Treaty of Union, which was deeply unpopular in Scotland, as it had been negotiating from a position of economic weakness and suffering from English tariffs. Implementing the treaty involved dissolving both the English and the Scottish Parliaments, and transferring all their powers to a new Parliament sitting in London which then became the Parliament of the United Kingdom. A customs and monetary union also took place.

This state of affairs continued until May 1999 when Scotland's Parliament was established following a referendum. Whereas the old Scottish Parliament had functioned as the full parliament of a sovereign state, the new parliament governs the country only on domestic matters, the United Kingdom Parliament having retained responsibility for Scotland's defence, international relations and certain other areas.

Modern Scotland

 in Glasgow
George Square in Glasgow
Loch Lommand
Loch Lommand

For the purposes of local government, Scotland is divided into 32 unitary authority regions.

Popular folk-memory continues to divide Scotland into 33 traditional counties.

The country has six designated cities: (in descending order of population size)

Scottish towns:

Waterways in Scotland:


Scotland has a civic and ethnic culture distinct from that of the rest of the British Isles. It originates from various differences, some entrenched as part of the Act of Union, others facets of nationhood not readily defined but readily identifiable.

Scots Law

Scotland retains its own unique legal system, based on Roman law, which combines features of both civil law and common law. The terms of union with England specified the retention of separate systems. The barristers being called advocates, and the judges of the high court for civil cases are also the judges for the high court for criminal cases. Scots Law differs from England's common law system.

Formerly, there were several regional law systems in Scotland, one of which was Udal Law (also called allodail or odal law) in Shetland and Orkney. This was a direct descendant of Old Norse Law, but was abolished in 1611. Despite this, Scottish courts have acknowledged the supremacy of udal law in some property cases as recently as the 1990s. There is a movement to restore udal law[2] to the islands as part of a devolution of power from Edinburgh to Shetland and Orkney.

Various systems based on common Celtic or Brehon Laws also survived in the Highlands until the 1800s.

Scottish education

Scotland also has a separate Scottish education system. The Act of Union guaranteed the rights of the Scottish universities, but more importantly, Scotland became the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education. The early roots were in the Education Act of 1496 which first introduced compulsory education for the eldest sons of nobles, but truly began 200 years later with the Education Act of 1696 which introduced a school in every parish. Education finally became compulsory for all children from the implementation of the Education Act of 1872 onwards.

As a result, for over two hundred years Scotland had a higher percentage of its population educated at primary, secondary and tertiary levels than any other country in Europe. The differences in education have manifested themselves in different ways, but most noticeably in the number of Scots who went on to become leaders in their fields during the 18th and 19th centuries. The politician Jim Wallace stated in October 2004, that Scotland still produces a higher number of university and college graduates per head than anywhere else in Europe.

School students in Scotland sit Standard Grade exams while students in England sit GCSE exams, and then Higher Grade exams rather than the English A-level system. Also, a Scottish university's honours degree takes four years of study as opposed to three in the rest of the UK. The university systems in several Commonwealth countries show marked affinities with the Scottish rather than the English system.

Banking and currency

Bank of Scotland 50 note
Bank of Scotland 50 note

Banking in Scotland also features unique characteristics. Although the Bank of England remains the central bank for the UK Government, three Scottish corporate banks still issue their own banknotes: (the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale Bank). These notes have no status as legal tender in England, Wales or Northern Ireland (although they can be used throughout the UK, particularly in Northern Ireland, where Irish banks also issue their own banknotes, and they are also freely accepted in the Channel Islands). In Scotland, neither they nor the Bank of England's notes rank as legal tender (as Scots law lacks the concept), however banknotes issued by any of the four banks meet with common acceptance. See British banknotes.

For a further discussion read Legal Tender

The modern system of branch banking (in which banks maintain a nationwide system of offices rather than one or two central offices) originated in Scotland. Only strong political pressure during the 19th century prevented the resultant strong banking system from taking over banking in England. However, although Scottish banks proved unwelcome in England at the time, their business model became widely copied, firstly in England and later in the rest of the world.

The Savings Bank movement was created in Scotland in 1810 by the Reverend Henry Duncan as a means of allowing his parishioners to save smaller amounts of money than the major banks would accept as deposits at that time. His model for the Ruthwell Parish Bank was adopted by well-to-do sponsors throughout the world, with most of the British savings banks eventually amalgamating to form the Trustee Savings Bank -- more recently merged with the commercial bank, Lloyds, to form Lloyds TSB -- and the American examples becoming a Savings and Loan Association. See [3] for further information.


Scotland has many national sporting associations, such as the Scottish Football Association (SFA) or the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU). This gives the country independent representation at many international sporting events such as the football World Cup. Scotland cannot compete in the Olympic Games independently however, and Scottish athletes must compete as part of the Great Britain team if they wish to take part. Scotland does however send its own team to compete in the Commonwealth Games.

Scotland also has its own sporting competitions distinct from the rest of the UK, such as the Scottish Football League and the SRU.

Scotland is considered the "Home of Golf", and is well known for its courses. As well as its world famous Highland Games (athletic competitions), it is also the home of curling, and shinty, a stick game related to Ireland's hurling, and similar to England's field hockey. Scottish cricket is a minority game.

Scottish professional rugby clubs compete in the Celtic League, along with teams from Ireland and Wales. However, the country retains a national league for amateur and semi-pro clubs.


Scotland has distinct media from the rest of the UK. For example, it produces many national newspapers such as Daily Record (Scotland's leading tabloid), The Herald broadsheet, based in Glasgow, and The Scotsman in Edinburgh. The Herald, formerly known as the Glasgow Herald, changed its name to promote a national rather than a regional identity, while The Scotsman, which used to be a broadsheet, recently switched to tabloid format. Sunday newspapers include the tabloid Sunday Mail (published by Daily Record parent company Trinity Mirror) and the Sunday Post, while the Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday have associations with The Herald and The Scotsman respectively. Regional dailies include The Courier and Advertiser in Dundee in the east, and The Press and Journal serving Aberdeen and the north.

Scotland has its own BBC services which include the national radio stations, BBC Radio Scotland and Scottish Gaelic language service, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal. There are also a number of BBC and independent local radio stations throughout the country. In addition to radio, BBC Scotland also runs two national television stations. Much of the output of BBC Scotland Television, such as news and current affairs programmes, and the Glasgow-based soap opera, River City, are intended for broadcast within Scotland, whilst others, such as drama and comedy programmes, aim at audiences throughout the UK and further afield. Sports coverage also differs, reflecting the fact that the country has its own football leagues, separate from those of England.

Three independent television stations (Scottish TV, Grampian TV and ITV Border) also broadcast in Scotland. Although they previously had independent existences, Scottish TV (serving the Central Lowlands) and Grampian (serving the Highlands and Islands) now belong to the same company (The Scottish Media Group) and resemble each other closely, apart from local news coverage. English-based ITV Border has had a more complex position, as it serves communities on both sides of the border with England, as well as the Isle of Man, and it now has separate news programs for each side of the border. Most of the independent television output equates to that transmitted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the exception of news and current affairs, sport, cultural and Scottish Gaelic language programming.

Other facets of Scottish culture

Scotland retains its own distinct sense of nationhood. Academic research consistently shows that people in Scotland feel Scottish, whilst not necessarily feeling the need to see that translated into the establishment of a fully-independent Scottish nation-state.

Scotland also has its own unique family of languages and dialects, helping to foster a strong sense of "Scottish-ness". See Scots Language and Scottish Gaelic. An organisation called Iomairt Cholm Cille ( has been set up to support Gaelic-speaking communities in both Scotland and Ireland and to promote links between them.

Scotland retains its own national church, separate from that of England. See Church of Scotland and the section on "Religion" elsewhere in this article.

These factors combine together to form a strong, readily identifiable Scottish civic culture.


Scotland's iconic claims to fame include:


The Church of Scotland (often referred to as The Kirk) functions as the national church. It differs from the Church of England in that it has a Presbyterian form of church governance, not subject to state control. This goes back to the Scottish experience of reformation, initiated in 1560 by John Knox. The Scottish Reformation in essence took place at a grassroots level, and the Scots chose Presbyterianism as their method of church government. This differs from the situation in England, where Henry the Eighth personally unleashed the English Reformation and chose the Episcopal system that survives to this day in the Church of England.

Scotland has a high proportion of irreligious / atheists, the second highest type of (un)belief in the population.

A number of other Christian denominations exist in Scotland, amongst them Roman Catholicism, which made a comeback through immigration from Ireland, after Protestants brutally repressed it during the 16th to late 18th centuries. It has now become the largest faith after The Kirk. As well as The Kirk we find various other Protestant churches, including the Scottish Episcopal Church, which forms a full part of the Anglican Communion, and the Free Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian off-shoot from the established Church of Scotland.

Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in Scotland, although its numbers remain very small.

Much of Scotland (particularly the West Central Belt around Glasgow) has experienced problems owing to the religious divide between Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. Some Scottish Roman Catholics maintain that, sectarianism is still deeply rooted in Scottish society. This problem has historically manifested itself in a number of ways, particularly in employment and in football fanaticism. The problems associated with sectarianism in Scotland have diminished markedly compared with the past, although issues do remain to a certain degree. Scottish police have recently moved to restrict the number of Orange parades.

Figures from the 2001 Census on Religion in Scotland:
Religion Percentage of Population
Church of Scotland 42%
No Religion 28%
Roman Catholic 16%
Other Christian 7%
No Answer 5%
Islam 0.8%
Buddhism 0.1%
Sikhism 0.1%
Judaism 0.1%
Hinduism 0.1%
Other Religions 0.5%


See main article: Politics of Scotland, also Politics of the United Kingdom

Historically the politics of Scotland have reflected those of the UK as a whole, although with some differences. For example, besides the main UK-wide political parties (Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats) a number of Scottish-specific parties operate. These include the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Scottish Green Party. These parties became more of a force in Scottish politics after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1998.

The traditional political divides of left and right have also intersected with arguments over devolution, which all the UK-wide parties have supported to some degree throughout their history (although both Labour and the Conservatives have swithered a number of times between supporting and opposing it). However, now that devolution has occurred, the main argument about Scotland's constitutional status remains between those who support Scottish independence and those who oppose it. Recent trends indicate, according to the State of the Nation Poll 2004, that 66% of Scots would like the Scottish Parliament to have more powers, while only 25% would like to see the andreas returned to Westminster.

The Scottish economy

Most Scottish industry and commerce is concentrated in a few large cities on the waterways of the central lowlands. Edinburgh, on the Firth of Forth, is a cultural centre, the capital of Scotland, and one of the top financial centres in Europe. Glasgow, one of the largest cities in the UK, lies on the Clyde; it is Scotland's leading seaport and was once a centre of shipbuilding and it supports numerous light industries. Although heavy industry has declined, the high-technology Silicon Glen corridor has developed between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tourism is also very important.

The significance of coal, once Scotland's most important mineral resource, has declined. Oil, however, gained prominence in Scotland's economy during the 1970s, with the growth of North Sea oil extraction companies. Natural gas is also abundant in the North Sea fields. Aberdeen is the centre of the oil industry. Other important industries are textile production (woollens, worsteds, silks, and linens), distilling, and fishing. Textiles, beer, and whisky, which are among Scotland's chief exports, are produced in many towns. Salmon are taken from the Tay and the Dee, and numerous coastal towns and villages are supported by fishing from the North Sea. Only about one quarter of the land is under cultivation (principally in cereals and vegetables), but sheep raising is important in the mountainous regions. Because of the persistence of feudalism and the land enclosures of the 19th cent. (see History, below), the ownership of most land in Scotland is concentrated in relatively few hands (some 350 people own about half the land). In 2003, as a result, the Scottish Parliament passed a land reform act that empowered tenant farmers and communities to purchase land even if the landlord did not want to sell.


Public transport information covering the whole of Scotland is available from Traveline Scotland.

The road network in Scotland is divided into five zones with four major roads centred on Edinburgh marking the zone boundaries, these are the A1, A7, A8, and A9.

See also

External links

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