Scotland is the second largest country of the United Kingdom. It is about three-eighths the size of its larger 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 city of Glasgow. Other cities are Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness.
|Monarch||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Prime Minster||Gordon Brown MP|
|Secretary of State||Des Browne MP|
|First Minister||Alex Salmond MSP|
Scotland is historically Christian; the national church is the Church of Scotland
Scotland includes the island groups of Orkney, Shetland, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the islands of the Firth of Clyde including Arran, Bute, Cumbrae & Wee Cumbrae and various other smaller islands.
Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, is in the Scottish Highlands, as are most of the nations highest mountains. Those with heights above 914m (3000 feet) are eponymously named Munros after Sir Hector Munro, the first person to compile such a list.
Scotland is historically a Christian nation but its Christian foundations were shaken by the 18th century humanist and rationalist enlightenment that was capturing the imagination of liberal Europeans. Increasing numbers of Scots began to embrace enlightenment thinking rejecting traditional social, political and religious views. Inspired by the idea that God was not the solution for everything, and that some things were controlled by natural laws, not by the supernatural.
This spread of atheistic immorality led many Christian Scots to flee Scotland, in particular, to America, largely because landowners became more interested in securing profits to sustain their promiscuous and drunken lifestyles more congenial to the moral relativism engendered by liberal enlightenment thinking, rather than investing profits in sustaining intact Christian communities. Sheep became more important than people. Other Scots fled because they were simply appalled by their neighbors immoral behavior. The Americas offering a chance to live as Christians free from the rampant immorality that threatened to engulf them in Scotland. By the mid 1800s the population of Scotland was just over 2 million and by 1890 about half a million people had fled Scotland, some 250,000 of them to the United States.
Scotland's moral decline has continued unabated to the present day. Church attendance has plummeted to an all-time low of just over 7% of Scottish adults. In 1962 Scotland had 26,015 baptisms. In 1998, there were only 9,951. Currently some 40% of births are to unmarried mothers, the trend being upwards. In 2003/4 there were 7.5 conceptions per 1000 for 13-15 year olds and 68.2 conceptions per 1000 for 16-19 year olds with over 50% of the 13-15 year olds being pressured into abortion. . In Scotland, 93% of men and 87% of women aged 16-74 drink alcohol. The proportion of public school pupils aged 12-15 who had had an alcoholic drink in the previous week has risen in the last decade from 14% in 1990 to 21% in 2000. Death rates from alcohol have risen over 100% between 1990 and 2000, the rates for women being nearer 200%. Abuse of illegal drugs is also increasing rapidly. 
Scotland has four major cities. They are Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Inverness and Stirling were granted city status recently but are in fact smaller than some of the larger Scottish towns like Paisley and Perth.
Scotland has been inhabited since at least 8500BC, when the first Mesolithic hunter-gatherers are thought to have migrated to Scotland. 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 and 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 decscendents such as Robert the Bruce ('de Brus' was a Norman surname) became important nobles in Scotland.
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.
Scotland has its own Parliament of 129 members 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. The current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is Scottish, and formerly he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
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 Honourable 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.
Sports and culture
The national preoccupation, indeed obsession, is football (soccer). Other diversions include rugby, lawn bowls, motorsports, horseracing, shinty (similar to hockey), 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.
Scotland is famous for its disproportionate amount of inventions and discoveries (as immortalized in Wha's Like Us), its world class universities, the Scottish Enlightenment, being the one of the first industrial nations while still preserving some of the last great wildernesses of Europe, and being the home of golf.
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 and it is the oldest national flag still in use anywhere in the world. Other things associated with the country are kilts (tartan skirtlike garments worn by Scotsmen), and the haunting music of the bagpipes. Famous Scottish products include pies, haggis and Scotch whisky.
Also see Category:Scottish Culture.