Scotland

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Scotland
Scotland-map.jpg
Flag of Scotland.png
Lion rampant.png
FlagCoat of Arms
CapitalEdinburgh
GovernmentDevolved parliamentary democracy
Language[[English, Gaelic]] (official)
MonarchQueen Elizabeth II
Prime ministerAlex Salmond (First Minister)

Scotland is the second-largest and northern-most of the four countries in the United Kingdom. It is about three-fifths the size of its southern neighbour England, but is much less populous; most of the population lives in the central belt, a band across central Scotland between the capital Edinburgh and the largest city, Glasgow. Other major cities are Aberdeen and Dundee.

Scottish nationalists in recent years have sought greater regional autonomy, and have been granted control over some issues, including justice and education.

A referendum on Independence will take place on the 18th of September to determine whether Scotland will become an Independent Country.

Contents

Symbol

The symbol of Scotland is the thistle. The Scottish flag is the Cross of St. Andrew, a white diagonal cross on a dark blue background. The design originated in the 9th century. Scotland's motto is Nemo Me Impune Lacessit ("No one provokes me with impunity")[1]

Geography

Scotland is split into three distinct geographical regions; the mountainous Highlands to the north, the rolling countryside of the Central Lowlands (where the major urban centres are located) and the hilly Southern Uplands that lie next to the English border. Scotland also includes the island groups of Orkney, Shetland, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the islands of the Firth of Clyde including Arran, Bute, Cumbrae and Wee Cumbrae, as well as the outlying St. Kilda archipelago, Rockall and various other smaller islands.

Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, is in the Scottish Highlands, as are most of the nation's highest mountains. Those with heights above 3000 feet are eponymously named Munros after Sir Hector Munro, the first person to compile a list of such mountains.[2]

Scotland has some 2,300 miles of coastline, including numerous estuaries called firths and sea lochs. Major rivers include the Spey, Tweed, Clyde, and Forth with the Tay being Scotland's longest river. Lakes, called lochs in the region, are abundant, with the name applied both to freshwater lakes and to sea inlets; Lochs Lomond, Morar, and Ness are the largest in the British Isles and well-known for their picturesque beauty, with Loch Ness having additional fame as the home of a legendary monster.

People

Religion

Scotland is historically Christian; the national church is the Church of Scotland.

Scotland was a Catholic nation until the time of the Reformation, when John Knox (1510-1572), George Wishart(1513-46) and other scholars returned from their travels in Germany excited by the works of John Calvin and to a lesser extent Martin Luther.

Many of the lords became Protestant and in 1560, the Scottish Parliament formally rejected Papal jurisdiction. The Protestants ousted the Catholic queen, Mary Stuart ('Mary, Queen of Scots') and replaced her with her son, James VI (later to become James I of England).

Scotland became overwhelmingly Protestant with Catholicism surviving only in the remote and sparsely populated Highlands. About a third of the Presbyterians split off in the "Disruption of 1843" to form the Free Church of Scotland. After various other splits most of the Free Church reunited with the Church of Scotland in 1929. The Church of Scotland had about 960,000 adult members in 1980 but only 600,000 in 2006.

From the mid 19th century until the inter war period, there were large scale immigrations of Irish Catholics to Scotland's industrial urban centres and this changed the religious demography. Today there are a similar number of communicants of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland although both religions have suffered considerable declines in church going attendances. The Anglican (Episcopalian) Church is predominant in the north-east. Recent immigration has produced significant populations of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs in Scotland's major cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee).

Culture and sports

Scotland has given the English speaking world many of the language's finest writers, poets and philosophers. Among these are Adam Smith, David Hume, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Frances Hutcheson, James Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M Barrie and Hugh MacDiarmid. The Scottish intellectual and cultural tradition can be traced back to the Scottish Enlightenment, a remarkable period in the 18th century characterized by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. Indeed it was Voltaire who said "we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization." Scotland is also famous for its disproportionate amount of inventors and scientists such as Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), Lord Kelvin (the Kelvin si unit of temperature), James Watt (condensed steam power), John Napier (logarithms and the decimal point), Joseph Lister (pioneer of antiseptics), Alexander Fleming (penicillin) James Clark Maxwell (electro-magnetism), Robert Watson Watt (radar) and John Logie Baird (television). It is home to ancient world class universities including the three Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews and being one of the first industrialized and urbanized nations in the world.

Above all else the national preoccupation is football (soccer). Other popular pastimes include rugby, lawn bowls, motorsports, horseracing, shinty, curling, sports of the Highland Games - such as tossing the caber- and, of course, golf. Scotland is the home of golf. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews is the governing body of world golf.

Other things associated with the country are kilts (tartan skirt-like garments worn traditionally worn by Scotsmen), and the haunting music of the bagpipes. Scottish soldiers wore the kilt in battle up to the First World War and the pipes have signalled attacks by Scottish armies from mediaeval times. Famously, Brigadier Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, led a commando attack on Pegasus Bridge during the D-Day invasion of France accompanied by his piper Bill Millin, an event commemorated in the film The Longest Day. Famous Scottish products include haggis and Scotch whisky.

Government

Scotland has its own Parliament comprising 129 members (MSPs) as well as sending 59 Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent its interests in the United Kingdom parliament which sits in London. Scottish MPs have historically been recognized for their political skills and appointed to the Cabinet in larger numbers than is proportionate; former Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were born in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is the government in Scotland for devolved matters. Responsibility for all devolved matters was passed to the Scottish Executive from the Scottish Office and other UK Government departments in 1999. The members of the Scottish Government are chosen from the party or parties holding most seats in the Parliament. The Scottish Government is led by the First Minister, who forms a ministerial team of Cabinet Secretaries. In the election on May 5 2011, the Scottish National Party won a majority, a remarkable achievement given that the Scottish electoral system is intended to produce coalition governments.

Principal Government Officials

The Government of Scotland has a number of departments within the cabinet, headed up by a cabinet secretary, as follows:

Alex Salmond - First Minister
Nicola Sturgeon - Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health
John Swinney - Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth
Mike Russell - Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
Kenny MacAskill - Cabinet Secretary for Justice
Richard Lochhead - Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment
Bruce Crawford - Cabinet Secretary for Parliament and Government Strategy
Fiona Hyslop - Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs
Alex Neil - Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment

These secretaries are aided in their work by ministers, working within the cabinet departments, and each having their own specific area of devolved responsibility.[3]

Relations with England

Relationships between Scottish and English MPs before devolution were sometimes tense because of what the former Conservative Party MP, by then an Ulster Unionist, Enoch Powell dubbed The West Lothian question. The name arose in 1977 after Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for West Lothian in Scotland, asked during a debate in the Houses of Parliament over Scottish and Welsh devolution:

For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate... at least 119 Honorable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on British politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

He pointed out that he as MP for West Lothian could vote on matters affecting English constituencies but not his own constituency.

On January 10th 2012, Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and Michael Moore, British Secretary of State for Scotland agreed on an independence referendum in the autumn of 2014. According to Alex Salmond, it would be Scotland’s “most important decision for 300 years.” [4]

Lockerbie bombing

The Government of Scotland has recently come under global scrutiny for its decision, led by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahl, the only man convicted of the terrorist attack leading to the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. He had served only 8 years of his term when he was released on grounds of compassion because he had terminal cancer, as required by Scots Law. A majority of the victims were American, and this decision received strong criticism from many Americans as well as the FBI Director Robert Mueller.[5]. The original conviction of al-Magrahi was controversial, however, both within Scotland and in the UK in general because the evidence leading to his conviction was extremely flimsy and it has been alleged that the key witness had been paid for giving his evidence by the Clinton administration or Blair government[6].

Libyan ruler Qaddafi profusely thanked British officials, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for helping secure the release of the terrorist back to Libya. British Prime Minister Brown replied with a confusing set of denials, a disapproval of the hero's welcome that the terrorist received upon return to Libya, and a partial release of voluminous communications leading up to the release.[7]

Economy

Scotland's position at the forefront of the industrial revolution in the 19th century bequeathed a legacy of heavy engineering and manufacturing that lasted well into the 20th century. However with de-industrialisation from the 1970s onwards and latterly the relocation of manufacturing jobs to countries with lower labour costs (eg. Eastern Europe) the Scottish economy is now heavily dependant on tourism, the oil industry, agriculture, the service industry and public sector jobs.

History

Scotland has been inhabited since the first Mesolithic hunter-gatherers are thought to have migrated to Scotland.[8] These inhabitants showed advanced knowledge of astronomy, creating several Stonehenge-like monuments.

At the time of the Romans the tribes in what became Scotland were similar to those further south, and can be considered to be Celtic peoples. Those from the North-East were called ‘Picti’ (Picts) by Roman writers, which could mean ‘painted people' and refer to tattoos. The Romans never subdued these northern tribes, and after a brief period when the Antonine Wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde was the Roman Empire’s northern frontier, they drew back and had Hadrian’s Wall as the frontier. They did try to influence the tribes between the two Walls, and when kingdoms like Strathclyde emerged in the early Dark Ages, their rulers often bore Roman names or titles, the dynasties having been founded by Roman officials. The Scots themselves began arriving as settlers in the West of Scotland at this time (AD 400-500). They were from a part of the north of Ireland and spoke Old Irish, which changed to become Scottish Gaelic, and eventually replaced Pictish. They sometimes warred with the Picts and Britons and sometimes allied with them, but a unified kingdom under the Scottish king Kenneth Mac Alpin was established in AD 843, called ‘Alba’ (still the Gaelic name for Scotland). This kingdom took over Strathclyde in the early 11th century to form the basis of Mediaeval Scotland. Normans and their descendants such as Robert the Bruce ('de Brus' was a Norman surname) became important nobles in Scotland.

Scotland had the earliest system of general public education in the world in modern times, dating from 1496. Education was further promoted by the Church of Scotland following the Protestant Reformation in 1560, because it was believed important that each person could read the Bible for him or herself in English.

Union with England

After the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended to the Throne of England, becoming James I of England. He was the first monarch to call himself King of Great Britain. This is referred to as the Union of the Crowns. James was also at this time King of Ireland.

The Parliaments of Scotland and England were not united until 1707 and it is this date that is recognized as the formation of Great Britain. This is referred to as the Union of the Parliaments. (The United Kingdom was to come into being with the addition of Ireland in 1801.) The formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 resulted in the current name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Monarchs of Scotland

Before the Union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603 (the years in brackets are the years during which the monarch ruled)

House Of Alpin

House Of Dunkeld

House Of Balliol

House Of Bruce

House Of Stewart

House Of Stuart

External Links

References

  1. http://www.scotland-guide.co.uk/ALL_AREAS_IN_SCOTLAND/Glasgow/Areas/Centre/Mercat_Cross.htm
  2. for a complete list of Munros see http://www.sol.co.uk/d/dickwall/munroes.htm
  3. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/14944/Scottish-Cabinet
  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/world/europe/scotland-plans-independence-vote.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=scotland&st=cse
  5. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/08/22/fbi-director-slams-scotland-lockerbie-bomber-release/
  6. http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=in_the_back&article=122
  7. http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14376240
  8. At least 8500 years before recorded history dealt with Britain, according to the uniformitarian timescale. Scotland History, Wormland, Jenny. Scotland: a History. 2005, Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.1
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