Northern Ireland Scotland and Wales Scotland elects 72 of the 651
members of the Commons. The Lords has limited power. Most of its members
are nobles who inherit their seats. For more information on the British
government see United Kingdom (Government).
The Scottish Office. Scotland’s chief minister is the secretary of state
for Scotland. This official is appointed by the prime minister and is a
member of the Cabinet.
The secretary’s office called the Scottish Office, is based in Edinburgh
with an additional office in London. The Scottish Office has five main
departments. The Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department
deals with Scotland’s agricultural and fishing industries. The Scottish
Office Industry Department deals with industrial and economic
development. The Scottish Office Environment Department is concerned
with such fields as environmental protection housing and public
utilities. The Scottish Office Education Department supervises public
education. The Scottish Office Home and Health Department is responsible
for criminal justice, police and fire protection prisons and public
health. Each department of the Scottish Office is run by a secretary.
Devolution. Most Scots believe that Scotland should have greater control
over its own affair’s and they support some amount of devolution (the
granting of self-government). However the amount of self-government
desired differs among Scots Many want Scotland to be come an independent
country within the European community, an economic organization of
European nations. Many others believe that Scotland should have its own
legislative assembly while remaining a part of the United Kingdom. The
Scottish National Party favors independence. The Labour Party and the
Social and Liberal Democratic Party, which represent more than three
fourths of the Scottish members of Parliament, favor devolution within
the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party opposes independence or a
large degree of devolution.
Population. Scotland has a population of about 5 million. About three
fourths of the people live in the lowlands of central Scotland a region
that makes up only about a sixth of Scotland s mainland. The rugged
Highlands and the hilly uplands of southern Scotland are more sparsely
populated. The Highlands, which cover about two-thirds of the Scottish
mainland, have some of the most thinly populated areas in Scotland. Less
than 2 percent of the people live in Scotland s three island authority
areas of Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles.
One of Scotland’s major problems has been emigration. Particularly in
the 1960’s thousands of people left Scotland because of limited job
opportunities. But new industries, such as the production of oil from
the North Sea, have helped provide more jobs.
Ancestry. Most Scottish people are descended from peoples who came to
Scotland thousands of years ago. There groups included the Celts,
Scandinavians and a Celtic tribe from Ireland called the Scots. Each
group influenced Scottish civilization.
Language. English is the official language throughout the United
Kingdom. In Scotland English is spoken in a variety of dialects.
About 80,000 Scots speak Gaelic an ancient Celtic language. Most of
these people live in the Highlands or on the islands west of the
mainland See Gaelic language.
Way of life
Small homes row houses and apartment buildings made of stone are common
in Scotland s cities. Many Scottish cities developed around coal mining
and heavy industry during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Much of the
housing then was of poor quality. But after World War II ended in 1945
the government began extensive efforts to improve living conditions in
Scotland. It replaced much of the housing with modern government owned
dwellings. The district councils and island authority councils own the
government dwellings which are called council houses. By the 1990’s
privately owned housing was becoming more popular than government owned
housing in Scotland.
Scotland occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. The
River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills form Scotland’s southern border with
England. The North Channel separates southwestern Scotland from Northern
Ireland. The northwest coast faces the Atlantic Ocean. The east coast
faces the North Sea, which separates Scotland from the mainland of
Europe. For information on Scotland’s climate, see the table with the
Climate section of United Kingdom.
Rivers and lakes. The River Clyde is Scotland’s most important river.
Ships from the Atlantic Ocean can sail up the Clyde to Glasgow. The
Clyde was narrow and shallow until the 1700’s, when engineers widened
and deepened the river to make it navigable. Scotland’s longest rivers
flow eastward into the North Sea. The Tay, 120 miles (193 kilometers)
long, is the largest river in Scotland. It carries more water than any
other river in the United Kingdom.
Many of Scotland’s rivers flow into wide bays called firths. The firths
of Clyde and Lorn lie on the west coast. The firths of Forth and Tay and
Moray Firth are on the east coast. All ships bound for Glasgow must pass
through the Firth of Clyde. A suspension bridge, one of the longest in
the world, spans the Firth of Forth at Queensferry. It is 8,244 feet
(2,513 meters) long.
Most of Scotland’s lakes, which are called lochs, lie in deep Highland
valleys. Loch Lomond is Scotland’s largest lake. It is 23 miles (37
kilometers) long and 5 miles (8 kilometers) wide at its widest point. A
series of lakes extends through Glen Mor. These lakes are connected by
canals and form the Caledonian Canal, which cuts across Scotland from
Moray Firth to the Firth of Lorn. One of the canal’s lakes, Loch Ness,
is famous for its «monster.» Some people claim to have seen a creature
30 feet (9 meters) long in the lake. Along the west coast of Scotland,
the Atlantic Ocean extends inland in many narrow bays called sea lochs.
Islands. Scotland has hundreds of islands. A large group of islands
called the Hebrides lies off the west coast of Scotland’s mainland. The
Orkney and Shetland groups lie north of the mainland and form the
boundary between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Rural life. Less than one-fourth of Scotland’s people live in rural
areas. Much of Scotland’s countryside has rugged terrain and offers only
a limited number of jobs and resources. Some rural workers fish, grow
crops, raise livestock, or harvest timber. However, only about 2 percent
of Scotland’s employed people earn their living in farming, fishing, and
forestry. As a result, many rural dwellers work in the cities.
Food and drink. Favorite foods and beverages in Scotland increasingly
resemble those in other parts of the United Kingdom. Most Scottish
cooking is simple. Favorite traditional Scottish dishes include fish and
chips, herring, roast beef, and roast lamb. The Scots also enjoy fine
steaks from Scotland’s famous Aberdeen-Angus cattle.
Other traditional Scottish foods include haggis, kippers, oatmeal, and
salmon. Haggis is a famous national dish made from the heart, liver, and
lungs of a sheep. These ingredients are chopped with suet (animal fat),
onions, oatmeal, and seasonings, and then boiled in a bag made from a
sheep’s stomach. Kippers are smoked herring, a favorite breakfast dish.
Oatmeal is used in many Scottish dishes, including porridge and oatcakes
(flat cakes cooked on a griddle), both of which are popular for
breakfast. Salmon is served smoked, grilled, or poached. Salmon taken
from Scottish waters is considered one of the world’s tastiest fishes.
In addition to traditional Scottish foods, other foods such as
hamburgers, pizzas, and curries (stews spiced with curry) are popular in
Scotland. Tea is also popular. The number of Scots who drink coffee has
increased greatly since the mid-1900’s.
One of the favorite alcoholic drinks in Scotland is Scotch whisky, or
Scotch. The Scots have been making whisky since the 1400’s. They export
about 85 million gallons (322 million liters) of Scotch yearly.
Education. Scotland’s system of education is separate from that of
England and Wales and from that of Northern Ireland. The Scottish Office
Education Department and local education authorities supervise the
school system in Scotland.
All Scottish children between the ages of 5 and 16 must attend school.
Nearly all schools are supported by public funds. Scotland has few
private schools, most of which are in Edinburgh.
For many years, Scotland had separate schools for vocational and
academic education. But during the 1970’s, these specialized schools
were replaced with comprehensive schools. Comprehensive schools provide
both types of education, and students take courses geared to their
Scotland has 12 universities—Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow,
Glasgow Caledonian, Heriot-Watt, Napier, Paisley, Robert Gordon, St.
Andrews, Stirling, and Strathclyde. Aberdeen, Glasgow, and St. Andrews
were founded in the 1400’s. Edinburgh and Glasgow are the largest
Religion. The Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church, is the official
church of Scotland. But the people may worship as they choose. Many
Scots are Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, or
members of Presbyterian churches other than the Church of Scotland.
The Church of Scotland has about 2 million members. The members elect
about 1,250 ministers and elders (officers) of the church to the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which meets once a year. The
assembly is often called the Voice of Scotland because it discusses
national and world affairs as well as church matters. The British
monarch sometimes attends the assembly meeting.
The arts. Scotland has produced many famous artists, especially in the
field of literature. The earliest Scottish literature was chiefly oral.
It was sung or chanted by poet-singers called bards, who composed poetry
and songs in the Gaelic language. Between the 1300s and 1700’s, famous
Scottish poets included John Barbour, Gavin Douglas, William Dunbar, and
Allan Ramsay. Robert Burns, who wrote in the late 1700’s, became the
national poet of Scotland. He wrote many works in Scots, the literary
Scottish dialect. Many modern Scottish poets, including Hugh McDiarmid,
Tom Scott, and Douglas Young, also have used Scots. See Gaelic
Most Scottish prose is written in English. Famous Scottish authors of
the 1700’s include James Boswell, who wrote a fascinating biography of
the English writer Samuel Johnson, and John Arbuthnot, who wrote many
great essays. In the 1800’s, Thomas Carlyle produced brilliant histories
and biographies, and John Lockhart became known for his works of
literary criticism. Scotland’s best-known novelists, Sir Walter Scott
and Robert Louis Stevenson, also wrote during the 1800’s.