Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom.Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In addition to the mainland, Scotland constitutes over 790 islands including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Edinburgh, the country’s capital and second largest city, is one of Europe’s largest financial centres.Edinburgh was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which transformed Scotland into one of the commercial, intellectual and industrial powerhouses of Europe. Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city,was once one of the world’s leading industrial cities and now lies at the centre of the Greater Glasgow conurbation. Scottish waters consist of a large sector of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union. This has given Aberdeen, the third largest city in Scotland, the title of Europe’s oil capital.
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707, although it had been in a personal union with the kingdoms of England and Ireland since James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English and Irish thrones in 1603. On 1 May 1707, Scotland entered into an incorporating political union with England to create the united Kingdom of Great Britain.This union resulted from the Treaty of Union agreed in 1706 and enacted by the twin Acts of Union passed by the Parliaments of both countries, despite anti-union riots in Edinburgh, Glasgow and elsewhere.
Scotland’s legal system continues to be separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and in private law.The continued existence of legal, educational and religious institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the Union.In 1999, a devolved legislature, the Scottish Parliament, was founded with authority over many areas of home affairs following a successful referendum in 1997. In 2011, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won an overall majority in parliament and intends to hold a referendum on independence in the autumn of 2014.
Scotland is derived from the Latin Scoti, the term applied to Gaels, people from what is now Scotland and Ireland, and the Dál Riata who are thought to have originated from Ireland and migrated to western Scotland. Accordingly, the Late Latin word Scotia (“land of the Gaels”) was initially used to refer to Ireland.By the 11th century at the latest, Scotia was being used to refer to (Gaelic-speaking) Scotland north of the river Forth, alongside Albania or Albany, both derived from the Gaelic Alba.The use of the words Scots and Scotland to encompass all of what is now Scotland became common in the Late Middle Ages.
Repeated glaciations, which covered the entire land mass of modern Scotland, destroyed any traces of human habitation that may have existed before the Mesolithic period. It is believed that the first post-glacial groups of hunter-gatherers arrived in Scotland around 12,800 years ago, as the ice sheet retreated after the last glaciation.
Groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9500 years ago, and the first villages around 6000 years ago. The well-preserved village of Skara Brae on the Mainland of Orkney dates from this period. Neolithic habitation, burial and ritual sites are particularly common and well-preserved in the Northern Isles and Western Isles, where a lack of trees led to most structures being built of local stone.
The discovery in Scotland of a 4000 year old tomb with burial treasures at Forteviot, near Perth, the capital of a Pictish Kingdom in the 8th and 9th centuries AD, is unrivalled anywhere in Britain. It contains the remains of an early Bronze Age ruler laid out on white quartz pebbles and birch bark. It was also discovered for the first time that early Bronze Age people placed flowers in their graves.
Scotland may have been part of a Late Bronze Age maritime trading culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age that also included the other Celtic nations, and the areas that would become England, France, Spain and Portugal.
The written protohistory of Scotland began with the arrival of the Roman Empire in southern and central Great Britain, when the Romans occupied what is now England and Wales, administering it as a province called Britannia. Roman invasions and occupations of southern Scotland were a series of brief interludes.
According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Caledonians “turned to armed resistance on a large scale”, attacking Roman forts and skirmishing with their legions. In a surprise night-attack, the Caledonians very nearly wiped out the whole 9th Legion until it was saved by Agricola’s cavalry.
In AD 83–84 the general Gnaeus Julius Agricola defeated the Caledonians at the Battle of Mons Graupius. Tacitus wrote that, before the battle, the Caledonian leader, Calgacus, gave a rousing speech in which he called his people the “last of the free” and accused the Romans of “making the world a desert and calling it peace” (freely translated).After the Roman victory Roman forts were briefly set along the Gask Ridge close to the Highland line (only Cawdor near Inverness is known to have been constructed beyond that line). Three years after the battle the Roman armies had withdrawn to the Southern Uplands.
The Romans erected Hadrian’s Wall to control tribes on both sides of the wall,and the Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the Roman Empire, although the army held the Antonine Wall in the Central Lowlands for two short periods — the last of these during the time of Emperor Septimius Severus from 208 until 210.
The Roman military occupation of a significant part of what is now northern Scotland only lasted about 40 years, although their influence on the southern section of the country, occupied by Brythonic tribes such as the Votadini and Damnonii, would still have been considerable between the first and fifth centuries. The Welsh term Hen Ogledd (“Old North”) is used by scholars to describe what is now the North of England and the South of Scotland during its habitation by Brythonic speaking people around AD 500 to 800.In the 400s, Gaels from Ireland established the kingdom of Dál Riata.
The Kingdom of the Picts (based in Fortriu by the 6th century) was the state that eventually became known as “Alba” or “Scotland”. The development of “Pictland”, according to the historical model developed by Peter Heather, was a natural response to Roman imperialism.Another view places emphasis on the Battle of Dun Nechtain, and the reign of Bridei m. Beli (671–693), with another period of consolidation in the reign of Óengus mac Fergusa (732–761).
The Kingdom of the Picts as it was in the early 8th century, when Bede was writing, was largely the same as the kingdom of the Scots in the reign of Alexander I (1107–1124). However, by the tenth century, the Pictish kingdom was dominated by what we can recognise as Gaelic culture, and had developed a traditional story of an Irish conquest around the ancestor of the contemporary royal dynasty, Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin).
From a base of territory in eastern Scotland north of the River Forth and south of the River Oykel, the kingdom acquired control of the lands lying to the north and south. By the 12th century, the kings of Alba had added to their territories the English-speaking land in the south-east and attained overlordship of Gaelic-speaking Galloway and Norse-speaking Caithness; by the end of the 13th century, the kingdom had assumed approximately its modern borders. However, processes of cultural and economic change beginning in the 12th century ensured Scotland looked very different in the later Middle Ages.
The impetus for this change was the reign of David I and the Davidian Revolution. Feudalism, government reorganisation and the first legally recognised towns (called burghs) began in this period. These institutions and the immigration of French and Anglo-French knights and churchmen facilitated cultural osmosis, whereby the culture and language of the low-lying and coastal parts of the kingdom’s original territory in the east became, like the newly acquired south-east, English-speaking, while the rest of the country retained the Gaelic language, apart from the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland, which remained under Norse rule until 1468.The Scottish state entered a largely successful and stable period between the 12th and 14th centuries, there was relative peace with England, trade and educational links were well developed with the Continent and at the height of this cultural flowering John Duns Scotus was one of Europe’s most important and influential philosophers.
The death of Alexander III in March 1286, followed by that of his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, broke the centuries-old succession line of Scotland’s kings and shattered the 200 year golden age that began with David I. Edward I of England was asked to arbitrate between claimants for the Scottish crown, and he organised a process known as the Great Cause to identify the most legitimate claimant. John Balliol was pronounced king in the Great Hall of Berwick Castle on 17 November 1292 and inaugurated at Scone on 30 November, St. Andrew’s Day. Edward I, who had coerced recognition as Lord Paramount of Scotland, the feudal superior of the realm, steadily undermined John’s authority.In 1294 Balliol and other Scottish lords refused Edward’s demands to serve in his army against the French. Instead the Scottish parliament sent envoys to France to negotiate an alliance. Scotland and France sealed a treaty on 23 October 1295, that came to be known as the Auld Alliance (1295–1560). War ensued and King John was deposed by Edward who took personal control of Scotland. Andrew Moray and William Wallace initially emerged as the principal leaders of the resistance to English rule in what became known as the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1328).
The nature of the struggle changed significantly when Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick, killed rival John Comyn on 10 February 1306 at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries.He was crowned king (as Robert I) less than seven weeks later. Robert I battled to restore Scottish Independence as King for over 20 years, beginning by winning Scotland back from the Norman English invaders piece by piece. Victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 proved that the Scots had regained control of their kingdom. In 1315 Edward Bruce, brother of the King, was briefly appointed High King of Ireland during an ultimately unsuccessful Scottish invasion of Ireland aimed at strengthening Scotland’s position in its wars against England. In 1320 the world’s first documented declaration of independence, the Declaration of Arbroath, won the support of Pope John XXII, leading to the legal recognition of Scottish sovereignty by the English Crown.
However, war with England continued for several decades after the death of Bruce, and a civil war between the Bruce dynasty and their long-term Comyn-Balliol rivals lasted until the middle of the 14th century. Although the Bruce dynasty was successful, David II’s lack of an heir allowed his half-nephew Robert II to come to the throne and establish the Stewart Dynasty.The Stewarts ruled Scotland for the remainder of the Middle Ages. The country they ruled experienced greater prosperity from the end of the 14th century through the Scottish Renaissance to the Reformation. The Education Act of 1496 made Scotland the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education.This was despite continual warfare with England, the increasing division between Highlands and Lowlands, and a large number of royal minorities.
This period was the height of the Franco-Scottish alliance. The Scots Guard – la Garde Écossaise – was founded in 1418 by Charles VII of France. The Scots soldiers of the Garde Écossaise fought alongside Joan of Arc against England during the Hundred Years War.In March 1421 a Franco-Scots force under John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan, and Gilbert de Lafayette, defeated a larger English army at the Battle of Baugé. Three years later, at the Battle of Verneuil, the Scots lost around 6000 men, but the Scottish intervention bought France valuable time and likely saved the country from defeat.
Early modern era
In 1502, James IV of Scotland signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Henry VII of England. He also married Henry’s daughter, Margaret Tudor, setting the stage for the Union of the Crowns. For Henry, the marriage into one of Europe’s most established monarchies gave legitimacy to the new Tudor royal line.A decade later James made the fateful decision to invade England in support of France under the terms of the Auld Alliance. He was the last British monarch to die in battle, at the Battle of Flodden.Within a generation the Auld Alliance was ended by the Treaty of Edinburgh. France agreed to withdraw all land and naval forces and in the same year, 1560, the revolution of John Knox achieved its ultimate goal of convincing the Scottish parliament to revoke papal authority in Scotland.Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic and former queen of France, was forced to abdicate in 1567.
In 1603, James VI, King of Scots inherited the thrones of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Ireland, and became King James I of England and Ireland, and left Edinburgh for London.With the exception of a short period under the Protectorate, Scotland remained a separate state, but there was considerable conflict between the crown and the Covenanters over the form of church government. The Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 saw the overthrow of the King James VII of Scotland and II of England by the English Parliament in favour of William and Mary. As late as the 1690s, Scotland experienced famine, which reduced the population of parts of the country by at least 20 percent.[
In 1698, the Scots attempted an ambitious project to secure a trading colony on the Isthmus of Panama. Almost every Scottish landowner who had money to spare is said to have invested in the Darien scheme. Its failure bankrupted these landowners, but not the burghs, which remained cash rich. Nevertheless, the nobles’ bankruptcy, along with the threat of an English invasion, played a leading role in convincing the Scots elite to back a union with England.
On 22 July 1706, the Treaty of Union was agreed between representatives of the Scots Parliament and the Parliament of England and the following year twin Acts of Union were passed by both parliaments to create the united Kingdom of Great Britain with effect from 1 May 1707.
With trade tariffs with England now abolished, trade blossomed, especially with Colonial America. The clippers belonging to the Glasgow Tobacco Lords were the fastest ships on the route to Virginia. Until the American War of Independence in 1776, Glasgow was the world’s premier tobacco port, dominating world trade.The disparity between the wealth of the merchant classes of the Scottish Lowlands and the ancient clans of the Scottish Highlands grew, amplifying centuries of division.
The deposed Jacobite Stuart claimants had remained popular in the Highlands and north-east, particularly amongst non-Presbyterians, including Roman Catholics and Episcopalian Protestants. However, two major Jacobite risings launched in 1715 and 1745 failed to remove the House of Hanover from the British throne. The threat of the Jacobite movement to the United Kingdom and its monarchs effectively ended at the Battle of Culloden, Great Britain’s last pitched battle. This defeat paved the way for large-scale removals of the indigenous populations of the Highlands and Islands, known as the Highland Clearances.
The Scottish Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution made Scotland into an intellectual, commercial and industrial powerhouse so much so that Voltaire said “We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”With the demise of Jacobitism and the advent of the Union, thousands of Scots, mainly Lowlanders, took up numerous positions of power in politics, civil service, the army and navy, trade, economics, colonial enterprises and other areas across the nascent British Empire. Historian Neil Davidson notes that “after 1746 there was an entirely new level of participation by Scots in political life, particularly outside Scotland.” Davidson also states that “far from being ‘peripheral’ to the British economy, Scotland – or more precisely, the Lowlands – lay at its core.”
Scotland became known across the world for its excellence in engineering, as typified by the Clyde built ships and locomotives built in Glasgow. Prefabricated cast iron buildings made in Scotland are still in use in India, South America and Australia.Prominent scientists, engineers and architects of the industrial age included David Dale, Joseph Black, Thomas Telford, Robert Stevenson, James Watt, James Nasmyth, Robert Adam and John MacAdam.
Scots born migrants also played a leading role in the foundation and principles of the United States (John Witherspoon, John Paul Jones, Andrew Carnegie, John Muir),Canada (John A Macdonald, James Murray, Tommy Douglas),Australia (Lachlan Macquarie, Thomas Brisbane, Andrew Fisher),and New Zealand (James Mckenzie, Peter Fraser).
Early 20th century
Scotland played a major role in the British effort in the First World War. It especially provided manpower, ships, machinery, fish and money.With a population of 4.8 million in 1911, Scotland sent over half a million men to the war, of whom over a quarter died in combat or from disease, and 150,000 were seriously wounded.Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was Britain’s commander on the Western Front.
The war saw the emergence of a radical movement called “Red Clydeside” led by militant trades unionists. Formerly a Liberal stronghold, the industrial districts switched to Labour by 1922, with a base among the Irish Catholic working class districts. Women were especially active in building neighbourhood solidarity on housing issues. However, the “Reds” operated within the Labour Party and had little influence in Parliament and the mood changed to passive despair by the late 1920s.
The shipbuilding industry expanded by a third and expected renewed prosperity, but instead a serious depression hit the economy by 1922 and it did not fully recover until 1939. The interwar years were marked by economic stagnation in rural and urban areas, and high unemployment.Indeed, the war brought with it deep social, cultural, economic, and political dislocations. Thoughtful Scots pondered their declension, as the main social indicators such as poor health, bad housing, and long-term mass unemployment, pointed to terminal social and economic stagnation at best, or even a downward spiral. Service abroad on behalf of the Empire lost its allure to ambitious young people, who left Scotland permanently. The heavy dependence on obsolescent heavy industry and mining was a central problem, and no one offered workable solutions. The despair reflected what Finlay (1994) describes as a widespread sense of hopelessness that prepared local business and political leaders to accept a new orthodoxy of centralised government economic planning when it arrived during the Second World War.
The Second World War brought renewed prosperity, despite extensive bombing of cities by the Luftwaffe. It saw the invention of radar by Robert Watson-Watt, which was invaluable in the Battle of Britain as was the leadership at RAF Fighter Command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding.
After 1945, Scotland’s economic situation became progressively worse due to overseas competition, inefficient industry, and industrial disputes.Only in recent decades has the country enjoyed something of a cultural and economic renaissance. Economic factors that have contributed to this recovery include a resurgent financial services industry, electronics manufacturing, (see Silicon Glen),and the North Sea oil and gas industry.The introduction in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher’s government of the Community Charge (widely known as the Poll Tax) one year before the rest of the United Kingdom, contributed to a growing movement for a return to direct Scottish control over domestic affairs.Following a referendum on devolution proposals in 1997, the Scotland Act 1998 was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament to establish a devolved Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government with responsibility for most laws specific to Scotland.
Government and politics
Scotland’s head of state is the monarch of the United Kingdom, currently Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952). The title Elizabeth II caused controversy around the time of the queen’s coronation, as there had never been an Elizabeth I in Scotland. A legal case, MacCormick v. Lord Advocate (1953 SC 396), was taken to contest the right of the Queen to title herself Elizabeth II within Scotland, arguing that to do so would be a breach of Article 1 of the Treaty of Union.
The Lord Advocate won the case and it was decided that future British monarchs would be numbered according to either their English or Scottish predecessors, whichever number is higher.Hence, any future King James would be styled James VIII (since the last Scottish King James was James VII (also James II of England, etc.) while the next King Henry would be King Henry IX throughout the UK despite the fact that there have been no Scottish kings of the name.
Scotland has partial self-government within the United Kingdom as well as representation in the UK Parliament. Executive and legislative powers have been devolved to, respectively, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh. The United Kingdom Parliament retains power over a set list of areas explicitly specified in the Scotland Act 1998 as reserved matters, including, for example, levels of UK taxes, social security, defence, international relations and broadcasting.
The Scottish Parliament has legislative authority for all other areas relating to Scotland, as well as limited power to vary income tax. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a BBC Scotland interview, indicated that the Scottish Parliament could be given more tax-raising powers.
The Scottish Parliament can give legislative consent over devolved matters back to Westminster by passing a Legislative Consent Motion if United Kingdom-wide legislation is considered to be more appropriate for a certain issue. The programmes of legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament have seen a divergence in the provision of public services compared to the rest of the United Kingdom. For instance, the costs of a university education, and care services for the elderly are free at point of use in Scotland, while fees are paid in the rest of the UK. Scotland was the first country in the UK to ban smoking in enclosed public places.
The Scottish Parliament is a unicameral legislature comprising 129 Members, 73 of whom represent individual constituencies and are elected on a first past the post system; 56 are elected in eight different electoral regions by the additional member system, serving for a four year period. The Queen appoints one Member of the Scottish Parliament, (MSP), on the nomination of the Parliament, to be First Minister. Other Ministers are also appointed by the First Minister and serve at his/her discretion, together they make up the Scottish Government, the executive arm of government.
In the 2011 election, the Scottish National Party (SNP) formed a majority government after winning 69 of the 129 seat Parliament; This was the first majority government since the modern post-devolutionary Scottish Parliament was established in 1999. The leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, continued as First Minister. The Labour Party continued as the largest opposition party, with the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party also represented in the Parliament. Margo MacDonald is the only independent MSP sitting in Parliament. The next Scottish Parliament general election will be held on 5 May 2016. The Scotland Bill, put forward by the Calman Commission and cleared by the UK House of Commons, proposes devolving more power to Scotland. The bill has yet to be put into legislation. The Scottish National Party, who did not take part in the consultation, believe the bill does not devolve enough powers to the Scottish Parliament.
Scotland is represented in the British House of Commons by 59 MPs elected from territory-based Scottish constituencies. The Scotland Office represents the UK government in Scotland on reserved matters and represents Scottish interests within the UK government.The Scotland office is led by the Secretary of State for Scotland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, the current incumbent being Michael Moore.
Historical subdivisions of Scotland included the mormaerdom, stewartry, earldom, burgh, parish, county and regions and districts. These names are still sometimes used as geographical descriptors.
Modern Scotland is subdivided in various ways depending on the purpose. For local government, there have been 32 council areas since 1996,whose councils are unitary authorities responsible for the provision of all local government services. Community councils are informal organisations that represent specific sub-divisions of a council area.
For the Scottish Parliament, there are 73 constituencies and eight regions. For the Parliament of the United Kingdom, there are 59 constituencies. The Scottish fire brigades and police forces are still based on the system of regions introduced in 1975. For healthcare and postal districts, and a number of other governmental and non-governmental organisations such as the churches, there are other long-standing methods of subdividing Scotland for the purposes of administration.
City status in the United Kingdom is conferred by letters patent. There are seven cities in Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling and Perth.
Scotland within the UK
A policy of devolution had been advocated by the three main UK parties with varying enthusiasm during recent history. The late Labour leader John Smith described the revival of a Scottish parliament as the “settled will of the Scottish people”.The constitutional status of Scotland is nonetheless subject to ongoing debate.
In 2007, the Scottish Government established a “National Conversation” on constitutional issues, proposing a number of options such as increasing the powers of the Scottish Parliament, federalism, or a referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. In rejecting the last option, the three main opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament have proposed a separate Scottish Constitutional Commission to investigate the distribution of powers between devolved Scottish and UK-wide bodies.In August 2009 the SNP proposed a referendum bill to hold a referendum on independence in November 2010. Immediate opposition from all other major parties led to an expected defeat.These plans were put on hold by the Scottish National Party until after the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections.With the outcome of the May 2011 elections allowing an SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament, a referendum on Scotland’s future within the UK is to be held in Autumn 2014, with the Scottish Government launching its consultation on 25 January 2012.
Law and Criminal Justice
Scots law has a basis derived from Roman law,combining features of both uncodified civil law, dating back to the Corpus Juris Civilis, and common law with medieval sources. The terms of the Treaty of Union with England in 1707 guaranteed the continued existence of a separate legal system in Scotland from that of England and Wales.Prior to 1611, there were several regional law systems in Scotland, most notably Udal law in Orkney and Shetland, based on old Norse law. Various other systems derived from common Celtic or Brehon laws survived in the Highlands until the 1800s.
Scots law provides for three types of courts responsible for the administration of justice: civil, criminal and heraldic. The supreme civil court is the Court of Session, although civil appeals can be taken to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (or before 1 October 2009, the House of Lords). The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court in Scotland. The Court of Session is housed at Parliament House, in Edinburgh, which was the home of the pre-Union Parliament of Scotland with the High Court of Justiciary and the Supreme Court of Appeal currently located at the Lawnmarket. The sheriff court is the main criminal and civil court, hearing most of the cases. There are 49 sheriff courts throughout the country. District courts were introduced in 1975 for minor offences and small claims. The Court of the Lord Lyon regulates heraldry.
For many decades the Scots legal system was unique for a period in being the only legal system without a parliament. This ended with the advent of the Scottish Parliament, which legislates for Scotland. Many features within the system have been preserved. Within criminal law, the Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts: “guilty”, “not guilty” and “not proven”. Both “not guilty” and “not proven” result in an acquittal with no possibility of retrial.Many laws differ between Scotland and the rest of Britain, whereas many terms differ. Manslaughter, in England and Wales, becomes culpable homicide in Scotland, and arson becomes wilful fireraising. Procedure also differs. Scots juries consist of fifteen, not twelve jurors as is more common in English-speaking countries.
The civil legal system has however attracted much recent criticism from a senior Scottish Judge who referred to it as being “Victorian” and antiquated. The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) manages the prisons in Scotland, which collectively house over 8,500 prisoners. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is responsible for the Scottish Prison Service within the Scottish Government.
Geography and Natural History
The mainland of Scotland comprises the northern third of the land mass of the island of Great Britain, which lies off the northwest coast of Continental Europe. The total area is 78,772 km2 (30,414 sq mi),comparable to the size of the Czech Republic. Scotland’s only land border is with England, and runs for 96 kilometres (60 mi) between the basin of the River Tweed on the east coast and the Solway Firth in the west. The Atlantic Ocean borders the west coast and the North Sea is to the east. The island of Ireland lies only 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the southwestern peninsula of Kintyre; Norway is 305 kilometres (190 mi) to the east and the Faroes, 270 kilometres (168 mi) to the north.
The territorial extent of Scotland is generally that established by the 1237 Treaty of York between Scotland and the Kingdom of England and the 1266 Treaty of Perth between Scotland and Norway. Important exceptions include the Isle of Man, which having been lost to England in the 14th century is now a crown dependency outside of the United Kingdom; the island groups Orkney and Shetland, which were acquired from Norway in 1472;and Berwick-upon-Tweed, lost to England in 1482.
The geographical centre of Scotland lies a few miles from the village of Newtonmore in Badenoch.Rising to 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level, Scotland’s highest point is the summit of Ben Nevis, in Lochaber, while Scotland’s longest river, the River Tay, flows for a distance of 190 kilometres (118 mi).
Geology and geomorphology
The whole of Scotland was covered by ice sheets during the Pleistocene ice ages and the landscape is much affected by glaciation. From a geological perspective the country has three main sub-divisions.
The Highlands and Islands lie to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, which runs from Arran to Stonehaven. This part of Scotland largely comprises ancient rocks from the Cambrian and Precambrian, which were uplifted during the later Caledonian Orogeny. It is interspersed with igneous intrusions of a more recent age, the remnants of which have formed mountain massifs such as the Cairngorms and Skye Cuillins.
A significant exception to the above are the fossil-bearing beds of Old Red Sandstones found principally along the Moray Firth coast. The Highlands are generally mountainous and the highest elevations in the British Isles are found here. Scotland has over 790 islands, which are divided into four main groups: Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. There are numerous bodies of freshwater including Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. Some parts of the coastline consist of machair, a low lying dune pasture land.
The Central Lowlands is a rift valley mainly comprising Paleozoic formations. Many of these sediments have economic significance for it is here that the coal and iron bearing rocks that fuelled Scotland’s industrial revolution are to be found. This area has also experienced intense volcanism, Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh being the remnant of a once much larger volcano. This area is relatively low-lying, although even here hills such as the Ochils and Campsie Fells are rarely far from view.
The Southern Uplands are a range of hills almost 200 kilometres (124 mi) long, interspersed with broad valleys. They lie south of a second fault line (the Southern Uplands fault) that runs from Girvan to Dunbar.The geological foundations largely comprise Silurian deposits laid down some 4–500 million years ago. The high point of the Southern Uplands is Merrick with an elevation of 843 m (2,766 ft).The Southern Uplands is home to the UK’s highest village, Wanlockhead (430 m/1,411 ft above sea level).
The climate of Scotland is temperate and oceanic, and tends to be very changeable. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic, and as such has much milder winters (but cooler, wetter summers) than areas on similar latitudes, for example Labrador, southern Scandinavia, the Moscow region in Russia, or the Kamchatka Peninsula on the opposite side of Eurasia. However, temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the UK, with the coldest ever UK temperature of −27.2 °C (−16.96 °F) recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, on 11 February 1895.Winter maximums average 6 °C (42.8 °F) in the lowlands, with summer maximums averaging 18 °C (64.4 °F). The highest temperature recorded was 32.9 °C (91.22 °F) at Greycrook, Scottish Borders on 9 August 2003.
In general, the west of Scotland is usually warmer than the east, owing to the influence of Atlantic ocean currents and the colder surface temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is one of the sunniest places in the country: it had more than 300 hours of sunshine in May 1975.Rainfall varies widely across Scotland. The western highlands of Scotland are the wettest place, with annual rainfall exceeding 3,000 mm (118.1 in).In comparison, much of lowland Scotland receives less than 800 mm (31.5 in) annually.Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude. Braemar experiences an average of 59 snow days per year,while many coastal areas average fewer than 10 days of lying snow per annum.
Flora and Fauna
Scotland’s wildlife is typical of the north west of Europe, although several of the larger mammals such as the lynx, brown bear, wolf, elk and walrus were hunted to extinction in historic times. There are important populations of seals and internationally significant nesting grounds for a variety of seabirds such as gannets.The golden eagle is something of a national icon.
On the high mountain tops species including ptarmigan, mountain hare and stoat can be seen in their white colour phase during winter months.Remnants of the native Scots pine forest exist and within these areas the Scottish crossbill, the UK’s only endemic bird species and vertebrate, can be found alongside capercaillie, wildcat, red squirrel and pine marten.In recent years various animals have been re-introduced, including the white-tailed sea eagle in 1975, the red kite in the 1980s,and more recently there have been experimental projects involving the beaver and wild boar.
The flora of the country is varied incorporating both deciduous and coniferous woodland and moorland and tundra species. However, large scale commercial tree planting and the management of upland moorland habitat for the grazing of sheep and commercial field sport activities impacts upon the distribution of indigenous plants and animals.The UK’s tallest tree is a grand fir planted beside Loch Fyne, Argyll in the 1870s, and the Fortingall Yew may be 5,000 years old and is probably the oldest living thing in Europe.Although the number of native vascular plants is low by world standards, Scotland’s substantial bryophyte flora is of global importance.
Economy and Infrastructure
Scotland has a western style open mixed economy that is closely linked with the rest of Europe and the wider world. Traditionally, the Scottish economy has been dominated by heavy industry underpinned by the shipbuilding in Glasgow, coal mining and steel industries. Petroleum related industries associated with the extraction of North Sea oil have also been important employers from the 1970s, especially in the north east of Scotland.
De-industrialisation during the 1970s and 1980s saw a shift from a manufacturing focus towards a more service-oriented economy. Edinburgh is the financial services centre of Scotland and the sixth largest financial centre in Europe in terms of funds under management, behind London, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich and Amsterdam,
with many large finance firms based there, including: Lloyds Banking Group (owners of the Halifax Bank of Scotland); the Government owned Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life
In 2005, total Scottish exports (excluding intra-UK trade) were provisionally estimated to be £17.5 billion, of which 70% (£12.2 billion) were attributable to manufacturing. Scotland’s primary exports include whisky, electronics and financial services. The United States, Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain constitute the country’s major export markets.Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), including oil and gas produced in Scottish waters, was estimated at £137.5 billion for the calendar year 2009.If Scotland became independent, it would hold 90% of the UK’s current oil and gas reserves if they were split geographically using a median line from the English-Scottish border. If the reserves were to be split by population, that figure would be reduced to 9%.
Tourism is widely recognised as a key contributor to the Scottish economy. A briefing published in 2002 by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, (SPICe), for the Scottish Parliament’s Enterprise and Life Long Learning Committee, stated that tourism accounted for up to 5% of GDP and 7.5% of employment.
As of May 2009 the unemployment rate in Scotland stood at 6.6%— slightly lower than the UK average and lower than that of the majority of EU countries.The Scottish Government’s most recent figures (for 2009/10) suggest that Scotland’s finances are in a healthier state than for the UK as a whole, with Scotland contributing 9.4% of UK taxes but receiving 9.3% of public expenditure.
Although the Bank of England is the central bank for the UK, three Scottish clearing banks still issue their own Sterling banknotes: the Bank of Scotland; the Royal Bank of Scotland; and the Clydesdale Bank. The current value of the Scottish banknotes in circulation is £1.5 billion.