Scotland, or in Gaelic, Alba, consists of a formerly independent kingdom located in the northern one third of the island of Great Britain. In 1707 the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England to form the Kingdom of Great Britain (the King of Scotland had already inherited the English throne in 1603). In 1801 the Kingdom of Great Britain merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, twenty-six of Ireland's thirty-two counties left the UK to form its own Irish Free State. Scotland remains part of the remaining kingdom, now known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In 1999, it received its own regional home rule parliament to govern Scotland in purely Scottish matters.


(Scots Gaelic)

(In Detail) (Full size)
Royal motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin: No one injures me with impunity)
Official languagesEnglish is de facto
First MinisterJack McConnell MSP
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 2nd
78,782 km²
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 2nd
EstablishmentKenneth MacAlpin, 843
Currency Pound Sterling () (GBP)
Time zone WET (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
National anthemUnofficial:
Flower of Scotland
Scotland the Brave
Scots Wha Hae and others
Calling Code44
International call prefix00

Queen Elizabeth, a descendant of the last separate Scottish monarch, King James VI (who in 1603 became James I of England), reigns over the United Kingdom. (Note that for Scotland, she is the first monarch to reign with this name, and signs all documents "Elizabeth".)

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 Geology
3 Language
4 History
5 Modern Scotland
6 Culture
7 Religion
8 Politics
9 The Scottish Economy
10 Further Reference
11 External links
12 Other Places


Scotland comprises the northern part of the island of Great Britain, bordering to the south on England. Scotland consists of a mainland area plus several island groups, including the Shetlandss, the Orkneyss, 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 five main cities, and many large towns.


Tectonic Plate Movement

Tectonic Setting of the East Lothian Volcanic Field

When vulcanism actively occurred in East Lothian, 350 million years ago, the rocks which now comprise Britain 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 Britain became adjoined only 75 million years before the onset of vulcanism in East Lothian. Before then, Scotland and part of northern England lay on the margin of the Laurentian continent, which included North America and Greenland. Southern Britain 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, southern Britain, on the Avalonian plate, rifted away from Gondwana and drifted northward towards Laurentia. The Iapetus Ocean, which separated the two parts of Britain, 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, Britain still comprised part of Pangaea, but had drifted northward. East Lothian stood at ~8 North. Consolidation of Pangaea had continued so that the nearest ocean was the Tethys seaway between Eurasia and Africa.



Almost all residents speak English, although many speak various Scots dialects which differ markedly from Standard English. Approximately fifty-five thousand still speak Scots Gaelic.

By the time of James VI's accession to the English throne the old Scottish Court and Parliament spoke Scots, also known as Lallans. Scots developed from the Anglian spoken in the Northumbrian kingdom of Bernicia which in the 6th century conquered the British kingdom of Gododdin and renamed its capital of Dunedin to Edinburgh.


See also the main article: History of Scotland.

Historically, from at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, Scotland began to show a split into two cultural areas - the mainly Scots, latterly English-speaking Lowlands, and the mainly-Gaelic speaking Highlands. These caused divisions in the country where the Lowlands remained, historically, more influenced by the English to the South: 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.

The clan system in Highland Scotland formed one of its more distinctive features. Notable clans include Clan MacGregor, Clan MacDonald, Clan Mackenzie, Clan MacLeod, Clan Robertson, Clan Campbell...

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 1100AD. These families included the Stewart or Stuart, Bruce, Douglas, Porteous, and Murray or Moray families.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence (approximately 1290 - 1333) the Scottish people rose up against English rule, firstly, under the leadership of William Wallace, and later, that of Robert the Bruce. Bruce won a famous 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 once more to Scotland. In 1707 the Scottish and English Parliaments signed a Treaty of Union. Implementing the treaty involved dissolving both the English and the Scottish Parliaments, and transferring all their powers to a new Parliament in London which then became the British Parliament. A customs and currency union also took place.

This state of affairs continued until May 1999 when Scotland gained a new Scottish Parliament. Whereas the old Scottish parliament comprised a national parliament of a sovereign state, the new parliament is a devolved parliament, in effect a sub-parliament under the United Kingdom parliament, which both created and in theory can abolish it by a simple Act.

Modern Scotland

Bureaucrats have administratively divided modern Scotland into a number of unitary authorities.

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

Scotland has six cities: in order of size:

Waterways in Scotland:


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

Scottish Law

For instance, Scotland retains its own unique legal system, based on Roman law, which combines the best features of civil law and common law. This was agreed as part of the terms of union with England. Scots Law is distinct from England's common law system. See Scottish Law.

Scottish Education

There is also a separate Scottish education system. The rights of the Scottish universities were guaranteed under the Act of Union but more importantly, Scotland was the first country since Sparta in Ancient Greece, in which a system of general public education was implemented. This began with the Education Act of 1696 and became compulsory for children from the implementation of the Education Act of 1872 onwards. The result was that 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 manifest 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. School students in Scotland sit Higher 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 Britain.


In banking there are differences as well. Although the Bank of England is the nationalised bank for the UK Government there are three Scottish corporate banks which still issue their own banknotes (the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale Bank). These notes are not legal tender in other parts of Britain, (and neither they nor the Bank of England's notes are legal tender in Scotland, since there is no concept of legal tender in Scots law), but banknotes issued by any of the four banks are commonly accepted throughout the UK. See British banknotes.


Scotland has many separate sports associations, such as the Scottish Football Association or the Scottish Rugby Union. This gives it 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 UK 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.


Scotland has a distinct media from the rest of the UK. For example, there are many Scottish newspapers produced such as The Daily Record (Scotland's leading tabloid) and the two major broadsheets, The Herald based in Glasgow, The Scotsman in Edinburgh. The Herald was formerly known as the Glasgow Herald, but changed its name to promote a national, rather than regional identity. Sunday newspapers include the tabloid Sunday Mail (published by the Daily Record) and Sunday Post, while the Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday are published by the Scotsman and Herald respectively. Regional dailies include The Courier and Advertiser in Dundee in the East and The Press and Journal in Aberdeen and the North.

Scotland has its own BBC services which include a national radio station, BBC Radio Scotland, which was first broadcast on November 23, 1979. There are also local radio stations, such as the Gaelic language Radio na Gaidheal. BBC Scotland also produces many TV programmes. Some, such as news and current affairs programmes, are intended for broadcast in Scotland, whilst others, such as drama and comedy programmes, are intended for broadcast throughout the UK. Sport coverage also differs, reflecting the fact that Scotland has its own separate football leagues from England.

There are also three Independent Television (ITV) stations (Scottish , Grampian and Border) broadcasting in Scotland. Although they were independent of each other at one time, Scottish and Grampian are now owned by the same company and there is very little difference between them, apart from local news coverage. Border's position has been more complex as it also has to serve neighbouring areas in England, as well as the Isle of Man, and it now has separate news programs for each side of the border. Most of the ITV output is the same as that transmitted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the exception of news and current affairs, sport, and 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 an independent Scottish nation-state.

Scotland also has its own unique family of dialects, helping to foster a strong sense of "Scottish-ness". See Scots Language.

Scotland retains its own national church, separate from that of England. This is discussed further in the section on religion.

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


Scotland is also known for:


The Church of Scotland (often referred to as The Kirk) is the national church. It differs from the Church of England in that it has a Presbyterian form of church governance and is not under state control. This goes back to the Scottish experience of Reformation, initiated in 1560 by John Knox. The Scottish Reformation was in essence a grassroots one, and the system chosen was that of Presbyterianism. This differs from that of England, where the Reformation was driven by Henry the Eighth and he chose the Episcopal system that survives to this day in the Church of England.

There are a number of other Christian denominations in Scotland, amongst them Roman Catholicism, the largest faith outwith The Kirk. As well as The Kirk there are other various Protestant churches, including the Scottish Episcopal Church which is a full part of the Anglican Communion and the Free Church of Scotland which is a Presbyterian off-shoot from the established Church of Scotland.

The largest faith outside of Christianity is that of Islam, although the numbers purporting to adhere to that faith are very small.

Much of Scotland (particularly the West Central Belt around Glasgow) has been beset with problems owing to religious divide between Presbyterians and Catholics. This problem has historically manifested itself in a number of ways, particularly in employment and football fanaticism. The problems associated with sectarianism in Scotland are much less severe than in the past, although it does remain to a certain degree.

Figures from the 2001 Census on Religion in Scotland:

Church of Scotland - 42% of the population

Roman Catholic
- 16%

Other Christian - 7%

Islamic - 0.8%

Buddhist - 0.1%

Sikh - 0.1%

Judaism - 0.1%

Hindu - 0.1%

Other Religion - 0.5%

No Religion - 28%

No Answer - 5%


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 Lib-Dems) there are a number of Scottish specific parties in operation. These include the Scottish Independence Party (SIP), the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Scottish Green Party.

The traditional political divides of left and right have also been characterised by 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 been established the main argument about Scotland's constitutional status is between those who support Scottish independence and those who oppose it.

The Scottish Economy

The Scottish economy comprises many different sectors. Oil remains strong although light engineering and shipbuilding have seen a decline in recent years, and the service sector (especially finance and call centres) has increased in importance. Rural activities like fishing and agriculture remain important, although the country's 'Silicon Glen' has also seen growth in the manufacture of computers and mobile phones. Scotch whisky production is still important, as is the country's tourism industry.

Further Reference

See also :

External links

Other Places

Scotland is also the name of some places in the
United States: and part of the name of Scotland Neck, North Carolina