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Scotland (Alba in Gaelic) is a nation in northwest Europe and a constituent
country of the United Kingdom. It occupies the northern third of the island of
Great Britain and shares a land border to the south with England and is bounded
by the North Sea on the east and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. Its capital
city is Edinburgh.
The Kingdom of Scotland was united in 843, by King Kenneth I of Scotland, and is
thus one of the oldest still-existing countries in the world. Scotland existed
as an independent state until 1 May 1707, when the 1707 Act of Union merged
Scotland with the Kingdom of England to create the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The flag of Scotland - the Saltire - is thought to be the oldest national flag
still in use. The patron saint of Scotland is Saint Andrew, and Saint Andrew's
Day is the 30 November. There are currently attempts to create an additional
national holiday on this day.
Inventors, Scottish by birth or residence, have played prominent parts in such
important inventions and discoveries as Watt's steam engine, Macleod with
insulin, McAdam's macadam roads, Thomson and Dunlop with the pneumatic tyre,
Bell's telephone, Baird's television, Robert Watson-Watt's radar, and James
Chalmers' invention of the postage stamp. Alexander Fleming's discovery of
penicillin and James Young Simpson's pioneering developments in anaesthesia were
two of the most important breakthroughs in modern medicine. John Napier
contributed Napier's bones and natural logarithms, Adam Smith helped to create
modern economics, and the popular sport of golf is usually regarded as a
History of Scotland
The history of Scotland begins around 10,000 years before the present day,
when modern humans first began to inhabit Scotland after the end of the
Wisconsin glaciation, the last ice age. Of the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron
Age civilisations that existed in the country, many artefacts remain but few are
The written history of Scotland largely begins with the arrival of the Roman
Empire in Britain, when the Romans occupied what is now England and Wales,
administering it as a Roman province called Britannia. To the north was
territory not governed by the Romans—Caledonia. Its people were the Picts. From
a classical historical viewpoint Scotland seemed a peripheral country, slow to
gain advances filtering out from the Mediterranean fount of civilisation, but as
knowledge of the past increases it has become apparent that some developments
were earlier and more advanced than previously thought, and that the seaways
were very important to Scottish history.
The country's lengthy struggle with England, its more powerful neighbour to the
south, was the cause of the Wars of Scottish Independence, forcing Scotland to
rely on trade, cultural and often strategic ties with a number of European
powers. Following the Act of Union and the subsequent Scottish Enlightenment and
Industrial Revolution, Scotland became one of the commercial, intellectual and
industrial powerhouses of Europe. Its industrial decline following the Second
World War was particularly acute, but in recent decades the country has enjoyed
something of a cultural and economic renaissance, fuelled in part by a resurgent
financial services sector, the proceeds of North Sea oil and gas, and latterly a
People lived in Scotland for at least 8500 years before recorded history
dealt with Britain. At times during the last interglacial period (130,000 –
70,000 BC) Europe had a climate warmer than today's, and early humans may have
made their way to Scotland, though archaeologists have found no traces of this.
Glaciers then scoured their way across most of Britain, and only after the ice
retreated did Scotland again become habitable, around 9600 BC.
Mesolithic hunter-gatherer encampments formed the first known settlements, and
archaeologists have dated an example at Cramond near Edinburgh to around 8500
BC. Numerous other sites found around Scotland build up a picture of highly
mobile boat-using people making tools from bone, stone and antlers.
Neolithic farming brought permanent settlements, and the wonderfully
well-preserved stone house at Knap of Howar on Papa Westray dating from 3500 BC
predates by about 500 years the village of similar houses at Skara Brae on the
Mainland of the Orkney Islands. The settlers introduced chambered cairn tombs
from around 3500 BC (Maes Howe offers a prime example), and from about 3000 BC
the many standing stones and circles such as the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney and
Callanish on Lewis. These form part of the Europe-wide Megalithic culture which
also produced Stonehenge in Wiltshire, and which pre-historians now interpret as
showing sophisticated use of astronomical observations.
The cairns and Megalithic monuments continued into the Bronze age, and hill
forts started to appear, such as Eildon hill near Melrose in the Scottish
Borders, which goes back to around 1000 BC and which accommodated several
hundred houses on a fortified hilltop.
Brythonic Celtic culture and language spread into Scotland at some time after
the 8th century BC, possibly through cultural contact rather than through mass
invasion, and systems of kingdoms developed.
From around 700 BC the Iron age brought numerous hill forts, brochs and
fortified settlements which support the image of quarrelsome tribes and petty
kingdoms later recorded by the Romans, though evidence that at times occupants
neglected the defences might suggest that symbolic power had as much
significance as warfare.
The written history of Scotland largely begins with the coming of the Roman
empire to Britain. Although the pre-Roman inhabitants occasionally used writing
for commemorative purpose, these societies favoured a strong oral history. With
the loss of the druidic tradition (due to war, famine, and particularly the
proscriptions of later Christian missionaries), the people forgot much of this
lore. The only surviving pre-Roman account of Scotland originated with the Greek
Pytheas of Massalia who circumnavigated the British islands (which he called
Pretaniké) in 325 BC, but the record of his visit dates from much later.
The Roman invasion of Britain began in earnest in AD 43. Following a series of
military successes in the south, forces led by Gnaeus Julius Agricola entered
Scotland in 79. The Romans met with fierce resistance from the local population
of Caledonians. In 82 or 83 Agricola sent a fleet of galleys up round the coast
of Scotland, as far as the Orkney Islands. In 84 Agricola defeated the
Caledonian tribes at the Battle of Mons Graupius. His supporters in Rome
proclaimed that he had defeated all the tribes of Britain.
The only historical source for this comes from the writings of Agricola's
son-in-law, Tacitus. Archaeology backed up with accurate dating from
dendrochronology suggests that the occupation of southern Scotland started
before the arrival of Agricola. Whatever the exact dating, for the next 300
years Rome had a significant presence along its northern border, militarily,
economically and socially.
The Romans marked their borders with a series of defensive fortifications,
including large continuous wall barriers. The earliest of these, the Gask Ridge
in Perthshire, dates from the 70s or 80s AD. In the 120s the Roman emperor
Hadrian ordered the building of a fortified wall on a line running from the
River Tyne to the Solway Firth. Twenty years later the Roman governor Lollius
Urbicus built the Antonine Wall (so-named after Antoninus Pius, the Roman
emperor who ruled from 138 to 161) further north, across the Forth-Clyde
isthmus. At half the length of Hadrian's Wall, this considerably shorter border
appeared easier to defend, but nevertheless it represented the northern reach of
the Roman Empire for only the next two decades. By approximately 160 an open but
manned border once again ran along Hadrian's Wall.
Although the Romans had not found direct rule of Caledonia viable, perhaps
because the wild nature of the country and the sparse population made the
collection of taxes infeasible, they maintained control through military
outposts as far north as Kincardineshire and with the assistance of tribes like
the Votadini who appear to have acted as buffer states. At the last
reorganisation of administration of the Roman Empire in Britain, a fifth
province was created, called Valentia, which comprised the areas between
Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall. Thus it can be seen that Rome had a
significant influence over Scotland, even though it did not formally annex it
for most of the period of Roman rule in Britain.
With the Roman withdrawal in the 5th century Valentia became part of the
Romano-British kingdom of Coel Hen, but after his death the kingdom broke up.
Post-Roman Northern Britain
In the wake of the Roman withdrawal Scotland's population comprised two main
the Picts, a people of uncertain origin (but possibly a Brythonic Celtic
group) who occupied most of Scotland north of the Firth of Clyde and the Firth
of Forth: the area known as "Pictavia"
- the Britons formed a Roman-influenced Brythonic Celtic culture in the
south, with the kingdom of Y Strad Glud (Strathclyde) from the Firth of Clyde
southwards, Rheged in Cumbria, Selgovae in the central Borders area and the
Votadini or Gododdin from the Firth of Forth down to the Tweed
Invasions brought three more groups, though the extent to which they replaced
native populations is unknown
- the Old Irish-speaking Scotti (Irish) or more specifically, the Dal
Riatans, arrived from Ireland from the late 5th century onwards, taking
possession of the Western Isles and the west coast in the Kingdom of Dalriada.
- the Anglo-Saxons expanding from Bernicia and the continent. Notably
seizing Gododdin in the 7th Century. A legacy of this influence is the
vernacular Scots language, a Germanic language similar to, but distinct from,
English. The language was initially termed Inglis but this terminology became
unpalatable after Anglo-Norman had been eclipsed by the English language
within England from the late 14th century onwards. Gaelic, which had earlier
been referred to as "Scottis" (pronounced the same way as Scots), was
increasingly referred to instead as Erse, the word used for Irish. This
terminology has now fallen out of use within Scottish Standard English,
however, and Gaelic is now normally used instead.
- in the aftermath of the 795 Viking raid on Iona, the Norse Jarls of Orkney
took hold of the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, while Norse settlers
mixed with the inhabitants of Galloway to become the Gallgaels.
The British Saint Ninian conducted the first Christian mission in Scotland.
From his base, the Candida Casa (present-day Whithorn) on the Solway Firth, he
spread the faith in the south and east of Scotland and in the north of England.
However, according to the writings of Saint Patrick and Saint Columba, the Picts
appear to have renounced Christianity in the century between Ninian's death
(432) and the arrival of Saint Columba in 563. The reason is not known. The
Gaels re-introduced Christianity into Pictish Scotland, gradually pushing out
worship of the older Celtic gods. The most famous evangelist of that period,
Saint Columba, came to Scotland in 563 and settled on the island of Iona. Some
consider his (possibly apocryphal) conversion of the Pictish King Brude the
turning point in the Christianisation of Scotland.
Rise of the Kingdom of Alba
The myth of MacAlpin's Treason tells how Alba was born when the Dalriadan
Kenneth mac Alpin conquered the Picts. Modern studies are less sure of Kenneth's
Dalriadan roots and consider Kenneth and his successors to be Pictish Kings.
Kenneth's son Constantine had the Series Longoir written to show his family's
claim to the throne of a united Pictland. The triumph of Gaelic over Pictish and
the change from Pictland to Alba is placed in the half-century reign of
Constantine mac Aeda. Why and how this happened is unknown.
At first this new kingdom corresponded to Scotland north of the Rivers Forth and
Clyde. Southwest Scotland remained under the control of the Strathclyde Britons.
Southeast Scotland was under the control from around 638 of the proto-English
kingdom of Bernicia, then of the Kingdom of Northumbria. This portion of
Scotland was contested from the time of Constantine II and finally fell into
Scottish hands in 1018, when Malcolm II pushed the border as far south as the
River Tweed. This remains the south-eastern border to this day (except around
Scotland, in the geographical sense it has retained for nearly a millennium,
completed its expansion by the gradual incorporation of the Britons' kingdom of
Strathclyde into Alba. In 1034, Duncan I, descended from Irish Ui Neill
monastery protectors and appointed to the crown of Strathclyde some years
earlier, inherited Alba from his maternal grandfather, Malcolm II. With the
exception of Orkney, the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, which had come
under the sway of the Norse, Scotland stood unified.
Macbeth, the "Cenél Loairn" candidate for the throne whose family had been
suppressed by Malcolm II, defeated Duncan in battle in 1040. Macbeth then ruled
for seventeen years before Duncan's son Malcolm III, more commonly known as
Malcolm Canmore (Scottish Gaelic: Ceann mňr meaning "Big Head"), overthrew him.
(William Shakespeare, in his play Macbeth, later immortalised these events, in a
heavily fictionalised way based on inaccurate contemporary history that
flattered the antecedents of James VI of Scotland/I of England at Macbeth's
expense. For a more accurate fictional account, it is better to read Dorothy
Dunnett's novel, King Hereafter.)
Malcolm's victory foreshadowed what became a major thread of Scottish history
for the next thousand years. He had relied on Northumbrian assistance to return
to the throne, and from then on Scotland at no time remained very far from the
thoughts of England's rulers. The reciprocal condition equally applied.
In 1066 the Norman Conquest shook England to its foundations and one of the
claimants of the English throne opposing William the Conqueror, Edgar,
eventually fled to Scotland. Malcolm married Edgar's sister Margaret, and thus
came into opposition to William who had already disputed Scotland's southern
borders. William invaded Scotland in 1072, riding through Lothian and past
Stirling on to the Firth of Tay where he met up with his fleet of ships. Malcolm
submitted, paid homage to William, and surrendered his son Duncan as a hostage.
Margaret herself had a great influence on Scotland. She is said to have brought
European cultivation to the warlike Scottish court. She had an English father
and a Hungarian mother and had grown up in Hungary with her background steeped
in the Roman Catholic church. Her influence in Church politics, pressed the
Scottish Church to move away from some of its unique Celtic traditions towards
greater conformity with the rites of the Church in the rest of Western Europe.
Invasions by the Vikings during the centuries previous had cut Scotland and
Ireland off from the bulk of European Christianity, and their local Churches had
evolved along their own paths. However at this point the Church explicitly
recognised the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as its head and at her instigation, the
Benedictine order founded a monastery at Dunfermline, and St Andrews began to
replace Iona as the centre of ecclesiastical leadership. The rites of the
Scottish church became gradually re-integrated with mainstream Western
Catholicism from that base.
When Malcolm died in 1093, his brother Donald III and Malcolm's eldest son by
Margaret Edmund I succeeded him to rule Scotland jointly. However, William II of
England backed Malcolm's son by his first marriage, Duncan, as a pretender to
the throne. With the English behind him Duncan briefly seized power as Duncan
II. His murder within a few months saw Donald and Edmund restored to joint rule.
The two ruled Scotland until two of Edmund's younger brothers returned from
exile in England with English military backing. Victorious, the two younger
brothers imprisoned Donald III and Edmund I for life, and the older of the two
became King Edgar in 1097. Shortly afterwards King Magnus Bare Leg of Norway
forced King Edgar into ceding the Hebrides and Kintyre to Norway, creating the
conditions for the independence of the Lords of the Isles from the Scottish
When Edgar died in 1107, Margaret's third son Alexander became king, and when he
in turn passed away in 1124, the crown passed to her fourth son David I. During
David's reign Lowland Scots (known as Inglis then) began to grow in south east
Scotland, although Gaelic would continue to be spoken in many parts of what
would become the Lowlands for centuries more.
The governmental and cultural innovations introduced by the Norman conquerors of
England impressed David greatly, and he arranged for several notables to come
north and take up places within the Scottish aristocracy. The Normans
effectively militarised large sections of Scotland, building strong stone
castles, and imposing the feudal system upon the peasantry; they came into
frequent conflict with the native nobility, especially in the north east and
south west of the country. Like his successors, he planted a number of towns or
"burghs", which were colonised by Normans, Flemish merchants and Englishmen.
In a mirror of the invitation of the Normans northwards, David received lands
south of the border in fee from the English kings. This meant that the Kings of
Scotland also functioned as Earls of Huntingdon, and that the Earls paid
ceremonial homage to the English kings for the lands received. This homage
proved problematic, however, as Malcolm Canmore as the King of Scotland had paid
homage to the new Norman Kings of England twice after defeats during his various
campaigns against the Normans in support of his Anglo-Saxon brother-in-law
Edgar_Atheling's claim to the English throne. The English maintained that this
meant Scotland had become subordinate to England.
David himself during his reign fended off this claim, but Henry II defeated
David's grandson, William the Lion and hauled him off to the English holdings in
Normandy. There William had to swear fealty in 1174, not as Earl but as King.
For the first time, Scotland became nominally unified with England. The vow was
nullified in 1189 when Richard I accepted a payment from William, needed for
Richard's crusade to the Middle East, but the submission hung over the Scottish
kings for some time afterwards.
In 1263 Scotland and Norway fought the Battle of Largs for control over the
Western Isles. The battle proved a success for the Scots, and in 1266 the
Norwegian king Magnus VI of Norway signed the Treaty of Perth, which
acknowledged Scottish suzerainty over the islands. Despite the treaty the
practical independence of the Lord of the Isles continued.
A series of deaths in the line of succession in the 1280s, followed by King
Alexander III's death in 1286 left the Scottish crown in disarray. His
grand-daughter Margaret, the "Maid of Norway", a four-year old girl, became
Queen of Scots.
Edward I of England, as Margaret's great-uncle, suggested that his son (also a
child) and Margaret should marry, stabilising the Scottish line of succession.
In 1290 Margaret's guardians agreed to this, but Margaret herself died in Orkney
on her voyage from Norway to Scotland before either her coronation or her
marriage could take place.
War with England
Margaret's death (1290) now left the Scottish throne with no clear successor,
and Edward became the arbitrator between the various claimants to the crown. He
immediately stated that any claimant to the throne would have to acknowledge him
as overlord. With a large number of claimants, it was not difficult to find a
plausible one who would accept this condition: Edward selected him, and John
Balliol became king (17 November 1292).
Balliol soon tried to back out of the arrangement, largely because Edward put
considerable ingenuity into ways of emphasising his alleged position as the
Scottish king's formal overlord. In 1295 John renounced his allegiance and
entered into an alliance with France. This renewed the Auld Alliance first
arranged by William the Lion.
Edward invaded Scotland in 1296 and swiftly brought Balliol to heel, moving to
establish full English control over Scotland. In this environment William
Wallace and Andrew de Moray raised southern and northern Scotland into rebellion
and were elected as Guardians of Scotland by the nobility in Balliol's absence.
Under their joint leadership the English army was defeated at the Battle of
Stirling Bridge. De Moray died of his wounds two months later. For a short time
Wallace ruled Scotland in the name of John Balliol.
Edward retaliated and defeated Wallace at the Battle_of_Falkirk_(1298). Wallace
escaped but resigned as Guardian of Scotland. John Comyn and Robert the Bruce
were appointed in his place, the latter the grandson of a failed claimant to the
throne during Edward's arbitration in 1292. In 1304, English troops forced all
Scottish notables into giving homage to Edward but secret pacts were made by
Bruce and others to continue the struggle once conditions were ripe. Wallace was
betrayed and fell into the hands of the English, who executed him in 1305 for
treason despite the fact that he owed no allegiance to England.
From this low point, the Scots regained and reinforced their independence from
England during the first two decades of the 14th century. Robert the Bruce
believed that John Comyn had betrayed a secret pact between them and
participated in his murder during a private meeting in a church in Dumfries in
1306. Bruce subsequently was crowned as King in 1307, but Edward's forces again
soon overran the country after defeating Bruce's small army at the Battle of
Methven. Despite the excommunication of Bruce and his followers by Pope Clement
V, support for Bruce slowly strengthened and by 1314 with the help of leading
nobles such as Sir James Douglas and the Earl of Moray only the castles at
Bothwell and Stirling remained under English control. Edward I had died in 1307,
and his heir Edward II moved an army north to break the siege of Stirling Castle
and reassert control. Robert defeated that army at the Battle of Bannockburn in
1314, securing de facto independence. In 1320 a remonstrance to the Pope from
the nobles of Scotland (the Declaration of Arbroath) finally convinced Pope John
XXII to overturn the earlier excommunication and nullify the various acts of
submission by Scottish kings to English ones so that Scotland's sovereignty
could be recognised by the major European dynasties.
In 1326, the first full Parliament of Scotland met. The parliament had evolved
from an earlier council of nobility and clergy, the colloquium, constituted
around 1235, but in 1326 representatives of the burghs — the burgh commissioners
— joined them to form the Three Estates.
In 1328, Edward III signed the Treaty of Northampton acknowledging Scottish
independence under the rule of Robert the Bruce. After Robert's death in 1329,
however, England once more invaded on the pretext of restoring the "Rightful
King" — Edward Balliol, son of John Balliol — to the Scottish throne, thus
starting the Second War of Independence. In the absence of a leader with the
military competence of Wallace or of The Bruce, Scotland remained under English
control, directly or indirectly, for over thirty years, and only fully regained
its independence under David II after Balliol's death, mainly because Edward
III's attention had by then turned to France and to the Hundred Years War.
See Also: Wars of Scottish Independence
Late Medieval events
After David's death, Robert II, the first of the Stewart (later Stuart)
kings, came to the throne in 1371. There followed in 1390 his ailing son John,
who, due to the hatred inspired by the previous King John (Balliol), took the
regnal name Robert III. During Robert III's reign (1390 – 1406), actual power
rested largely in the hands of his brother, also named Robert, the Duke of
Albany. In 1396 during this king's reign, the last trial by combat in Europe,
the Battle of the Clans took place before the King in Perth.
However problems with England continued. After the suspicious death (possibly on
the orders of the Duke of Albany) of his elder son, David, Duke of Rothesay in
1406, Robert III sent his son James (the future James I) to France for safety.
Unfortunately the English captured him en route and he spent the next 18 years
as a prisoner held for ransom. As a result, after the death of Robert III,
regents ruled Scotland: firstly, the Duke of Albany; and later his son, during
whose office the country fell into near anarchy. When Scotland finally paid the
ransom in 1424, James returned at the age of 32, with his English bride. He
determined to restore justice and the rule of law and to deal with his enemies.
He set about this immediately and ruthlessly, using military measures, reforming
the parliamentary and court systems, and killing anyone who threatened his
authority, including his cousin Albany. This resulted in a much greater amount
of power in the hands of the Scottish government than at any time preceding, but
the process led to great unpopularity for James and finally to his assassination
in 1437. His son James II (reigned 1437–1460), when he came of age in 1449,
continued his father's policy of weakening the great noble families, most
notably taking on the great House of Douglas that had come to prominence at the
time of the Bruce.
Scotland advanced markedly in educational terms during the fifteenth century
with the founding of the University of St Andrews in 1413, the University of
Glasgow in 1450 and the University of Aberdeen in 1494, and with the passing of
the Education Act 1496.
In 1468 the last great acquisition of Scottish territory occurred when James III
married Margaret of Denmark, receiving the Orkney Islands and the Shetland
Islands in payment of her dowry.
After the death of James III (1488), again by assassination, his successor James
IV successfully ended the quasi-independent rule of the Lord of the Isles,
bringing the Western Isles under effective Royal control for the first time. In
1503, he married Henry VII's daughter, Margaret Tudor, thus laying the
foundation for the 17th century Union of the Crowns. James IV's reign is often
considered to be a period of cultural flourishing, and it was around this period
that the European Renaissance began to infiltrate Scotland. James IV was the
last known Scottish king known to be able to speak Gaelic, although some suggest
his son could also.
In 1512 under a treaty extending the Auld Alliance, all nationals of Scotland
and France also became nationals of each other's countries, a status not
repealed in France until 1903 and which may never have been repealed in
Scotland. However a year later, the Auld Alliance had more disastrous effects
when James IV was required to launch an invasion of England to support the
French when they were attacked by the English under Henry VIII. The invasion was
stopped decisively at the battle of Flodden Field during which the King, many of
his nobles, and over 10,000 troops — The Flowers of the Forest — were killed.
The extent of the disaster impacted throughout Scotland because of the large
numbers killed, and once again Scotland's government lay in the hands of
regents. The song The Flooers o' the Forest commemorated this, an echo of the
poem Y Gododdin on a similar tragedy in about 600.
When James V finally managed to escape from the custody of the regents with the
aid of his redoubtable mother in 1528, he once again set about subduing the
rebellious Highlands, Western and Northern isles, as his father had had to do.
He married the French noblewoman Marie de Guise. His reign was fairly
successful, until another disastrous campaign against England led to defeat at
the battle of Solway Moss(1542). James returned, broken, to die a short time
later. The day before his death, he was brought news of the birth of an heir: a
daughter, who became Mary I of Scotland (or 'Mary, Queen of Scots'). James is
supposed to have remarked that it "came with a lass, it will go with a lass"-
referring to the House of Stewart which began with Walter Stewart's marriage to
the daughter of Robert the Bruce. Once again, Scotland was in the hands of a
regent, James Hamilton, Earl of Arran.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Within two years, the Rough Wooing, Henry VIII's military attempt to force a
marriage between Mary and his son, Edward, had begun. This took the form of
border skirmishing and it was at this time that the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed
was finally taken by the English. To avoid the "wooing", Mary was sent to France
at the age of five, as the intended bride of the heir to the French throne. Her
mother stayed in Scotland to look after the interests of Mary — and of France —
although the Earl of Arran acted officially as regent.
In 1547, after the death of Henry VIII, forces under the English regent Edward
Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset were victorious at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh,
the climax of the Rough Wooing and followed up by occupying Edinburgh. However
it was to no avail since Queen Mary was in France and Marie de Guise called on
French reinforcements who helped stiffen resistance to the English occupation.
By 1550, after a change of regent in England, the English withdrew from Scotland
From 1554, Mary's mother, Marie, took over the regency and continued to advance
French interests in Scotland. French cultural influence resulted in a large
influx of French vocabulary into Scots, for example. But anti-French sentiment
also grew, particularly among Protestants, who saw the English as their natural
allies. In 1560 Marie died, and with her death the Auld Alliance also died at
the Treaty of Edinburgh. Mary, now nineteen and recently widowed, returned to
take up the government of Scotland in a hostile environment. She did not do well
and after only seven turbulent years, at the end of which Protestants had gained
complete control of Scotland, she had perforce to abdicate and flee to England,
leaving her young son, James VI, in the hands of regents.
During the 16th century, Scotland underwent a Protestant Reformation. In the
earlier part of the century, the teachings of first Martin Luther and then John
Calvin began to influence Scotland. The execution of a number of Protestant
preachers, most notably the Lutheran influenced Patrick Hamilton in 1527 and
later the Calvinist George Wishart in 1546 who were burnt at the stake in St.
Andrews by Cardinal Beaton for heresy, did nothing to stem the growth of these
ideas. Beaton was assassinated shortly after the execution of George Wishart.
The eventual Reformation of the Scottish Church, was carried out by Parliament
from 1560 (during the minority of Mary Queen of Scots). The most influential
figure was that of John Knox, who had been a disciple of both John Calvin and
George Wishart. Roman Catholicism was not totally eliminated, and remained
strong particularly in parts of the highlands.
The Reformation remained somewhat precarious through the reign of Queen Mary,
who remained Roman Catholic, her son James VI, however, was raised as a
Protestant. In 1603, following the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth I, the
crown of England passed to James. He took the title James I of England, thus
unifying these two countries under his personal rule. For a time, this remained
the sole connection between two independent nations, but it foreshadowed the
eventual 1707 union of Scotland and England under the banner of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain.
One of the primary differences between the two countries was religious. While
both had national churches that were Protestant, they were quite distinct. The
Church of England had broken with the Roman Pontiff but had not adopted
Calvinism as the Scots. England retained her Episcopal form of Church
government, whilst Scots, for the greater part, favoured Presbyterian.
Subsequent Stuart monarchs tried to enforce bishops upon the Scottish Church,
but with limited success.
Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Puritan Commonwealth
Shortly after his reign began, an attempt by Charles I to impose English-style
prayer books on the Scottish church resulted in anger and widespread rioting.
(The story goes that it was initiated by a certain Jenny Geddes who threw a
stool in St Giles Cathedral.) Representatives of various sections of Scottish
society drew up the National Covenant, asserting Presbyterian practice. Charles
gathered a military force, but lost his nerve on the eve of his invasion,
settling for negotiations. When the Scots notables held their ground, he again
sought a military solution, but his troops were turned back after inconclusive
fighting. As a result of these "Bishops' Wars" Charles tried to raise an army of
Irish Catholics, but was forced to back down after a storm of protest in
Scotland and England. The backlash from this venture provoked a rebellion in
Ireland and Charles was forced to summon the English Parliament to appeal for
funds. The summoning of this parliament led to demands for reform in England,
and eventually resulted in the English Civil War). This series of civil wars
that engulfed Britain in the 1640s and 50s is known to modern historians as the
Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The Covenanters meanwhile, were left governing
Scotland, where they raised a large army of their own and tried to impose their
religious settlement on Episcopalians and Roman Catholics in the north of the
Civil War in England and Scotland
As the civil wars developed, the English Parliamentarians appealed to the Scots
Covenanters for military aid against the King. The Scots agreed in return for
substantial religious and political concessions. Scottish troops played a major
part in the defeat of Charles I, notably at the battle of Marston Moor. An army
under the Earl of Leven occupied the North of England for some time. However,
not all Scots supported the Covenanter's taking arms against their King. In
1645, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose attempted to raise the Highlands
for the King. In truth, few Scots would follow him, but, aided by 1,000 Irish,
Highland and Islesmen troops sent by the Irish Confederates under Alasdair
MacColla, and an instinctive genius for mobile warfare, he was stunningly
successful. A Scottish Civil War began in September 1644 with his victory at
battle of Tippermuir. After a series of victories over poorly trained Covenanter
militias, the lowlands were at his mercy. However, at this high point, his army
melted away as MacColla and the Irish and Highland men fell out with Montrose,
who shortly after was defeated at the battle of Philiphaugh. In July 1646, his
army was disbanded on the King's orders as Charles tried to find an
accommodation with moderate Scots Presbyterians. In this secret 'engagement',
the Scots promised military aid in return for Charles promising Presbyterianism.
When the English parliamentarians refuse to release the King, the Duke of
Hamilton then led a invasion of England, but it came too late to save the King,
and was defeated by Oliver Cromwell in August 1647.
Cromwellian Occupation and Restoration
The Covenanters objected to the English Parliament's arrest and execution of
Charles I in 1649. The Stuarts after all were of Scottish descent and more
importantly, had promised to take the Covenant themselves in return for an
alliance against the English Parliament. After Charles' execution in 1649, his
eldest son was proclaimed King Charles II in Edinburgh. Oliver Cromwell then
invaded Scotland in 1650, and defeated the Scottish army in a series of battles
at Dunbar and Worcester. Scotland was then occupied by an English force under
George Monck throughout the Interregnum and indeed annexed by the
From 1652 to 1659, Scotland was part of Cromwell's Commonwealth, under English
control but gaining equal trading rights. Upon its collapse, and with the
restoration of Charles II, nominal Scottish independence returned. Scotland
regained its parliament, but the English Navigation Acts prevented the Scots
engaging in what would have been lucrative trading with England's growing
colonies. The formal frontier between the two countries was re-established, with
customs duties which, while they protected Scottish cloth industries from cheap
English imports, also denied access to English markets for Scottish cattle or
Scottish linens. (Braudel 1984 p 370).
Charles largely ignored Scotland for the next two decades, concentrating on
extending his power in England, though his brother James as Duke of York
instituted the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands which worked in
co-operation with the clan chiefs and built up goodwill. Charles did, however,
continue his father's policy of re-introducing Episcopalian government into the
Scottish Church. Whilst this was not without some support in Scotland, in 1679
it provoked another Presbyterian rebellion in the south. Charles contained the
rebellion and brutally suppressed the Covenanters, in what became known as "the
Killing Time". When he died in 1685 and his brother, a Roman Catholic, succeeded
him as James VII of Scotland (and II of England), matters came to a head.
The Glorious Revolution
James's attempt to introduce religious toleration to England's Roman
Catholics alienated his Protestant subjects. Neither this, nor his moves towards
absolutism, provoked outright rebellion, as it was believed that he would be
succeeded by his daughter Mary, a Protestant and future wife of William of
Orange. When, in 1688, James produced a male heir, everything changed. At the
invitation of English parliamentarians, William landed in England with 40,000
men, and James fled. Whilst this was primarily an English event, the "Glorious
Revolution" had a great impact on Scottish history. Whilst William accepted
limits on royal power, under the Bill of Rights (a contract between himself and
the English parliament, Scotland had an equivalent document in the Claim of
Rights. This is an important document in the evolution of the rule of law and
the rights of subjects.
Most Scots supported the new Royal family, but many (particularly in the
Highlands) remained sympathetic to the Roman-Catholic Stuarts. Their cause,
which became known as Jacobitism, spawned a series of uprisings. An initial
Jacobite rising under John Graham, 1st Viscount Dundee (Bonnie Dundee) defeated
William's forces at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, but Dundee was slain in
the fighting, and the leaderless army was soon defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld.
The complete defeat of James in Ireland by William at the Battle of the Boyne
(1690), ended matters for a time. (Ironically, the protestant William had also
enjoyed the support of the Pope and the Catholic Habsburg monarchy against the
aggressive foreign policy of Louis XIV of France.)
The late 17th century was economically difficult for Scotland. The bad harvests
of the seven ill years in the 1690s led to severe famine and depopulation.
English protectionism kept Scots traders out of the new colonies, and English
foreign policy disrupted trade with France. As a result many Scots emigrated to
Ulster (the Ulster-Scots). The Parliament of Scotland of 1695 enacted a number
of remedies for the desperate economic situation, including setting up the Bank
of Scotland. The Act for the Settling of Schools established a parish-based
system of public education throughout Scotland. The Company of Scotland received
a charter to raise capital through public subscription to trade with Africa and
Scottish overseas colonies
In attempts to expand the Scots had earlier sent settlers to the English
colony of New Jersey and had established an abortive colony at Stuart's Town in
what is now South Carolina. The Company of Scotland soon became involved with
the Darién Scheme, an ambitious plan devised by William Paterson to establish a
colony on the Isthmus of Panama in the hope of establishing trade with the Far
East — the principle that led to the construction of the Panama Canal much
later. The Company of Scotland easily raised subscriptions in London for the
scheme. But the English government opposed the idea: involved in the War of the
Grand Alliance from 1689 to 1697 against France, it did not want to offend
Spain, which claimed the territory as part of New Granada. The English investors
had perforce to withdraw. Returning to Edinburgh, the Company raised 400,000
pounds in a few weeks. Three small fleets with a total of 3000 men eventually
set out for Panama in 1698. The exercise proved a disaster. Poorly equipped;
beset by incessant rain; under attack by the Spanish from nearby Cartagena; and
refused aid by the English in the West Indies, the colonists abandoned their
project in 1700. Only 1000 survived and only one ship managed to return to
Scotland. A desperate ship from the colony which called at Port Royal received
no assistance—on the orders of the English government. Realising the dangers of
the conflicting claims and aims of two independent kingdoms at odds with one
another, William of Orange called for a union of the two countries. It did not
happen. Union, when it did come in 1707, restored free trade between the
countries and gave the Scots access to the burgeoning English Empire.
Union, the Hanoverians and the Jacobites
By 1700, the Protestant monarchy seemed in danger of coming to an end with
the childless Stuart Queen Anne. Rather than return to the Roman Catholic
descendents of James II and VII, the English Parliament enacted that Sophia of
Hanover and her descendents should succeed (Act of Settlement 1701). However,
the Scottish counterpart, the Act of Security, merely prohibited a Roman
Catholic successor, leaving open the possibility that the crowns would
Rather than risk the possible return of the Old Pretender (the son of James
VII and II), then living in France, the English parliament pressed for full
union of the two countries. In 1707, despite much opposition in Scotland, the
Treaty of Union was concluded.
The treaty, which became the Act of Union 1707, confirmed the Hanoverian
succession. It abolished both the Parliaments of England and Scotland, and
established the Parliament of Great Britain. Scotland was to have 45 seats in
the House of Commons, and a representation in the House of Lords. The act also
created a common citizenship, giving Scots free access to English markets. The
position of the Scottish Church and separate Scottish law and courts was also
enshrined. This union was highly controversial among Scots, and increasingly
so as the hoped-for economic revival was not immediately forthcoming. When it
did come, in the second half of the century, it was Lowland Scotland that
received the benefits.
Jacobitism, however, was not yet a spent force. Indeed it was revived by the
unpopularity of the union. In 1708 James, 'the Old Pretender', attempted an
invasion with a French fleet, but the Royal Navy prevented any from landing. A
more serious attempt occurred in 1715. This rising (known as The 'Fifteen)
envisaged simultaneous uprisings in Wales, Devon and Scotland. However,
government arrests forestalled the southern ventures. In Scotland, John
Erskine, Earl of Mar, nicknamed Bobbin' John, raised the Jacobite clans and
led them bravely but indecisively. Mar captured Perth, but let a smaller
government force under the Duke of Argyll hold the Stirling plain. Part of
Mar's army joined up with risings in northern England and southern Scotland,
and the Jacobites fought their way into England before being defeated at the
Battle of Preston, surrendering on 14 November 1715. The day before, Mar
failed to defeat Argyll at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. At this point, James
belatedly landed in Scotland, but was advised that the cause was hopeless. He
fled back to France. An attempted Jacobite invasion with Spanish assistance in
1719 met with little support from the clans and ended at the Battle of Glen
In 1745 the Jacobite rising known as The 'Forty-Five began. Charles Edward
Stuart), known to history as Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender, son
of the Old Pretender, landed on the island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides.
Several clans unenthusiastically joined him. At the outset he was successful,
taking Edinburgh and then defeating the only government army in Scotland at
the Battle of Prestonpans. They marched into England and got as far as Derby.
Then it became evident that, as unpopular as the Hanoverians were, England
would not support a Roman Catholic Stuart monarch. The Jacobite leadership had
a crisis of confidence and retreated to Scotland.
The Duke of Cumberland crushed the "Forty-Five" and the hopes of the Jacobites
at the Battle of Culloden on April 16th 1746. Charles hid in Scotland with the
aid of Highlanders until September 1746, when he escaped back to France with
the help of Flora Macdonald. France expelled him in accordance with the Treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). He died a broken man, and his cause died with him.
Industrial Revolution, Clearance, and Enlightenment
After 1745, British authorities acted to suppress the clan loyalties in the
Highlands. The wearing of tartan and the playing of bagpipes were both
forbidden for a time. The warrior culture of the Highlands was re-diverted as
Highlanders were recruited as soldiers to serve in the wider British Empire.
Clan Chiefs were encouraged to consider themselves as owners of the land in
their control, in the English manner - it was previously considered common to
As these new landowners converted land to more profitable sheep pasture, many
were dispossessed, some even faced forcible removal. In what became known as
the "Highland Clearances", the population fell significantly. Large numbers of
Highlanders relocated to the lowland cities, becoming the labour force for the
emerging industrial revolution, many emigrated to other parts of the British
Empire, particularly Nova Scotia, the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and Upper
Canada (later known as Ontario).
At the same time, the Scottish Agricultural Revolution changed the face of the
Scottish Lowlands and transformed the traditional system of subsistence
farming into a stable and productive agricultural system. This also had
effects on population and precipitated a migration of Lowlanders, now
recognised as the "Lowland Clearances".
Internationally, Scotland's fate was tied to that of the United Kingdom as
a whole. Shortly after Culloden, Britain successfully fought the Seven Years'
War (1756 – 1763), demonstrating its rising significance as a great power. As
a partner in the new Britain, Scotland began to flourish in ways that she
never had as an independent nation. As the memory of the Jacobite rebellion
faded away, the 1770s and 80s saw the repeal of much of the draconian laws
passed earlier. Most were repealed by 1792 as the Episcopalian and Catholic
clergy no longer refused to pray for the reigning monarch, although Unitarians
were still affected.
Economically, Glasgow and Edinburgh began to grow at a tremendous rate at the
end of the 18th century. The Scottish Renaissance was one of philosophy and
science. The Scottish Enlightenment involved names such as Adam Smith, David
Hume and James Boswell. Scientific progress was led by James Hutton and
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin and James Watt (instrument maker to Glasgow
Pre-eminent in contemporary literature was Sir Walter Scott, a prolific writer
of ballads, poems and the historical novels. His romantic portrayals of
Scottish life in centuries past still continue to have a disproportionate
effect on the public perception of "authentic Scottish culture," and the
pageantry he organised for the Visit of King George IV to Scotland made tartan
and kilts into national symbols. George MacDonald also influenced views of
Scotland in the latter parts of the 19th century.
As the 19th century wore on, Lowland Scotland turned more and more towards
heavy industry. Glasgow and River Clyde became a major ship-building centre.
Glasgow became one of the largest cities in the world, and known as "the
Second City of Empire" after London.
Scotland comprises the northern part of the island of Great Britain; it is
bordered on the south by England. Scotland's territorial extent is generally
that established by the 1237 Treaty of York between Scotland and England and the
1266 Treaty of Perth between Scotland and Norway. Exceptions include the Isle of
Man, which is now a crown dependency outside the United Kingdom, Orkney and
Shetland, which are Scottish rather than Norwegian, and Berwick-upon-Tweed,
which was defined as subject to the laws of England by the 1746 Wales and
The country consists of a mainland area plus several island groups, including
Shetland, Orkney, and the Hebrides, divided into the Inner Hebrides and Outer
Hebrides. Three main geographical and geological areas make up the mainland:
from north to south, the generally mountainous Highlands, the low-lying Central
Belt, and the hilly Southern Uplands. The majority of the Scottish population
resides in the Central Belt, which contains three of the country's six largest
cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling) and many large towns. Most of the
remaining population lives in the North-East Lowlands, where two of the
remaining three cities (Aberdeen and Dundee) are situated. The final city,
Inverness, is situated where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth, on the Great
Glen Fault between the North-West Highlands and the Cairngorms.
Government and Politics
As one of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, Scotland is represented
in the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London. The Scottish Parliament in
Edinburgh has the power to govern the country on Scotland-specific matters and
has a limited power to vary income tax. The United Kingdom Parliament retains
responsibility for Scotland's defence, international relations and certain other
areas. The Scottish Parliament is not a sovereign authority, and the UK
Parliament could, in theory, overrule or even abolish it at any time.
For the purposes of local government, Scotland is divided into 32 unitary
authority districts. Popular folk-memory continues to divide Scotland into 33
Head of State
Queen Elizabeth II, head of state of the United Kingdom, is descended from King
James VI, King of Scots, the first Scottish monarch to also be King of England
(James I, King of England from 1603). While great controversy has simmered
amongst the Scottish public over her official title since her coronation (many
believe that, being the first Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, she should use
the regnal name "Elizabeth I"), the courts of Scotland have confirmed "Elizabeth
II" as her official title. She has said that in the future monarchs will follow
the international ordinal tradition that, where a monarch reigns in a number of
non-independent territories (or independent territories that agree to share a
monarch) that each have a differing number of previous monarchs of the same
name, the highest ordinal used in any of the territories is the one used across
all (see List of regnal numerals of future British monarchs). Monarchs between
1603 and 1707, such as James VI and I and James VII and II, reigned over
separate states and hence used a dual ordinal (see Personal union). Properly,
the Scottish monarch was known as King of Scots or Queen of Scots, and referred
to as "your Grace", rather than "your Majesty".
Scotland retains its own unique legal system, based on Roman law, which combines
features of both civil law and common law. The terms of union with England
specified the retention of separate systems. The barristers being called
advocates, and the judges of the high court for civil cases are also the judges
for the high court for criminal cases. Scots Law differs from England's common
Formerly, there were several regional law systems in Scotland, one of which was
Udal Law (also called allodail or odal law) in Shetland and Orkney. This was a
direct descendant of Old Norse Law, but was abolished in 1611. Despite this,
Scottish courts have acknowledged the supremacy of udal law in some property
cases as recently as the 1990s. There is a movement to restore udal law to
the islands as part of a devolution of power from Edinburgh to Shetland and
The laws regarding the nobility are also different in Scotland. Lords known as
"Barons" in England are known as "Lords of Parliament." Gentlemen known as
"Barons" in Scotland are not members of the House of Lords, as their titles
(although still legitimate) are based on the old system of feudal baronies.
Various systems based on common Celtic or Brehon Laws also survived in the
Highlands until the 1800s.
Historically the politics of Scotland have reflected those of the UK as a
whole, although with some differences. For example, besides the main UK-wide
political parties (Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats) a number of
Scottish-specific parties operate. These include the Scottish National Party (SNP)
which is Scotland's second largest party and forms the main opposition in
Parliament, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Scottish Green Party.
These parties became more of a force in Scottish politics after the
establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1998. Unlike England, which has a
more of a left/right split politically, the political right in Scotland is
actually amongst the smallest political groupings with the four main Parties all
coming from a mix of far-left to moderate-left philosophies.
The traditional political divides of left and right have also intersected with
arguments over devolution, which all the UK-wide parties have supported to some
degree throughout their history (although both Labour and the Conservatives have
swithered a number of times between supporting and opposing it). However, now
that devolution has occurred, the main argument about Scotland's constitutional
status remains between those who support Scottish independence and those who
oppose it. Recent trends indicate, according to the State of the Nation Poll
2004, that 66% of Scots would like the Scottish Parliament to have more powers,
while only 25% would like to see the powers returned to Westminster.
Scotland has three distinct languages: English, Gaelic, and Scots.
Almost all Scots speak Scottish Standard English. It is estimated by the General
Register Office for Scotland that 30% of the population are also fluent in
Scots, a West Germanic language sister to the English language. Slightly more
than 1% of the population are native Gaelic speakers, a Celtic language similar
to Irish. Eilean Siar is the only unitary council region of Scotland where
Gaelic is spoken by a majority of the population and that fact is reflected in
the use of Gaelic in its official name. Almost all Gaelic speakers also speak
By the time of James VI's accession to the English throne, the old Scottish
Court and Parliament spoke and wrote in Scots, also known as Lowland Scots or
Lallans (although strictly speaking Lallans is a literary dialect of the Scots
language). Scots is widely believed to have developed from the Northumbrian form
of Anglo-Saxon, spoken in Bernicia which, in the 6th century, conquered the
Brythonic kingdom of Gododdin (modern-day Lothian) and renamed its capital,
Dunedin, to Edinburgh. The influence of settlers from the Low Countries and
Norway in the east coast burghs founded from the reign of David I onwards was
also an important factor in the development of the language, however. Scots
contains a number of borrowed and loaned words from Gaelic.
The Scottish Parliament recognises both English and Gaelic as official languages
of Scotland, both receiving "equal respect" although not equal validity. Gaelic
received official recognition through the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.
The Scots language was also officially recognised as a "regional or minority
language" under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified
by the United Kingdom in 2001, and the Scottish Executive, has promised to
provide support in their Partnership Agreement 2003. The Scottish Language
Dictionaries project receives some state funding via the Scottish Arts Council.
Scotland has a civic and ethnic culture distinct from that of the rest of the
British Isles. It originates from various differences, some entrenched as part
of the Act of Union, others facets of nationhood not readily defined but readily
The system of Education in Scotland is also separate, and has a distinctive
history as the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a
system of general public education. The early roots were in the Education Act of
1496 which first introduced compulsory education for the eldest sons of nobles,
then the principle of general public education was set with the Reformation
establishment of the national Kirk which in 1561 set out a national programme
for spiritual reform, including a school in every parish. In 1633 the Parliament
of Scotland introduced a tax on local landowners to fund this, subsequently
strengthened with the Education Act of 1696 which remained in force until 1872.
The Act of Union guaranteed the rights of the Scottish universities and
confirmed the position of the Kirk, maintaining Scotland's pre-eminence in
public education. Education finally came under the control of the state rather
than the Kirk and became compulsory for all children from the implementation of
the Education Act of 1872 onwards.
As a result, for over two hundred years Scotland had a higher percentage of its
population educated at primary, secondary and tertiary levels than any other
country in Europe. The differences in education have manifested themselves in
different ways, but most noticeably in the number of Scots who went on to become
leaders in their fields during the 18th and 19th centuries. The politician Jim
Wallace stated in October 2004 that Scotland still produces a higher number of
university and college graduates per head than anywhere else in Europe.
School students in Scotland sit Standard Grade exams while students in England
sit GCSE exams, and then a broad range of Higher Grade exams rather than
becoming more specialised under the English A-level system. Following this, a
Scottish university's honours degree takes four years of study as opposed to
three in the rest of the UK. The university systems in several Commonwealth
countries show marked affinities with the Scottish rather than the English
The Flag of Scotland dates from the 9th century making it one of the oldest
flags in the world. It now forms part of the Union Flag, the national flag of
the United Kingdom. However the Flag of Scotland, known as the Saltire or St
Andrew's Cross can be found flying all over Scotland.
A banner showing the old royal arms of the Kings of Scotland is also
frequently to be seen, particuarly at sporting events involving a Scottish
team. Often called the lion rampant (after its chief heraldic device), it is
the property of the Queen and its use by anybody else is technically illegal.
The banner is flown from Holyrood Palace and Balmoral Castle when the Queen is
not in residence.
The unicorn is also used as a symbol of Scotland. The Royal Coat of Arms
of Scotland, used prior to 1603 by the Kings of Scotland, incorporated a lion
rampant shield supported by two unicorns. On the union of the crowns, the Arms
were quartered with those of England and Ireland, and one unicorn was replaced
by a lion (the supporters of England).
The thistle, the national flower of Scotland, features in many Scottish
symbols and logos, and UK currency. The thistle is used as the emblem of the
Scottish Rugby team.
20th Century Scotland
Tied as it was to the health of the British Empire, Scotland suffered after
the First World War as it had gained beforehand. In the Highlands, which had
provided a disproportionate number of recruits for the army, a whole
generation of young men were lost, and many villages and communities suffered
greatly. In the Lowlands, particularly Glasgow, poor working and living
conditions led to industrial and political unrest. John MacLean became a key
political figure in what became known as Red Clydeside, and in January 1919,
the British Government, fearful of a revolutionary uprising, deployed tanks
and soldiers in central Glasgow. During the 1920s and 1930s, due to global
depression and foreign competition, Glasgow and Clydebank experienced high
In Second World War naval bases and infrastructure in Scotland were primary
German targets. Attacks on Scapa Flow and Rosyth gave RAF fighters their first
successes downing bombers in Firth of Forth and East Lothian. The shipyards
and heavy engineering factories in Glasgow and Clydeside played a key part in
the war effort, and suffered attacks from the Luftwaffe. Clydebank endured
great destruction and loss of life. The Highlands again provided a large
number of troops for the war effort. Commandos and resistance fighters
received training in the harsh conditions of the Lochaber mountains.
As transatlantic voyages involved negotiating the north-west, Scotland
played a key part in the battle of the North Atlantic. As in World War I,
Scapa Flow in Orkney served as an important Royal Navy base. Shetland's
relative proximity to occupied Norway, resulted in the Shetland Bus — fishing
boats helping Norwegians flee the Nazis, and expeditions across the North Sea
to assist resistance. Perhaps Scotland's most bizarre wartime episode occurred
in 1941 when Rudolf Hess flew to Renfrewshire, possibly to broker a peace deal
through the Duke of Hamilton.
After World War II, Scotland's economic situation became progressively worse
due to overseas competition, inefficient industry, and industrial disputes.
This only began to change in the 1970's, partly due to the discovery and
development of North Sea oil and gas and partly as Scotland moved towards a
more service-based economy. This period saw the emergence of the Scottish
National Party and movements for both Scottish independence and more popularly
devolution. However, a referendum on devolution in 1979 was unsuccessful.
As the Cold War intensified, the United States deployed Polaris ballistic
missiles, and submarines, in the Firth of Clyde's Holy Loch (1961). This was
despite opposition from CND campaigners. A Royal Navy nuclear submarine base
followed for Resolution class Polaris submarines at the expanded Faslane Naval
Base on the Gare Loch. The first patrol of a Trident-armed submarine occurred
in 1994, although the US base was closed at the end of the Cold War.
In 1997, the Blair Labour government again held a referendum on the issue of
devolution. A positive outcome led to the establishment of a devolved Scottish
Parliament which now stands next to Holyrood House in Edinburgh.
21st Century Scotland
The feudal system lingered on in Scots law on land
ownership, so that a landowner still had obligations to a feudal superior
including payment of feu duty. In 1974 legislation began a process of
redeeming feuduties so that most of these payments were ended, but it was only
with the attention of the Scottish Parliament that a series of acts were
passed, the first in 2000, for The Abolition of Feudal Tenure on November 28,