Scotland - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion

Read about Scotland: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...



Scotland, one of the four national units that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The other units are England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and Glasgow is its largest city.

Scotland and its offshore islands comprise the northernmost part of the United Kingdom. The Scottish mainland, which occupies roughly the northern third of the island of Great Britain, is bordered on three sides by seas. To the north and west is the Atlantic Ocean; to the east is the North Sea. Rugged uplands separate Scotland from England to the south. The territory of Scotland includes 186 nearby islands, a majority of which are contained in three groups. These are the Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, located off the western coast; the Orkney Islands, located off the northeastern coast; and the Shetland Islands, located northeast of the Orkney Islands. The largest of the other islands is the Island of Arran. The total land area of Scotland, including the islands, is 78,790 sq km (30,420 sq mi).

An independent nation for much of its history, Scotland was joined to England by a series of dynastic and political unions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Scotland retains a separate national identity, however, supported by separate legal and educational systems, a national church, a parliament with wide-ranging powers, and other national symbols and institutions.


Scotland has an irregular and deeply indented coastline. The rugged western coast, in particular, is pierced by numerous inlets from the sea. Most of these inlets are narrow submerged valleys with steep sides, known as sea lochs. The larger and broader inlets are called firths. The principal firths are the Firth of Lorne, the Firth of Clyde (see Clyde), and Solway Firth. The major indentations on the eastern coast are Dornoch Firth, Moray Firth, the Firth of Tay, and the Firth of Forth (see Forth). Measured around the various firths and lochs, the coastline of Scotland is about 3,700 km (about 2,300 mi) long.

The primary natural harbor is located in the Firth of Clyde, where navies of both the United Kingdom and the United States maintain deepwater submarine bases. Another important natural harbor is Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, historically a principal naval base for the United Kingdom. Today, Scapa Flow is a major port for the oil industry. Scotland’s main commercial port is Leith, on the eastern coast near Edinburgh. Leith is not a natural harbor, but its location is more convenient for coastal trade with mainland Europe.

Natural Regions in Scotland

The terrain of Scotland is predominantly mountainous but may be divided into three distinct regions, from north to south: the Highlands, the Central Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands. More than one-half of the land in Scotland is occupied by the Highlands, the most rugged region on the island of Great Britain and the least densely inhabited part of Scotland. The Highlands contain two parallel mountain chains that run roughly northeast to southwest. The rocky summits of the Highlands were carved by ancient glaciers and centuries of rain. Broken by deep ravines and valleys, the region is noted for its scenic grandeur. Precipitous cliffs, moorland plateaus, mountain lakes, sea lochs, swift-flowing streams, and dense thickets are common to the Highlands.

Dividing the parallel mountain ranges of the Highlands is a depression, or fault line, known as the Glen More, or the Great Glen. This depression extends southwest from Moray Firth on the eastern coast to Loch Linnhe on the western coast. Within the Great Glen is a chain of narrow lakes, or lochs, including Loch Ness. These natural lochs are linked by a series of artificial channels and together form the Caledonian Canal. Small craft can use this canal to sail through the Great Glen from coast to coast. To the northwest of the Great Glen lie heavily eroded peaks with fairly uniform elevations ranging from about 600 to 900 m (about 2,000 to 3,000 ft). Between the peaks are numerous valleys, known as glens, carved by glaciers. In the Highlands southeast of the Great Glen the topography is varied and spectacular. This region is traversed by the Grampian Mountains, the principal mountain system of Scotland. The highest peak of the Grampians is Ben Nevis (1,343 m/4,406 ft), the highest summit in the United Kingdom.

To the south of the Highlands lie the Central Lowlands, a low-lying belt of fertile valleys with an average elevation of 150 m (500 ft). Rich soils and most of the country’s coal deposits are found in the Lowlands. This region, which comprises just one-tenth of Scotland’s surface area, is home to Scotland’s leading industries and cities and the majority of the country’s population. Several chains of hills cross the Lowlands, including the Ochil and Sidlaw hills, as do several important rivers, notably the Clyde, Forth, and Tay.

The terrain of the Southern Uplands, a region less elevated and rugged than the Highlands, consists largely of a moorland plateau traversed by rolling valleys and broken by mountainous outcroppings. Only a few summits in the Southern Uplands exceed 760 m (2,500 ft) in elevation, the highest being Merrick (843 m/2,765 ft) in the southwest. The Cheviot Hills adjoin the Southern Uplands region along the boundary with England.

Rivers and Lakes in Scotland

Scotland is endowed with an abundance of streams and lakes. Most lakes are long and narrow. Notable among the lakes, which are especially numerous in the central and northern regions, are Loch Lomond, the longest lake in Scotland; Loch Ness, which according to legend contains a sea monster; Loch Tay; and Loch Katrine.

Many of the rivers of Scotland, especially those in the west, are short, torrential streams, with limited commercial importance. The longest river of Scotland is the Tay. The Clyde, which flows through the city of Glasgow and through the industrial heartland, is Scotland’s most important river and serves as a transportation outlet to the Atlantic Ocean. Other important rivers in Scotland flow east and drain into the North Sea. They include the Forth, Tweed, Dee, and Esk.

Climate in Scotland

Like the rest of the United Kingdom, the climate of Scotland is subject to the moderating influences of the surrounding seas. Temperate winters and cool summers are typical, and extreme seasonal variations are rare. Low temperatures, however, are common in mountainous parts of the interior during the winter months. In the western coastal region, where the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream are strongest, conditions are somewhat milder than in the east. The average January temperature of the eastern coastal region is 3°C (37°F), and the average January temperature of the western coastal region is 4°C (39°F); corresponding July averages are 14°C (57°F) and 15°C (59°F). The average January and July temperatures for the city of Edinburgh are 3°C (38°F) and 14°C (58°F), respectively. Precipitation varies by region and topography and ranges from about 3,800 mm (about 150 in) annually in the western Highlands to about 635 mm (about 25 in) annually in some eastern areas.

Plant and Animal Life in Scotland

The most common species of trees indigenous to Scotland are oak and conifers—chiefly fir, pine, and larch. However, centuries of human settlement have resulted in widespread deforestation, and large forested areas are rare. The only significant woodlands are in the southern and eastern Highlands. Except in these wooded areas, vegetation in the elevated regions consists largely of heather, ferns, mosses, and grasses. Saxifrage, mountain willow, and other types of alpine and arctic flora occur at elevations above 600 m (2,000 ft). Practically all of the cultivated plants of Scotland were imported from the Americas and the Eurasian mainland.

The only large indigenous land mammal in Scotland is the deer. Both the red deer and the roe deer are found. The red deer, whose habitat is the Highlands, is by far the more abundant of the two species. Other indigenous mammals are the badger, fox, rabbit and hare, otter, ermine, pine marten, and wildcat. Game birds include red grouse, blackcock, ptarmigan, pheasant, and waterfowl. Scotland is home to large numbers of seabirds, including the gannet, fulmar, and various species of gull. The few predatory birds include the kite, osprey, peregrine falcon, and golden eagle. Scotland is famous for the salmon and trout that abound in its streams and lakes. Scotland’s coastal waters are home to many species of fish, including cod, haddock, herring, and various types of shellfish, as well as to a variety of marine mammals, including the Atlantic seal, common seal, dolphin, and porpoise.

Natural Resources of Scotland

Scotland, like the rest of the island of Great Britain, has significant reserves of coal. It also possesses large deposits of zinc, chiefly in the south. Much of the soil is rocky and infertile, with the best arable land concentrated in the Central Lowlands and in flat eastern coastal areas. In the north and west, where the climate is wetter and soils are less productive, forestry and sheep raising are important.

Vast oil reserves were discovered in the North Sea off the Scottish coast in the 1960s and large-scale drilling began in the 1970s. Scotland has an intensive waterpower development program to increase energy supplies. The rivers of northern Scotland provide significant quantities of hydroelectric power, and the region contains most of the United Kingdom’s hydroelectricity-generating capacity.


The people of Scotland, like those of the United Kingdom in general, are descendants of various ethnic stocks, including the Picts, Celts, Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons, and newer immigrant groups. Scotland is mainly an urban-industrial society with a small, sparsely scattered rural population. Large-scale internal migration during the 19th and 20th centuries weakened the historic regional distinctions between Highlander (primarily Celtic, Catholic, and Gaelic-speaking) and Lowlander (Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, and Scots-speaking). In the 20th century the arrival of immigrants from former British colonial territories, as well as from other parts of the United Kingdom, has created a culturally diverse population, especially in the two main urban areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Population Characteristics of Scotland

The population of Scotland (2004 estimate) is 5,078,000. The population density is about 64 persons per sq km (167 per sq mi), making Scotland the most sparsely populated of the major United Kingdom administrative divisions. The highest density is in the Central Lowlands, where nearly three-quarters of all Scots live, and the lowest is in the Highlands. About two-thirds of the population resides in urban areas.

Scotland’s total population has remained almost unchanged since 1900. This stability is a result of low birth rates throughout the 20th century and steady rates of emigration to destinations overseas and to neighboring England.

Principal Cities of Scotland

Glasgow (population, 2001, 578,700) is Scotland’s largest city. It forms part of the metropolis of Clydeside, which is composed of a large number of urban areas, including Clydebank, Paisley, Kilmarnock, and Hamilton. This region is the main industrial and commercial center in Scotland. Edinburgh (449,000) is the capital of Scotland and also the country’s major administrative and financial center. The city is Scotland’s main tourist destination and hosts the Edinburgh International Festival, the largest annual arts festival in the United Kingdom. Other major cities are Aberdeen (211,300), a center for oil production and distribution, and Dundee (150,250).

Religion and Languages spoken in Scotland

The Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian denomination, is the official state church (see Scotland, Church of). Approximately 70 percent of the population is Protestant. Most of the rest of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Other important denominations are the Episcopal Church in Scotland, Congregationalist, Baptist, Methodist, and Unitarian. Immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries contributed new religious groups, including Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists.

English is the main language spoken in Scotland, although 30 percent of the population claims to use the Scottish language, a dialect of the English language. Fewer than 100,000 Scots (mainly inhabitants of the Highlands and island groups) also speak the Scottish form of Gaelic, part of the family of Celtic languages. However, Gaelic has enjoyed a revival in Scotland in recent years. Today, there are more than 2,000 children in Gaelic immersion schools, primarily in the Hebrides and Glasgow. There is also a Gaelic language college, Sabhal Ostaig Mor, located on the Isle of Skye.

Education in Scotland

Scotland has its own education system, separate from the rest of the United Kingdom. Schools in Scotland are administered by the Scottish Education Department and by local education authorities. The Scottish Parliament is responsible for passing education-related legislation.

Primary and Secondary Schools

Education for children is compulsory until the age of 16. Most primary and secondary schools in Scotland are administered by local authorities. There are a limited number of private schools, but fewer than 5 percent of Scottish children attend them—a smaller percentage than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Public schools in Scotland are parochial, either Protestant or Catholic. In practice, most Protestant schools are nondenominational, especially those in inner-city areas where there are large non-Christian immigrant populations. Children with conditions such as blindness, deafness, mental retardation, or other disabilities may receive special attention in ordinary schools or attend one of the specialized schools established for such children.

The transfer from primary to secondary schools generally takes place at the age of 12. Children can legally leave secondary school at the age of 16, at which time they may seek employment or enter technical or vocational schools. Many children remain in school until the age of 18 to prepare for college or for professional apprenticeships.

Universities and Colleges

There are 13 universities in Scotland. The four oldest and most well-known are the University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and University of Saint Andrews, all founded in the 15th and 16th centuries. An additional four universities received their charters in the 1960s (Strathclyde, Dundee, Stirling, and Heriot-Watt), and five others were chartered in the 1990s (Abertay, Robert Gordon, Paisley, Glasgow-Caledonian, and Napier). For those students who do not go on to universities, Scotland has dozens of institutions that provide programs of study beyond the secondary level. These include colleges of agriculture, art, commerce, and science. There are also seven teacher-training colleges.

Culture of Scotland

Historic cultural differences long divided Celtic Scots of the Highlands and Anglo-Saxons of the Lowlands. Traditionally, the clan, a grouping of an entire family with one patriarchal chief, or laird, was central to Highland culture. Clans were also important as fighting units, and they played an important role in rebellions against the British government. However, depopulation of the Highlands, which has occurred since the 18th century, fatally weakened the clan structure. Today, the clan in Scotland exists mainly as a cultural ideal rather than as a practical form of social organization. Lowland culture was more heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution, as well as by Protestantism, which spread throughout much of Scotland during the Reformation. The extension of Highland cultural traditions to the Lowlands—including the use of clan names, kilts, and bagpipes—and the creation of a Scottish mythology and literary culture can be traced to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At that time writers such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott worked to create a unified sense of Scottish identity.

Scots have made many outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences over the centuries. Well-known Scottish painters include the portraitists George Jameson, Allan Ramsey, Sir Henry Raeburn, and Sir David Wilkie, and the impressionist William McTaggart. Leading Scottish writers include the poets Robert Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid, and Edwin Muir, the biographer James Boswell, the novelists Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, and the dramatist Sir James Barrie. See Scottish Literature.

In the field of philosophy, Scotland has produced numerous influential thinkers, including the medieval theologian John Duns Scotus, the moral philosopher and historian David Hume, and the renowned economist Adam Smith. Among the great Scottish scientists are James Watt, who greatly improved the steam engine, Sir William Ramsay, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, and Sir Alexander Fleming, who received a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the drug penicillin.

Scotland has a rich musical heritage. The traditional instruments of Scotland include the fiddle, clarsach (the Celtic harp), and bagpipes, an ancient instrument that was probably brought to Scotland by Romans. Scottish music is noted for the wide use of a five-tone, or pentatonic, scale. Traditional folk tunes are not standardized, and a single song may have hundreds of variations in lyrics and music. A revival of traditional Scottish music began in the 1960s, and it continues to influence contemporary musical forms, including Scottish folk rock and Gaelic-language music.

Sports have an important place in Scottish life. The most popular sports in Scotland are soccer and rugby. Professional clubs draw a wide following, and many Scots play on amateur teams. Sports of Scottish origin, including curling and golf, also remain popular. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrews, located in Saint Andrews on Scotland’s eastern coast, maintains the world’s oldest surviving golf course and is a recognized authority on the rules of golf. Shinty, a stick-and-ball game similar to hurling, is a Highland sport. The traditional Highland dress of tartans and kilts adds color to the Highland Games, a series of athletic events held annually in Scotland. A beautiful and varied natural environment supports many forms of outdoor recreation, including hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, sailing, and skiing. Indoor sports, such as billiards, darts, and bowling, also attract many enthusiasts.


Scotland is governed as an integral part of the United Kingdom. It is represented by 59 members in the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament. In 1999 the British Parliament devolved many of its responsibilities in Scotland to a new Scottish Parliament.

From 1888 to 1999 Scottish affairs were administered by a British cabinet ministry, headed by the secretary of state for Scotland. After the new Scottish Parliament took office in 1999, it assumed many of the responsibilities once held by the secretary of state for Scotland, including education, health, local government, the environment, economic development, and the arts. The Scottish Parliament also has limited authority over taxation. However, the majority of the Scottish public budget is allocated as a block grant from the national government in London. The national government also retains control over foreign affairs, defense, welfare, and employment policies.

Executive of Scotland

Executive power within the Scottish government is vested in a cabinet of ministers, called the Scottish Executive. The executive is formed by the party or parties that hold a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament. A first minister, nominated by the parliament, leads the executive and also appoints the other Scottish ministers. These ministers head the various administrative departments, or ministries. The executive is accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

Legislature of Scotland

The Scottish Parliament has 129 members, who are elected by a combined system of direct voting and proportional representation. The standard term of office is four years, unless the parliament is dissolved and early elections are scheduled. The 1998 Scotland Act, which provided for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, gives the parliament the authority to pass legislation on all devolved matters (those policy matters explicitly ceded to Scotland by the national government). Policy issues on which the Scottish Parliament cannot pass legislation are known as reserved matters.

In addition to debating and making laws, the parliament is responsible for conducting inquiries and publishing reports on a wide range of policy matters. The parliament also holds the Scottish Executive accountable through oral and written questions and through oversight of its activities by parliamentary committees.

Judiciary in Scotland

Before the union of Scotland and England in 1707, Scotland had developed its own system of law, which continued after the union. The Scottish law system is based on civil law, which is derived from ancient Roman law, whereas the other parts of Britain follow common law, which originated in England with the evolution of case law and precedents. Because of the different systems of law, separate statutes or statutory provisions often are enacted by the British Parliament for application in Scotland. Any statute must state expressly or imply that it is applicable to Scotland in order to become enforceable. See also England: English Law.

Because Scotland maintains its own legal system, the Scottish judiciary is organized separately from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. The High Court of Justiciary is the highest criminal court in Scotland and the Court of Session is the highest civil court. A panel of 21 judges serves both courts. Major criminal trials are held before 1 or 2 judges of the High Court of Justiciary and a 15-member jury; criminal appeals may be heard by a bench of at least 3 judges. The Court of Session is divided into an Outer House, which holds all divorce trials and the more important civil trials, and an Inner House, which functions chiefly as an appellate court in civil cases. Appeals to the British House of Lords may be made from the Court of Session; appellate judgments of the High Court of Justiciary are final.

Scotland is divided into six sheriffdoms, each with a sheriff court. Sheriff courts hear most civil cases and all but the most serious criminal cases. Petty cases are tried by police courts and by justices of the peace.

Local Government of Scotland

For the purposes of local government, Scotland is divided into 32 unitary authorities. Each of the unitary authorities is administered by an elected council.

Political Parties of Scotland

For most of the 20th century the major political parties in Scotland were the mainstream British parties, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and the Liberal Party. In the 1950s the Conservative Party was the most influential in Scotland, gaining more than 50 percent of the vote in the 1955 general election. However, by 1964 the factors that had traditionally tied Scottish voters to the Conservative Party—support for the British Empire, industrial prosperity, and Protestantism—had become less important for many voters. At that time the Labour Party became the largest political party in Scotland.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s the Scottish National Party (SNP), founded in 1934 to press for Scottish independence, gained political momentum. By the 1970s the SNP had attained sufficient influence to encourage both Labour and Conservative leaders to discuss the possibility of greater Scottish autonomy, or home rule. In the 1980s and 1990s support for the Conservative Party fell dramatically in Scotland. Policies of the Conservative-led national government, including privatization of coalmines and other state-owned industries, proved especially unpopular in Scotland, and many Scots began to support the SNP. By the late 1990s the SNP had become Scotland’s second most popular party, and in 2007 it narrowly defeated the Labour Party in parliamentary elections. The SNP leader became Scotland’s first minister.


Many aspects of the economy of Scotland are covered in the article on the United Kingdom. The Scottish economy changed dramatically during the second half of the 20th century, with services—including banking, retailing, public administration, and tourism—emerging as the leading economic sector. Today, services contribute 66 percent of Scotland’s gross domestic product (GDP). Industry, particularly manufacturing, remains an important part of the Scottish economy, contributing 32 percent of GDP. Agriculture, including forestry and fishing, contributes just 2 percent of GDP.

The chief exports of Scotland are petroleum and natural gas and manufactured goods, including microelectronics, textiles, and whiskey. The chief imports are food and iron. The center of Scottish trade unionism is the Scottish Trades Union Congress, which in 1996 had an affiliated membership of approximately 670,000.

Agriculture of Scotland

More than three-fourths of land in Scotland is used for agriculture, with approximately equal areas devoted to farming and grazing. The most important crops are wheat, oats, and potatoes. Other crops include barley, turnips, and fruit. Livestock and livestock products are also of major importance. Sheep are raised in both the Highlands and island groups and the Southern Uplands. Scotland is also known for its beef and dairy cattle and for its dairy products.

Forestry and Fishing in Scotland

About 607,000 hectares (about 1.5 million acres) of Scotland is forested, the majority of which is publicly owned. In Scotland fishing is economically more important than forestry. The principal fishing ports are Aberdeen, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and Lerwick. The catch consists mainly of whitefish, herring, crab, and lobster. In recent years, overfishing in the North Sea, particularly of herring, has led the European Union (EU) to impose restrictions on the total tonnage of catch that can be landed. As a result, the Scottish fishing industry has undergone a significant reduction in employment and value of exports. At the same time, however, the commercial farming of fish—especially of salmon—has expanded.

Mining and Manufacturing in Scotland

Historically, coal was Scotland’s chief form of mineral wealth, and the coal industry was under state control for much of the 20th century. However, the privatization of the industry in the 1980s and 1990s led to a significant reduction in the number of working mines; today, there is only one active coalmine in Scotland. Nearly all the major coal deposits are found in the Central Lowlands. Limestone, clay, and silica are still mined in significant quantities, while iron ores and other metals have been virtually exhausted.

North Sea oil and natural gas reserves, first discovered in the 1960s, became an important part of Scotland’s economy during the 1970s. Oil and natural gas are sent by pipeline to points in the Orkney and Shetland islands and to the mainland. Major oil refineries are located at Grangemouth and Dundee.

About 20 percent of Scotland’s labor force is employed in manufacturing. Historically, Scotland’s industrial reputation was built on shipbuilding, steel production, and heavy engineering. However, in recent decades most of the factories engaged in these traditional industries have closed down. Today, the manufacture of electronic items—including silicon chips, personal computers, workstations, automated teller machines, and many other products—has become the primary source of export income for Scotland. The main location for this activity is “Silicon Glen,” a modern industrial complex in suburban Glasgow and the urban regions east of that city. Other important manufactured products include woolen textiles and yarn, chemicals, and whiskey.

Services in Scotland

In the decades after World War II (1939-1945) services replaced manufacturing as the primary source of income and employment in Scotland. Today, nearly 79 percent of the Scottish workforce is employed in the service sector. Services encompasses a broad range of economic activities, including wholesale and retail trade, transportation, mail and telecommunications, finance and insurance, real estate, business services, hotel and restaurant trades, health, education, welfare, and public administration. Among the most important services in Scotland are public administration and financial services, which together account for nearly 50 percent of national income.

Transportation and Communications in Scotland

About 48,000 km (about 30,000 mi) of highways and about 6,400 km (about 4,000 mi) of railroads serve Scotland. Public buses provide transportation throughout most of the country. The three major airports are in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. Most of Scotland’s international flights land at Glasgow Airport.

Most radio and television programs in Scotland originate in England. About 17 daily newspapers and 120 weeklies are published in Scotland.

Currency and Banking of Scotland

The currency of the United Kingdom, the pound sterling, is the legal tender of Scotland. However, the three principal Scottish banks—the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Clydesdale Bank—are permitted to print their own banknotes under license to the Royal Mint. These notes are worth the same as notes printed for the Bank of England, the United Kingdom’s central bank, but they are not strictly legal tender outside of Scotland (although they are generally accepted elsewhere in the United Kingdom).


The region comprising present-day Scotland was known after the Roman invasion of Britain as Caledonia. With the sole exception of the Picts, the ancient Caledonians do not figure in historical records.

Roman Caledonia

The Picts, a fierce and warlike people, successfully resisted conquest by the Romans, whose great general, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, led the first invasion of Caledonia late in the 1st century AD. Agricola and his legions pushed northward to the Firth of Forth. The border Picts, probably joined by rebellious Britons, strenuously contested Roman sovereignty in the region between the firths of Forth and Clyde. In AD 122, to ward off the Pictish threat to the imperial positions in northern Britain, the Roman emperor Hadrian ordered construction of a rampart from Solway Firth to the mouth of the Tyne River. Remnants of this rampart, known in history as Hadrian’s Wall, still stand. Two decades later another rampart, called the Antonine Wall, was constructed from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. The territory between the two walls served as a defense area against the Caledonians during Roman occupation.

Early Scottish Kingdoms

After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 409, the Picts systematically raided the territories of their southern neighbors. The latter, however, soon put an end to these raids, probably with the assistance of the Saxons, one of the Germanic tribes that subsequently subjugated the Britons. In the course of the Germanic conquest many Britons withdrew into the Caledonian region between the Firth of Clyde and Solway Firth, and there laid the foundations of what became the kingdom of Strathclyde. The adjacent region to the north was occupied toward the beginning of the 6th century by the Scots, a Celtic people from northern Ireland who established a kingdom that became known in history as Dalriada. About the middle of the 6th century the Angles, a people related to the Saxons, overran most of Caledonia south of the Firth of Forth and east of Strathclyde. Together with the extensive Angle holdings in the north of what is now England, this region became the kingdom of Northumbria.

During the period of Angle penetration in Caledonia, Christianity was widely disseminated among the Picts by Saint Columba, an Irish missionary who came to Dalriada from northern Ireland in 563. Strathclyde and various parts of Pictland had been converted to Christianity before the time of Columba. Between 655 and 664, Scottish missionaries were active in Northumbria, which was then the center of a pagan revival.

The Unification of Scotland

In 685 Pictish territory north of the Firth of Forth was invaded by a large Northumbrian army. An overwhelming Pictish victory permanently weakened Northumbrian power in Caledonia. About 730 Angus MacFergus, king of the Picts, subjugated Strathclyde and Dalriada. Relative peace followed until the late 8th century, when Vikings from Scandinavia began to raid the Caledonian coasts. Taking advantage of Pictish preoccupation with the invaders, the Scots and Britons soon regained their independence. In 844 Kenneth MacAlpine, king of Dalriada, and later king of Scotland, who was a descendant of the Pictish royal family, obtained the crown of Pictland, probably with the assent of the harassed Picts. The united kingdoms, officially known as Alban, comprised all the territory north of the firths of Forth and Clyde. Kenneth and several of his successors vainly attempted to subdue the remaining Northumbrian possessions in Caledonia and, in alliance with Strathclyde, tried to halt the raids of the Vikings. Although, with the help of the Northumbrians, the Vikings were prevented from securing a foothold in Dalriada, they seized various coastal areas in the north, east, and west and occupied the Orkney and Shetland islands and the Hebrides. In later times the rulers of England claimed the Scottish domain on the basis of the aid their forebears had given to Alban.

In the 10th century the Alban kings, having repulsed the Vikings, repeatedly attacked the Northumbrian strongholds south of the Firth of Clyde. All these attacks ended in failure. During the reign (1005-1034) of Malcolm II Mackenneth, the Northumbrians were decisively defeated in the Battle of Carham (1018). With this event and as a result of the inheritance of the crown of Strathclyde by Malcolm’s grandson and successor, Duncan I, the Scottish domains, thereafter known as Scotland, embraced all the territory north of Solway Firth and the Tweed River.

Duncan’s reign, a period of disastrous wars and internal strife, ended in 1040 with his assassination by Macbeth, mormaor (great steward) of Ross and Moray, who then became king of Scotland. Macbeth held the throne until 1057, when he was defeated and killed by Duncan’s son Malcolm III Canmore.

The Anglicization of Scotland

The accession in 1057 of Malcolm III Canmore, as Malcolm III MacDuncan, introduced a new era in Scotland, an era marked by fundamental transformations of the ancient Celtic culture and institutions. Long an exile among the English, Malcolm had acquired a profound interest in their customs and affairs. The consequent trend toward Anglicization of his realm was sharply accelerated when, in 1067, he married Margaret, an English princess later canonized as Saint Margaret, who had been forced into exile in Scotland by the Norman Conquest in 1066. Under the influence of Margaret, a devout communicant of the church of Rome, many of the teachings of the Celtic church were brought into harmony with the Roman ritual. The hostility engendered among many of the Scottish chieftains by Margaret’s activities flared into rebellion after Malcolm’s death. Margaret, her stepson Duncan (later Duncan II, king of Scotland), and their English retainers were then driven from the country. With Anglo-Norman help, the rebellion, which had been led by Donald Bane, a brother of Malcolm III, was crushed. In 1097 Edgar, one of the six sons of Malcolm and Margaret, ascended the Scottish throne.

The Anglicization of Scotland acquired tremendous momentum during the reign of Edgar and those of his brothers Alexander I and David I. Under these monarchs, all of whom had been deeply influenced by their mother’s religious and cultural views, the Anglo-Norman feudal system was established in Scotland. The reorganization was confined at first to ecclesiastical reforms but gradually affected all sectors of Scottish life. Celtic religious orders were suppressed, English ecclesiastics replaced Scottish monks, numerous monasteries were founded, and the Celtic church was remodeled in conformity with Catholic practice. Norman French supplanted the Gaelic language in court circles, while English was spoken in the border areas and many parts of the Lowlands. The traditional system of tribal land tenure was abolished during the reign of David. Claiming universal ownership of the land, he conveyed huge grants, particularly in central and southern Scotland, to Anglo-Norman and Scottish nobles, who thereby became loyal vassals of the Crown. David I also instituted various judicial, legislative, and administrative reforms, all based on English models, encouraged the development of commerce with England, and granted extensive privileges to the Scottish burghs.

Relations with England

Political relations with England were disturbed during David’s reign by disputes over certain border areas, notably that portion of Northumbria south of the Tweed. In 1138 and again in 1149 the Scottish king, seeking to extend his dominions southward, supported abortive attempts to dethrone the reigning monarch of England. As a result of the intervention of 1149, Northumbria, which had been granted previously to Scotland, reverted to English ownership. David’s grandson William the Lion, who was crowned king of Scotland in 1165, attempted to regain Northumbria by giving military aid to a rebellion in 1173 and 1174 against Henry II of England. In 1174 William was taken prisoner and compelled, by the provisions of the Treaty of Falaise, to swear fealty to the English king. Although Richard I of England annulled the treaty, in 1189, in exchange for 10,000 marks of silver, English claims to sovereignty over Scotland were based thereafter on precedent as well as the 10th-century alliances against the Vikings. Alexander II, William’s son and successor, renounced Scottish claims to Northumbria and other territories in northern England in 1237, beginning a period of friendly relations between the two nations. In 1266, following a victorious war against Norway, Alexander III recovered the Hebrides.

Alexander III died in 1286, leaving the throne to Margaret, known as the Maid of Norway, his infant granddaughter and only living descendant. Margaret’s death produced a political crisis in Scotland, with no less than 13 descendants of former monarchs laying claim to the throne. In this situation Edward I of England, proclaiming suzerainty over Scotland, intervened on behalf of John de Baliol, a grandson of David I. Certain sections of the Scottish nobility formally recognized the English king’s overlordship in Scotland. In November 1292, after leading an army into his vassal realm, Edward I proclaimed John de Baliol king of Scotland.

The War for Independence

Many Scottish nobles and the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people bitterly resented English interference in their national affairs. Acceding to popular demand for termination of English control, Baliol in 1295 formed an alliance with France, which was then at war with England, and summoned his people to revolt. The first phase of the Scottish war of independence ended victoriously for Edward, who crushed Baliol’s army at Dunbar in April 1296 and decreed the annexation of Scotland to England. Baliol was deposed, and his kingdom was placed under military occupation.

William Wallace

The Scottish struggle against England was resumed in 1297, under the leadership of the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace. With soldiers recruited from all sections of the nation, Wallace destroyed an English army at Stirling in September and, acting as the agent of John de Baliol, reinstituted Scottish rule. The following year Edward led a huge army into Scotland and in July won a decisive victory at Falkirk. After this setback Wallace waged incessant guerrilla warfare against the English. He was outlawed by Edward in 1304, following another large-scale English invasion. The year after, Wallace was betrayed to the English, convicted of treason, and executed.

Robert Bruce

After Wallace’s death, Robert Bruce, a descendant of David I, assumed the leadership of the resistance movement. Although Bruce had opposed Wallace, most of the Scottish nobility and clergy rallied to his support. He was crowned Robert I, king of Scotland, in March 1306. During the first year of his reign Bruce suffered several reverses at the hands of the English. In 1307, on the accession to the English throne of Edward II, who abandoned his father’s plan to subjugate Scotland, Bruce began a systematic guerrilla campaign against the pro-English section of the Scottish nobility and against English garrisons in Scotland. Between 1307 and 1314 he won numerous battles against his enemies and, on a number of occasions, even invaded northern England. Edward II finally led a punitive expedition into Scotland in the spring of 1314. Meeting this invasion force at Bannockburn on June 24, the Scottish army inflicted on it one of the most disastrous defeats in the military annals of England (see Bannockburn, Battle of). Edward II refused to grant independence to Scotland, however, and the war between the two nations continued for more than a decade. During this phase of the struggle, the common people of Scotland secured representation, for the first time, in the Scottish Parliament in 1326. The war against England ended victoriously in 1328, when the regents of the young Edward III of England approved the Treaty of Northampton. By the terms of this document, Scotland obtained recognition as an independent kingdom.

David II

For more than 200 years after Bruce’s death in 1329 and the accession of his infant son as David II, Scotland was the scene of almost continuous strife among the nobility. The feudal anarchy was especially pronounced because of the prevalence of the clan system in the Highlands and various other areas. In these regions, where close personal relations existed among the clan members and their chiefs, the latter were powerful and contemptuous of royal authority. The period was also marked by almost uninterrupted warfare with England and the development of Scotland’s Parliament.

Within four years after the conclusion of the Treaty of Northampton, Edward III renewed the struggle to reduce Scotland to vassalage. Initially, this venture took the form of support to Edward de Baliol, a son of John de Baliol and a pretender to the Scottish crown. Baliol invaded Scotland from England in 1332 and, after winning a victory at Dupplin Moor, had himself crowned king. He was quickly driven out of the country. In 1333 Edward III led an army northward and routed the Scots near Berwick-upon-Tweed. The English king thereupon occupied a large part of southeastern Scotland. In 1337, after he became involved in the Hundred Years’ War, he abandoned Baliol and neglected his Scottish possessions; by 1341 the Scots had liberated several of the more important occupied areas, including Edinburgh. In 1346 David II, allied with France, led an invasion of northern England but was defeated near Durham and taken prisoner. A large section of southern Scotland was immediately reoccupied by the English. David was not released until 1357, after the Scots had agreed to pay an enormous ransom.

The Stuart Kings

Under the first two kings of the Stuart dynasty, Robert II (reigned 1371-1390) and Robert III (reigned 1390-1406), the country was further devastated by the war with England, and royal authority was weak. James I (reigned 1406-1437) attempted to restore order in the strife-torn country. He imposed various curbs on the nobility and secured parliamentary approval of many legislative reforms. Without the cooperation of the feudal barons, however, these reforms were unenforceable. James I was murdered in 1437.

During the remainder of the 15th century the successors of James I—namely, James II, James III, and James IV—sought to impose restraints on the turbulent nobility, but only James IV accomplished significant results. The alliance with France was maintained, and by 1460 the English had been expelled from southern Scotland. Among other outstanding developments of the 15th century was the recovery, through the marriage of James III to a Danish princess, of the Orkney and Shetland islands. Shortly after the turn of the century James IV married Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, but friction between the two nations continued. In 1513, after Henry VIII invaded France, James IV led an army into England. The Scots and English met at Flodden Field, where James was killed and his army routed.

Following the rupture between Henry VIII and the Roman Catholic church in the 1530s, Henry tried in vain to enlist James V on the side of fundamental ecclesiastical reform and to secure an end to the Franco-Scottish alliance. The Protestant Reformation shortly began to gain headway in Scotland, and the Protestants tended to oppose the connection with France. In 1538 James V married Mary of Guise, a member of the French royal family, and, in another war with England, was defeated at Solway Moss in 1542. He died a few weeks after the battle.

Mary, Queen of Scots

James’s daughter Mary, still a child, was sent abroad to be raised at the French court in 1548, and her mother, Mary of Guise, assumed the regency in 1554. The regent’s policies, which seemed designed to transform Scotland into a colony of France, provoked the spread of anti-French sentiment in the kingdom. The return to Scotland, in 1559, of John Knox, a Protestant leader who had been exiled, added to the political ferment and gave impetus to the Reformation. The general hostility to Mary of Guise was deepened by the marriage, in April 1558, of her daughter to the Dauphin of France. In 1559, following the queen mother’s denunciation of Protestants as heretics, Knox and his followers resorted to open rebellion. Elizabeth I of England began at once to provide the insurgents with financial and military aid. Mary of Guise died in June 1560. In that same year, the Scottish Protestant leaders, assembled in a special parliament, abolished the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and adopted a Calvinistic Confession of Faith.

In August 1561 Queen Mary returned to Scotland; her husband, Francis II, had died in December 1560, just 17 months after becoming king of France. A loyal Roman Catholic and the heir presumptive to the English crown, Mary became the central figure of the Counter Reformation in Scotland and, later, in England. The final contest between Scottish Protestantism and Roman Catholicism was marked by conspiracy, murder, rebellion, and civil war. In 1567, after Mary’s army was defeated in battle, she was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son, James VI, born in 1566 of her union with Lord Darnley. Imprisoned in Scotland, Mary escaped in May 1568, but failed to regain her throne. She then fled to England, only to become the captive of Queen Elizabeth. See Mary, Queen of Scots. See also Babington, Anthony; Bothwell, James Hepburn, 4th earl of; Darnley, Henry Stewart, Lord; Walsingham, Sir Francis.

James VI

Until 1578 Scotland was ruled by successive regents, all staunchly Protestant and pro-English, and later by factions capable of dominating the young king. By 1586, however, James VI had control of his government and had concluded a military alliance with Elizabeth. He subsequently refused to intercede on behalf of his mother, who was executed in England in 1587. In religion, he tried to steer a middle course, allowing a Presbyterian form of church government at the local level, but appointing bishops who represented royal authority over the church as a whole. He was a capable administrator and made the power of the monarchy dominant in Scotland. On the death of Elizabeth, in March 1603, James VI inherited the crown of England as James I.

Scotland in the 17th Century

James lived on until 1625, and Scotland remained largely tranquil under his rule. Relations with England grew closer, but the two kingdoms remained distinct, each with its own government. Under James’s son, Charles I (reigned 1625-1649), high taxes, and especially royal attempts to impose Anglican forms of worship, led to conflicts known as the Bishops’ Wars (1639-1640). These in turn helped to spark the great English Revolution, which ended in Charles’s execution. During the revolution, many Scots supported Parliament against the king in return for a promise that Presbyterianism would be established in both realms. This promise was not kept, and after Charles’s execution, England’s Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, defeated Scottish uprisings on behalf of the royal heir, Charles II. Cromwell also temporarily imposed a single government on England and Scotland. When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Scotland was again separated from England. Charles reintroduced a limited form of episcopacy in the northern kingdom, and several abortive Presbyterian rebellions occurred during his reign. Scotland played no part in the overthrow of Charles’s successor, James VII (James II of England) in 1688, but the Scottish Parliament immediately recognized the new king, William III, as William II of Scotland. William abolished the Scottish episcopate in 1690. This made him popular among the Lowland Scots, but in the Highlands support for the exiled King James remained strong. See Jacobites.

Scotland in the United Kingdom

In 1707 the Scottish Parliament voted itself out of existence, and Scotland became part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain with guarantees of its own legal system and church polity. Thereafter, Scottish representatives sat in the British Parliament at Westminster. The union, like the Revolution of 1688, was opposed by many of the Highland Scots, who rose in support of James VII’s son in the Jacobite rebellions of 1708, 1715, and 1745 to 1746. Following the defeat of the 1745 Rebellion, the government forced the breakup of the clan system in the Highlands.

At the same time, Edinburgh, home of the “Scottish Enlightenment,” was becoming one of the most important cultural centers of 18th-century Europe. Among the outstanding Scottish thinkers of the time were the economist Adam Smith and the philosopher David Hume. Literary figures included Tobias Smollett, James Boswell, Robert Burns, and, somewhat later, Sir Walter Scott.

Economic Development

In time, the union resulted in economic benefits for Scotland. Scottish ports, especially those on the Clyde, began to import tobacco from the American colonies. American tobacco, traded abroad by Scottish merchants, stimulated shipbuilding and banking, and helped transform the growing city of Glasgow into one of Europe’s leading commercial centers. At the same time a number of Scottish industries developed to meet the colonists’ demand for manufactured goods, including linen manufacturing.

The British monopoly on the tobacco trade ended with the American Revolution (1775-1783), but Scottish industrial growth continued. By the late 18th century, spinning and weaving cotton had emerged as a major industry in Scotland; the industry flourished until the American Civil War (1861-1865) cut off the supplies of raw cotton. However, by that time Scotland had developed heavy industries based on its coal and iron resources. The invention of the blast furnace for smelting iron in the early 19th century revolutionized the Scottish iron industry, and Scotland became a center for engineering, shipbuilding, and locomotive construction. In the late 19th century steel production largely replaced iron production. Throughout the 19th century Scotland’s textile, steel, and shipbuilding industries made major contributions to Britain’s commercial greatness, and while Scottish statesmen and administrators helped govern the British Empire, Scottish soldiers helped defend it.

Industrial Decline

Heavy industry in Scotland contracted in the period following World War I (1914-1918). The collapse of the wartime boom and rapid industrialization in many other countries deprived Scotland of markets for its products. The worldwide depression in the 1930s only accentuated the decline. Heavy industries continued to decline after World War II (1939-1945). In the 1960s and 1970s, Scotland’s main industries—coal mining, steel making, shipbuilding, and heavy engineering—all suffered heavy employment losses.

By the early 1980s hundreds of thousands of jobs had been lost, and Scotland had among the highest unemployment rates in the United Kingdom. In response, government agencies were established to attract new investment and industries to Scotland, especially in the manufacture of electronic products. Scotland’s economy began to recover in the 1980s when employment in the microelectronics industry expanded and service employment increased, particularly in the areas of public administration, financial services, and tourism. Today, the Scottish economy is among the United Kingdom’s most vibrant regional economies.

The Rise of Scottish Nationalism

Industrial contraction, along with the decline of the United Kingdom as a world power in the decades after World War II, contributed to the rise of Scottish nationalist sentiment in the mid-1970s. The discovery of oil in Scottish territorial waters also contributed to Scottish nationalism by fueling hopes of economic self-sufficiency. In 1974 the Scottish National Party (SNP) gained 11 of Scotland’s 72 seats in the British Parliament. In an effort to moderate rising Scottish nationalism, the Labour government called a referendum to grant Scotland its own elected assembly with limited executive and legislative authority. When the referendum was held in March 1979, a majority of Scots who voted endorsed the plan. However, the plan did not gain approval by 40 percent of eligible voters, the minimum required, so the referendum failed and the assembly was abandoned. A few months later the Labour government fell, and the new Conservative government abandoned all plans for any form of Scottish self-government.

The unpopularity of the policies of the Conservative government, including privatization of state-owned industries, which many Scots blamed for high unemployment, led to increased Scottish demands for self-government during the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile, the Labour Party pledged to hold referenda to devolve some of Parliament’s powers to national legislatures in Scotland and Wales if it were returned to power. In 1997 the Labour Party took control of the British government for the first time in 18 years and immediately put forward its devolution plans.

In a referendum held in September 1997, nearly 75 percent of the people of Scotland voted to create their own parliament. Elections for the assembly were held in May 1999, and the Scottish Parliament convened in July 1999 for the first time since 1707.

Recent Events

Two Libyans suspected of a terrorist bombing over Scotland went on trial in 2000. The Libyans were charged with planting the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, killing 270 people. The murder trial took place under Scottish law on a U.S. airbase in the Netherlands, which for the duration of the trial was declared Scottish territory. Before turning over the suspects, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi had argued that they could not receive a fair trial in Britain.

In January 2001 one of the suspects, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent, was found guilty of putting the bomb in a suitcase that traveled from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany, and was then transferred to Heathrow Airport in London and finally onto the Pan-Am flight. Al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment. His co-defendant, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty.

In 2007 the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) won a narrow victory over the Labour Party in May parliamentary elections. The election ended 50 years of Labour Party dominance in Scottish politics as SNP leader Alex Salmond became Scotland’s first minister. British Labour leader Gordon Brown campaigned vigorously against the SNP, which had pledged to place a referendum before voters on whether Scotland should secede from Great Britain.

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