administrative division of the kingdom of Great Britain, occupying the
northern third of the island of Great Britain. Scotland is bounded on the
north by the Atlantic Ocean; on the east by the North Sea; on the southeast
by England; on the south by Solway Firth, which partly separates it from
England, and by the Irish Sea; and on the west by North Channel, which
separates it from Ireland, and by the Atlantic Ocean. As a geopolitical
entity Scotland includes 186 nearby islands, a majority of which are
contained in three groups—namely, the Hebrides, also known as the Western
Islands, situated off the western coast; the Orkney Islands, situated off the
northeastern coast; and the Shetland Islands, situated northeast of the
Orkney Islands. The largest of the other islands is the Island of Arran. The
area, including the islands, is 78,772 sq km (30,414 sq mi). Edinburgh
(population, 1991, 421,213) is the capital of Scotland as well as a major
industrial area and seaport.
The Land and Resources
Scotland has a very irregular coastline. The western coast in
particular is deeply penetrated by numerous arms of the sea, most of which
are narrow submerged valleys, known locally as sea lochs, and by a number of
broad indentations, generally called firths. The principal firths are the
Firth of Lorne, the Firth of Clyde, and Solway Firth. The major indentations
on the eastern coast are Dornoch Firth, Moray Firth, the Firth of Tay, and
the Firth of Forth. Measured around the various firths and lochs, the
coastline of Scotland is about 3700 km (about 2300 mi) long.
The terrain of Scotland is predominantly mountainous but may
be divided into three distinct regions, from north to south: the Highlands,
the Central Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands. More than one-half of the
surface of Scotland is occupied by the Highlands, the most rugged region on
the island of Great Britain. Consisting of parallel mountain chains with a
general northeastern-southwestern trend and broken by deep ravines and valleys,
the Highlands are noted for their scenic grandeur. Precipitous cliffs,
moorland plateaus, mountain lakes, sea lochs, swift-flowing streams, and
dense thickets are common to the Highlands, the most sparsely inhabited
section of Scotland. The region is divided in two by a depression, known as
the Glen More, or Great Glen, which extends from Moray Firth to Loch Linnhe.
To the northwest of this lie heavily eroded peaks with fairly uniform
elevations ranging from 610 to 915 m (about 2000 to 3000 ft). In the Highlands
southeast of the Great Glen the topography is highly diversified. This region
is traversed by the Grampian Mountains, the principal mountain system of
Scotland. The highest peak of the Grampians is Ben Nevis (1343 m/4406 ft),
the highest summit in Great Britain.
To the south of the Highlands lies the Central Lowlands, a
narrow belt comprising only about one-tenth of the area of Scotland, but
containing the majority of the country's population. The Central Lowlands are
traversed by several chains of hills, including the Ochil and Sidlaw hills,
and by several important rivers, notably the Clyde, Forth, and Tay.
The terrain of the Southern Uplands, a region much less
elevated and rugged than the Highlands, consists largely of a moorland
plateau traversed by rolling valleys and broken by mountainous outcroppings.
Only a few summits in the Southern Uplands exceed 762 m (2500 ft) in
elevation, the highest being Merrick (843 m/2765 ft) in the southwest.
Adjoining the Southern Uplands region along the boundary with England are the
Rivers and Lakes
Scotland is characterized by an abundance of streams and lakes
(lochs). Notable among the lakes, which are especially numerous in the
central and northern regions, are Loch Lomond (the largest), Loch Ness, Loch
Tay, and Loch Katrine. Many of the rivers of Scotland, in particular the
rivers in the west, are short, torrential streams, generally of little
commercial importance. The longest river of Scotland is the Tay; the Clyde,
however, is the principal navigational stream, site of the port of Glasgow.
Other chief rivers include the Forth, Tweed, Dee, and Spey.
Like the climate of the rest of Great Britain, that of
Scotland is subject to the moderating influences of the surrounding seas. As
a result of these influences, extreme seasonal variations are rare, and
temperate winters and cool summers are the outstanding climatic features. Low
temperatures, however, are common during the winter season in the mountainous
districts of the interior. In the western coastal region, which is subject to
the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream, conditions are somewhat milder
than in the east. The average January temperature of the eastern coastal
region is 3.9њ C (39њ F), and the average
January temperature of the western coastal region is 3.1њ C (37.5њ F); corresponding July
averages are 13.8њ C (56.8њ F) and 15њ C (59њ F). The average January
and July temperatures for the city of Edinburgh are 3.5њ C (38њ F) and 14.5њ C (58њ F), respectively.
Precipitation, which is marked by regional variations, ranges from about 3810
mm (about 150 in) annually in the western Highlands to about 635 mm (about 25
in) annually in certain eastern areas.
Plant and Animal Life
The most common species of trees indigenous to Scotland are
oak and conifers—chiefly fir, pine, and larch. Large forested areas, however,
are rare, and the only important woodlands are in the southern and eastern
Highlands. Except in these wooded areas, vegetation in the elevated regions
consists largely of heather, ferns, mosses, and grasses. Saxifrage, mountain
willow, and other types of alpine and arctic flora occur at elevations above
610 m (2000 ft). Practically all of the cultivated plants of Scotland were
imported from America and the European continent.
The only large indigenous mammal in Scotland is the deer. Both
the red deer and the roe deer are found, but the red deer, whose habitat is
the Highlands, is by far the more abundant of the two species. Other
indigenous mammals are the hare, rabbit, otter, ermine, pine marten, and
wildcat. Game birds include grouse, blackcock, ptarmigan, and waterfowl. The
few predatory birds include the kite, osprey, and golden eagle. Scotland is
famous for the salmon and trout that abound in its streams and lakes. Many species
of fish, including cod, haddock, herring, and various types of shellfish, are
found in the coastal waters.
Scotland, like the rest of the island of Great Britain, has
significant reserves of coal. It also possesses large deposits of zinc,
chiefly in the south. The soil is generally rocky and infertile, except for
that of the Central Lowlands. Northern Scotland has great hydroelectric power
potential and contains Great Britain's largest hydroelectric generating
stations. Beginning in the late 1970s, offshore oil deposits in the North Sea
became an important part of the Scottish economy.
The people of Scotland, like those of Great Britain in
general, are descendants of various racial stocks, including the Picts,
Celts, Scandinavians, and Romans. Scotland is a mixed rural-industrial
society. Scots divide themselves into Highlanders, who consider themselves of
purer Celtic blood and retain a stronger feeling of the clan, and Lowlanders,
who are largely of Teutonic blood.
The population of Scotland was (1991 preliminary) 4,957,289.
The population density was about 64 persons per sq km (167 per sq mi). The
highest density is in the Central Lowlands, where nearly three-quarters of
the Scots live, and the lowest is in the Highlands. About two-thirds of the
population are urban dwellers.
The most populous city in Scotland (654,542) is Glasgow. The
conurbation of Clydeside, which includes the cities of Glasgow and Clydebank,
is the largest shipbuilding and marine engineering center in Great Britain.
Other important industrial cities are Dundee (165,548) and Aberdeen
Religion and Language
The Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian denomination, is the
official state church. The Roman Catholic church is second in importance.
Other leading denominations are the Episcopal Church in Scotland,
Congregationalist, Baptist, Methodist, and Unitarian. Jews are a small
English is generally spoken; fewer than 100,000 Scots (mainly
inhabitants of the Highlands and island groups) also speak the Scottish form
Schools in Scotland are administered by the Scottish Education
Department and by local education authorities.
Elementary and Secondary Schools
In the mid-1980s some 879,000 pupils were attending publicly
maintained schools and about 31,900 were in private schools. The transfer
from elementary to secondary schools generally takes place at the age of 12.
For a discussion on specialized schools.
Universities and Colleges
Scotland has about 66 institutions providing programs of study
beyond the secondary level for those students who do not go on to the
universities. These include colleges of agriculture, art, commerce, and
science, and in the mid-1980s the total enrollment was more than 81,000.
Teacher-training colleges numbered seven, with approximately 3000 students.
Of the eight universities in Scotland, the oldest (University of Aberdeen,
University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and University of St.
Andrews) were founded in the 15th and 16th centuries. Four universities have
received their charters since 1960. Total university enrollment was about
43,100 in the early 1980s.
Clans, the traditional keystone of Scottish society, are no
longer powerful. Originally, the clan, a grouping of an entire family with
one head, or laird, was also important as a fighting unit. The solidarity
associated with clan membership has been expanded into a strong national
pride. The Puritan zeal of Scottish Presbyterianism, which is traceable to
John Knox, the 16th-century religious reformer and statesman, is also strong.
Popular sports of Scottish origin include curling and golf.
Bagpipes, usually associated with Scottish music, were
probably introduced by the Romans, who acquired them in the Middle East.
Scottish music is noted for the wide use of a five-tone, or pentatonic,
scale. Folk tunes are not standardized, and a single song may have hundreds
of variations in lyrics and music.
Scotland is governed as an integral part of Great Britain. It
is represented by 72 members in the House of Commons and by 16 Scottish peers
in the House of Lords.
Scottish affairs are administered by a British cabinet
ministry, headed by the secretary of state for Scotland.
The statutory functions of the secretary of state are
discharged by five main departments of equal status: the Department of
Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, the Scottish Development Department,
the Scottish Education Department, the Scottish Home and Health Department,
and the Industry Department for Scotland. Each is administered by a secretary
who is responsible to the secretary of state. The routine administration of
the departments proceeds from Edinburgh, but each department has representatives
in London, where they perform liaison and parliamentary duties.
Before the union of Scotland and England in 1707, Scotland had
developed its own system of law, which continued after the union. The
Scottish law system is based on civil law, which is derived from ancient
Roman law, whereas the other parts of Great Britain follow the common law,
which originated in England with the evolution of case law and precedents.
Because of the different systems of law, separate statutes or statutory provisions
often are enacted by Parliament for application in Scotland. Any statute must
state expressly or imply that it is applicable to Scotland in order to become
The Scottish judiciary is organized separately from that of
the rest of Great Britain.
The two higher courts of Scotland are the High Court of
Justiciary (criminal) and the Court of Session (civil). A panel of 21 judges
is provided for both courts together. Major criminal trials are held before 1
or 2 judges of the High Court of Justiciary and a 15-member jury; criminal
appeals may be heard by a bench of at least 3 judges. The Court of Session is
divided into an Outer House, which holds all divorce trials and the more
important civil trials, and an Inner House, which functions chiefly as an
appellate court in civil cases. Appeals to the British House of Lords may be
made from the Court of Session; appellate judgments of the High Court of
Justiciary are final.
Each of the six sheriffdoms, into which Scotland is divided,
has a sheriff court for less important civil and criminal cases. Petty cases
are tried by police courts and justices of the peace.
Local Government and Political Parties
The Scottish Development Department is responsible for general
policy in regard to local government. A reorganization of local government in
Scotland was made effective in 1975, when the counties and burghs were
abolished and replaced by nine regions and three island areas. The regions
(but not the island areas) are divided into districts. Each of these units is
administered by a council, whose members are elected to 4-year terms. The
island areas, numbering some 700 islands and islets to the north and west,
the regions, and the former counties, all of which are described in separate
articles, are listed in the accompanying table.
Two leading British parties, the Conservative Party and the
Labour Party, have shared Scottish seats in Parliament about equally since
the 1920s. The Scottish Nationalist Party, which was founded in 1927 in order
to press for complete self-government, has played a minor role in the
politics of the country.
Many aspects of the economy of Scotland are covered in the
article on Great Britain. The currency of Great Britain is the legal tender
of Scotland. Both agriculture and industry are important in the economy of
Scotland. The chief exports are petroleum and natural gas and manufactured
goods, especially burlap, clothing, machinery, textiles, and whiskey. The
chief imports are food and iron. The center of Scottish trade unionism is the
Scottish Trades Union Congress, with an affiliated membership of more than
More than three-fourths of the land is used for agriculture;
approximately equal areas are devoted to farming and grazing. The most
important crops are wheat, oats, and potatoes. Other crops include barley,
turnips, and fruit. Livestock and livestock products are also of major
importance. Sheep are raised in both the Highlands and island groups and the
Southern Uplands. Scotland is also known for its beef and dairy cattle and
for its dairy products.
Forestry and Fishing
About 607,000 hectares (about 1.5 million acres) of Scotland
is forested, 60 percent of which is publicly owned. In Scotland fishing is
more important than forestry. The principal fishing ports are Aberdeen,
Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and Lerwick. The catch consists mainly of whitefish,
herring, crabs, and lobsters.
Mining and Manufacturing
Coal is the chief mineral wealth, and the industry is
nationalized. Nearly all the major coal deposits are found in the Central
Lowlands. Limestone, clay, and silica are also mined. Iron ores and other
metals have been virtually exhausted. North Sea petroleum and natural gas are
sent by pipeline to points in the Orkney and Shetland islands and to the
mainland. Major oil refineries are located at Grangemouth and Dundee.
About 36 percent of the labor force is employed in
manufacturing. Shipbuilding, steelmaking, and the manufacture of electronic
items are major industries and are concentrated in the region surrounding
Glasgow. Other important manufactures include woolen textiles and yarn,
chemicals, machinery of many varieties, vehicles, and whiskey.
Transportation and Communications
About 48,000 km (about 30,000 mi) of highways and about 6400
km (about 4000 mi) of railroads serve Scotland. Public buses provide
transportation throughout most of the country, and many transatlantic flights
use Prestwick Airport near Glasgow. Most radio and television programs
originate in England. About 17 daily newspapers and 120 weeklies are
published in the country.