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Scotland  ( English /  Scots)
Alba  ( Gaelic)
Flag Royal Coat of Arms
Motto:  In My Defens God Me Defend ( Scots) (Often shown abbreviated as IN DEFENS)
Anthem:  Flower Of Scotland ( de facto)
Location of  Scotland  (orange)in the United Kingdom  (camel)
Location of  Scotland  (orange)

in the United Kingdom  (camel)

Capital Edinburgh
55°57′N 3°12′W
Largest city Glasgow
Official languages English (de facto)
Recognised regional languages Gaelic, Scots
Demonym Scottish
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  First Minister Alex Salmond MP MSP
 -  Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP
Legislature Scottish Parliament
Establishment  Early Middle Ages; exact date of establishment unclear or disputed; traditional 843, by King Kenneth MacAlpin
 -  Total 78,772 km2 
30,414 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.9
 -  2007 estimate 5,144,200
 -  2001 census 5,062,011
 -  Density 65/km2
168.2/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2006 estimate
 -  Total US$194 billion
 -  Per capita US$39,680
HDI (2003) 0.939
very high
Currency Pound sterling ( GBP)
Time zone GMT ( UTC0)
 -  Summer ( DST) BST ( UTC+1)
Calling code 44
Patron saint St. Andrew
Internet TLD .uk³
1. Both Scots and Scottish Gaelic are officially recognised as autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages; the Bòrd na Gàidhlig is tasked, under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, with securing Gaelic as an official language of Scotland, commanding "equal respect" with English.
2. Historically, the use of " Scotch" as an adjective comparable to "Scottish" was commonplace, particularly outwith Scotland. However, the modern use of the term describes only products of Scotland, usually food or drink related.
3. Also .eu, as part of the European Union. ISO 3166-1 is GB, but .gb is unused.

Scotland [ˈskɑtlənd] ( Gaelic: Alba) is a country that occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It is part of the United Kingdom, and shares a land border to the south with England. It 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 consists of 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. It was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which saw Scotland become one of the commercial, intellectual and industrial powerhouses of Europe. Scotland's largest city is Glasgow, which was once one of the world's leading industrial metropolises, and now lies at the centre of the Greater Glasgow conurbation which dominates the Scottish Lowlands. Scottish waters consist of a large sector of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union.

The Kingdom of Scotland was an independent state until 1 May 1707 when it joined in a political union with the Kingdom of England to create a united Kingdom of Great Britain. This union was the result of the Treaty of Union agreed earlier and put into effect by the Acts of Union that were passed by the Parliaments of both countries despite widespread protest across Scotland. Scotland's legal system continues to be separate from those of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; Scotland still constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and in private law. The continued independence of Scots law, the Scottish education system, and the Church of Scotland have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and Scottish national identity since the Union. Although Scotland is no longer a separate sovereign state, the constitutional future of Scotland continues to give rise to debate.


Scotland is from the Latin Scoti, the term applied to Gaels. 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.


The founders of Scotland of late medieval legend, Scota with Goídel Glas, voyaging from Egypt, as depicted in a 15th century manuscript of the Scotichronicon of Walter Bower.

Early history

Repeated glaciations, which covered the entire land-mass of modern Scotland, have 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 9,500 years ago, and the first villages around 6,000 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 lack of trees led to most structures being built of local stone.

Roman influence

Skara Brae, a neolithic settlement, located in the Bay of Skaill, Orkney.

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. In 83–4 AD the general Gnaeus Julius Agricola defeated the Caledonians at the battle of Mons Graupius, and Roman forts were briefly set along the Gask Ridge close to the Highland line (none are known to have been constructed beyond that line). Three years after the battle the Roman armies had withdrawn to the Southern Uplands. They erected Hadrian's Wall to control tribes on both sides of the wall, and the Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the 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 extent of Roman military occupation of any significant part of Scotland was limited to a total of 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.

A replica of the Pictish Hilton of Cadboll Stone.

Medieval period

The Kingdom of the Picts (based in Fortriu by the 6th century) was the state which 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 Dunnichen, 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 (1107–1124). However, by the tenth century, the Pictish kingdom was dominated by what we can recognise as Gaelic culture, and had developed an Irish conquest myth 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 Anglic-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 stimulus for this was the reign of King David I and the Davidian Revolution. Feudalism, government reorganisation and the first legally defined towns (called burghs) began in this period. These institutions and the immigration of French and Anglo-French knights and churchmen facilitated a process of 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 Wallace Monument commemorates William Wallace, the 13th century Scottish hero.

The death of Alexander III in March 1286, followed by the death of his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, broke the succession line of Scotland's kings. This led to the intervention of Edward I of England, who manipulated this period of confusion to have himself recognised as feudal overlord of Scotland. Edward organised a process to identify the person with the best claim to the vacant crown, which became known as the Great Cause, and this resulted in the enthronement of John Balliol as king. The Scots were resentful of Edward's meddling in their affairs and this relationship quickly broke down. War ensued and King John was deposed by his overlord, 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. The nature of the struggle changed dramatically when Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, became king (as Robert I). War with England continued for several decades, and a civil war between the Bruce dynasty and their long-term Comyn-Balliol rivals, the flashpoint of which could be traced to the slaying in a Dumfries church of John 'the Red' Comyn of Badenoch by Bruce and his supporters, lasted until the middle of the 14th century. Although the Bruce dynasty was successful, David II's lack of an heir allowed his 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. This was despite continual warfare with England, the increasing division between Highlands and Lowlands, and a large number of royal minorities.

Modern history

David Morier's painting on the " Battle of Culloden".

In 1603, James VI King of Scots inherited the throne of the Kingdom of England, and became King James I of England, 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. After the Glorious Revolution, the abolition of episcopacy and the overthrow of the Roman Catholic James VII by William and Mary, Scotland briefly threatened to select a different Protestant monarch from 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.

The deposed Jacobite Stuart claimants had remained popular in the Highlands and north-east, particularly amongst non- Presbyterians. 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. After World War II, Scotland experienced an industrial decline which was particularly severe. Only in recent decades has the country enjoyed something of a cultural and economic renaissance. Economic factors which have contributed to this recovery include a resurgent financial services industry, electronics manufacturing, (see Silicon Glen), and the North Sea oil and gas industry.

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.

Government and politics

The cabinet of the Scottish Government

As part of the United Kingdom, the head of state in Scotland is the monarch of the United Kingdom, currently Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952).

Scotland has limited 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, a power it has yet to exercise. The Scottish Parliament can refer 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 debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament Building

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 Queen on the nomination of the Parliament and together with the First Minister they make up the Scottish Government, the executive arm of government.

The Royal Coat of Arms of Queen Elizabeth II as used in Scotland.

In the 2007 election, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which campaigns for Scottish independence, won the largest number of seats of any single party and the leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, was elected First Minister on 16 May 2007 as head of a minority government. The Labour Party became the largest opposition party, with the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party are also represented in the Parliament. Margo MacDonald is the only independent MSP sitting in 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 Des Browne.

Administrative subdivisions

Glasgow City Chambers viewed from George Square

Historical subdivisions of Scotland include the mormaerdom, stewartry, earldom, burgh, parish, county and regions and districts. The names of these areas 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 determined by letters patent. There are six cities in Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and more recently Inverness, and Stirling.

Scotland within the UK

A policy of devolution had been advocated by all three GB-wide parties with varying enthusiasm during recent history and 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 latter option, the three main opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament have proposed a separate Constitutional Commission to investigate the distribution of powers between devolved Scottish and UK-wide bodies.


Parliament House, in Edinburgh, is the home of the Supreme Courts of Scotland.

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 House of Lords. The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court. Both courts are housed at Parliament House, in Edinburgh, which was the home of the pre-Union Parliament of Scotland. The sheriff court is the main criminal and civil court. There are 49 sheriff courts throughout the country. District courts were introduced in 1975 for minor offences. The Court of the Lord Lyon regulates heraldry.

Scots law is also unique in that it allows three verdicts in criminal cases including the controversial ' not proven' verdict.

Geography and natural history

Map of Scotland

The main land 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, making Scotland the 117th largest country in the world. 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 (20 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 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 (4,406 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 km (120 miles).

Geology and geomorphology

Relief map of Scotland

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, 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.

Central Lowlands

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.

Southern Uplands

The Southern Uplands are a range of hills almost 200 kilometres (125 mi) long, interspersed with broad valleys. They lie south of a second fault line (the Southern Uplands fault) that runs from the Rhinns of Galloway 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).


Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles

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 Copenhagen, Moscow, 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 300 days of sunshine in 1975. Rainfall varies widely across Scotland. The western highlands of Scotland are the wettest place, with annual rainfall exceeding 3,000 mm (120  in). In comparison, much of lowland Scotland receives less than 800 mm (31 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 coastal areas have an average of fewer than 10 days.

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 native Scots Pine forest exist and within these areas the Scottish Crossbill, Britain's only endemic bird, can be found alongside Capercaillie, Wildcat, Red Squirrel and Pine Marten.

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 Douglas Fir located in Reelig Glen near Inverness, 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

A drilling rig located in the North Sea

Scotland has a western style open mixed economy which is closely linked with that of 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: the Royal Bank of Scotland (the second largest bank in Europe); HBOS (owners of the 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, The Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain constitute the country's major export markets. In 2006, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Scotland (excluding oil and gas production from 'Scottish' waters) was just over £86 billion, giving a per capita GDP of £16,900.

Pacific Quay on the River Clyde, an example of the regeneration of Glasgow and the diversifying Scottish economy

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 November 2007 the unemployment rate in Scotland stood at 4.9%—lower than the UK average and that of the majority of EU countries.

The most recent government figures (for 2006/7) suggest that Scotland would be in budget surplus to the tune of more than £800m if it received its geographical share of North Sea revenues.. The net fiscal balance, which is the budget balance plus capital investment, reported a deficit of £2.7 billion (2.1% of GDP) including Scotland's full geographical share of North Sea revenue, or a £10.2bn deficit if the North Sea share is excluded.


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.


A Loganair Twin Otter at Barra Airport, the world's only airport using a beach runway for scheduled services.

Scotland has five main international airports ( Glasgow International, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow Prestwick and Inverness) which together serve 150 international destinations with a wide variety of scheduled and chartered flights. BAA operates three airports, (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen), and Highland and Islands Airports operates 11 regional airports, (including Inverness), which serve the more remote locations of Scotland. Infratil operates Glasgow Prestwick.

The Scottish motorways and major trunk roads are managed by Transport Scotland. The rest of the road network is managed by the Scottish local authorities in each of their areas.

Regular ferry services operate between the Scottish mainland and island communities. These services are mostly run by Caledonian MacBrayne, but some are operated by local councils. Other ferry routes, served by multiple companies, connect to Northern Ireland, Belgium, Norway, the Faroe Islands and also Iceland.

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited owns and operates the fixed infrastructure assets of the railway system in Scotland, while the Scottish Government maintains overall responsibility for rail strategy and funding in Scotland. Scotland’s rail network has around 340 railway stations and 3,000 kilometres of track with over 62 million passenger journeys made each year.

Scotland's rail network is managed by Transport Scotland. The East Coast and West Coast Main Railway lines and the Cross Country Line connect the major cities and towns of Scotland with each other and with the rail network in England. Domestic rail services within Scotland are operated by First Scotrail.

The East Coast Main Line includes that section of the network which crosses the Firth of Forth via the Forth Bridge. Completed in 1890, this cantilever bridge has been described as "the one internationally recognised Scottish landmark".


Bi-lingual road signs are becoming increasingly common throughout the Scottish Highlands.

The population of Scotland in the 2001 census was 5,062,011. This has risen to 5,116,900 according to June 2006 estimates. This would make Scotland the 112th largest country by population if it were a sovereign state. Although Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland it is not the largest city. With a population of just over 600,000 this honour falls to Glasgow. Indeed, the Greater Glasgow conurbation, with a population of over 1.1 million, is home to over a fifth of Scotland's population.

The Central Belt is where most of the main towns and cities are located. Glasgow is to the west, while Edinburgh and Dundee lie on the east coast. Scotland's only major city outside the Central Belt is Aberdeen, on the east coast to the north. Apart from Aberdeen, the Highlands are sparsely populated, although the city of Inverness has experienced rapid growth in recent years. In general only the more accessible and larger islands retain human populations, and fewer than 90 are currently inhabited. The Southern Uplands are essentially rural in nature and dominated by agriculture and forestry. Because of housing problems in Glasgow and Edinburgh, five new towns were created between 1947 and 1966. They are East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Livingston, Cumbernauld, and Irvine.

Due to immigration since World War II, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have small Asian communities. Since the recent Enlargement of the European Union there has been an increased number of people from Central and Eastern Europe moving to Scotland, and it is estimated that between 40,000 and 50,000 Poles are now living in the country. As of 2001, there are 16,310 ethnic Chinese residents in Scotland. The ethnic groups within Scotland are as follows: White - 97.99%,South Asian - 1.09%, Black - 0.16%, Mixed - 0.25%, Chinese - 0.32% and Other - 0.19%.

Scotland has three officially recognised languages: English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic. Almost all Scots speak Scottish Standard English, and in 1996 the General Register Office for Scotland estimated that 30% of the population are fluent in Scots. Gaelic is mostly spoken in the Western Isles, where a majority of people still speak it; however, nationally its use is confined to just 1% of the population.


Marischal College, University of Aberdeen

The Scottish education system has always remained distinct from education in the rest of United Kingdom, with a characteristic emphasis on a broad education. Scotland was the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education. Schooling was made compulsory for the first time in Scotland with the Education Act of 1496, then, in 1561, the Church of Scotland set out a national programme for spiritual reform, including a school in every parish. Education continued to be a matter for the church rather than the state until the Education Act of 1872.

All 3 and 4 year old children in Scotland are entitled to a free nursery place with "a curriculum framework for children 3–5" providing the curricular guidelines. Formal primary education begins at approximately 5 years old and lasts for 7 years (P1–P7); The "5–14 guidelines" provides the curricular framework. Today, children in Scotland sit Standard Grade exams at approximately 15 or 16. The school leaving age is 16, after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Access, Intermediate or Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams. A small number of students at certain private, independent schools may follow the English system and study towards GCSEs instead of Standard Grades, and towards A and AS-Levels instead of Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams.;

There are 14 Scottish universities, some of which are amongst the oldest in the world. The country produces 1% of the world's published research with less than 0.1% of the world's population, and higher education institutions account for nine per cent of Scotland's service sector exports.


Iona Abbey arguably the birthplace of Scottish Christianity

Since the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the national church (the Church of Scotland, also known as The Kirk) has been Protestant and Reformed in theology. Since 1689 it has had a Presbyterian system of church government, and enjoys independence from the state. About 12% of the population are currently members of the Church of Scotland, with 40% claiming affinity. The Church operates a territorial parish structure, with every community in Scotland having a local congregation. Scotland also has a significant Roman Catholic population, particularly in the west. After the Reformation, Roman Catholicism continued in the Highlands and some western islands like Uist and Barra, and was strengthened, during the 19th century by immigration from Ireland. Other Christian denominations in Scotland include the Free Church of Scotland, various other Presbyterian offshoots, and the Scottish Episcopal Church. Islam is the largest non-Christian religion (estimated at around 40,000, which is less than 0.9% of the population), and there are also significant Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities, especially in Glasgow. The Samyé Ling monastery near Eskdalemuir, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, includes the largest Buddhist temple in western Europe. In the 2001 census, 28% of the population claimed to have no religious adherence.


Soldiers of the five regular battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland

Although Scotland has a long military tradition that predates the Treaty of Union with England, its armed forces now form part of the British Armed Forces, with the notable exception of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe's only legal private army. In 2006, the infantry regiments of the Scottish Division were amalgamated to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Other distinctively Scottish regiments in the British Army include the Scots Guards and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

Due to their topography and perceived remoteness, parts of Scotland have housed many sensitive defence establishments, with mixed public feelings. Between 1960 and 1991, the Holy Loch was a base for the U.S. fleet of Polaris ballistic missile submarines. Today, Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, 25 miles (40 km) west of Glasgow, is the base for the four Trident-armed Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines that comprise the UK's nuclear deterrent.

Three frontline Royal Air Force bases are also located in Scotland. These are RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars, the last of which is the most northerly air defence fighter base in the United Kingdom.

The only open-air live depleted uranium weapons test range in the British Isles is located near Dundrennan. As a result, over 7000 radioactive munitions lie on the seabed of the Solway Firth.


A piper playing the Great Highland Bagpipe.

Scottish music is a significant aspect of the nation's culture, with both traditional and modern influences. An example of a traditional Scottish instrument is the Great Highland Bagpipe, a wind instrument consisting of three drones and a melody pipe (called the chanter), which are fed continuously by a reservoir of air in a bag. The clàrsach, fiddle and accordion are also traditional Scottish instruments, the latter two heavily featured in Scottish country dance bands. Today, there are many successful Scottish bands and individual artists in varying styles.

Scottish literature includes text written in English, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, French, and Latin. The poet and songwriter Robert Burns wrote in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and in a "light" Scots dialect which is more accessible to a wider audience. Similarly, the writings of Sir Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle were internationally successful during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. J. M. Barrie introduced the movement known as the " Kailyard school" at the end of the 19th century, which brought elements of fantasy and folklore back into fashion. This tradition has been viewed as a major stumbling block for Scottish literature, as it focused on an idealised, pastoral picture of Scottish culture. Some modern novelists, such as Irvine Welsh (of Trainspotting fame), write in a distinctly Scottish English that reflects the harsher realities of contemporary life. More recently, author J.K. Rowling has become one of the most popular authors in the world (and one of the wealthiest) through her Harry Potter series, which she began writing from a coffee-shop in Edinburgh.

The national broadcaster is BBC Scotland ( BBC Alba in Gaelic), a constituent part of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the publicly-funded broadcaster of the United Kingdom. It runs two national television stations and the national radio stations, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, amongst others. The main Scottish commercial television stations are STV and Border Television. National newspapers such as the Daily Record, The Herald, and The Scotsman are all produced in Scotland. Important regional dailies include The Courier in Dundee in the east, and The Press and Journal serving Aberdeen and the north.


The Old Course at St Andrews

Sport is an important element in Scottish culture, with the country hosting many of its own national sporting competitions, and enjoying independent representation at many international sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the Commonwealth Games (although not the Olympic Games). Scotland has its own national governing bodies, such as the Scottish Football Association (the second oldest national football association in the world) and the Scottish Rugby Union. Variations of football have been played in Scotland for centuries with the earliest reference dating back to 1424. Association football is now the national sport and the Scottish Cup is the world's oldest national trophy. Scottish clubs have been successful in European competitions with Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967, Rangers and Aberdeen winning the Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and 1983 respectively, and Aberdeen also winning the European Supercup in 1983. The Fife town of St. Andrews is known internationally as the Home of Golfand to many golfers the Old Course, an ancient links course dating to before 1574, is considered to be a site of pilgrimage. There are many other famous golf courses in Scotland, including Carnoustie, Gleneagles, Muirfield and Royal Troon. Other distinctive features of the national sporting culture include the Highland games, curling and shinty. Scotland played host to the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and 1986, and will do so again in 2014.

National symbols

The Saltire. The national flag of Scotland

The Flag of Scotland, known as the Saltire or St. Andrew's Cross, dates (at least in legend) from the 9th century, and is thus the oldest national flag still in use. Since 1606 the Saltire has also formed part of the design of the Union Flag. There are numerous other symbols and symbolic artefacts, both official and unofficial, including the thistle, the nation's floral emblem, the 6 April 1320 statement of political independence the Declaration of Arbroath, the textile pattern tartan that often signifies a particular Scottish clan, and the Lion Rampant flag.

Official status as a Royal flag does not prevent the Royal Standard of Scotland appearing unofficially as a second national flag

Flower of Scotland is popularly held to be the National Anthem of Scotland, and is played at events such as football or rugby matches involving the Scotland national team. Scotland the Brave is used for the Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games. However, since devolution, more serious discussion of the issue has led to the use of Flower of Scotland being disputed. Other candidates include Highland Cathedral, Scots Wha Hae and A Man's A Man for A' That.

St Andrew's Day, 30 November, is the national day, although Burns' Night tends to be more widely observed. Tartan Day is a recent innovation from Canada. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, designating the day to be an official bank holiday.

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