Scotland history facts and figures
Status: Part of United Kingdom
Land area: 30,414 sq mi (78,772 sq km)
Monetary unit: British pound sterling (£)
Languages: English, Scots Gaelic
Religions: Church of Scotland (established church—Presbyterian), Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal Church, Baptist, Methodist
Scotland occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It is bounded by England in the south and on the other three sides by water: by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and north and by the North Sea on the east. Scotland is divided into three physical regions—the Highlands; the Central Lowlands, containing two-thirds of the population; and the Southern Uplands. The western Highland coast is intersected throughout by long, narrow sea lochs, or fjords. Scotland also includes the Outer and Inner Hebrides and other islands off the west coast and the Orkney and Shetland Islands off the north coast.
England and Scotland have shared a monarch since 1603 and a parliament since 1707, but in May 1999, Scotland elected its own parliament for the first time in three centuries. The new Scottish legislature was in part the result of British prime minister Tony Blair’s campaign promise to permit devolution, the transfer of local powers from London to Edinburgh. In a Sept. 1997 referendum, 74% of Scotland voted in favor of their own parliament, which controls most domestic affairs, including health, education, and transportation, and has powers to legislate and raise taxes. Queen Elizabeth opened the new parliament on July 2, 1999.
The first inhabitants of Scotland were the Picts, a Celtic tribe. Between A.D. 82 and A.D. 208, the Romans invaded Scotland, naming it Caledonia. Roman influence over the land, however, was minimal.
The Scots, a Celtic tribe from Ireland, migrated to the west coast of Scotland in about 500. Kenneth McAlpin, king of the Scots, ascended the throne of the Pictish kingdom in about 843, thereby uniting the various Scots and Pictish tribes under one kingdom called Dal Riada. By the 11th century, the monarchy had extended its borders to include much of what is Scotland today.
English influence in the region expanded when Malcolm III, king of Scotland from 1057–1093, married an English princess. England’s appetite for Scottish land began to grow over the 12th and 13th centuries, and in 1296 King Edward I of England successfully invaded Scotland. The following year Robert the Bruce led a revolt for independence, was crowned king of Scotland (Robert I) in 1306, and after years of war defeated the English in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. In 1328 the English finally recognized Scottish independence.
In the 16th century John Knox introduced the Scottish reformation, and the Presbyterian Church replaced Catholicism as the official religion. In 1567, Mary, queen of Scots, a Catholic, was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne and was later executed by Elizabeth I of England. Mary’s son, James VI, was raised as a Protestant, and in 1603 he succeeded Elizabeth on the English throne as King James I of England. James thus became ruler of both Scotland and England, though the countries remained separate. In 1707, after a century of turmoil, Scotland and England passed the Act of Union, which united Scotland, England, and Wales under one rule as the Kingdom of Great Britain. The House of Hanover replaced the Stuart lineage on the throne in 1714, which caused a rebellion among Scots who still supported the Stuarts. The Jacobites, as the rebels were called, led two uprisings, in 1715 and again in 1745.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Scotland, whose chief product had been textiles, began developing the industries of shipbuilding, coal mining, iron, and steel. In the late 20th century, Scotland concentrated on electronics and high-tech industries. The North Sea has also become an important source of oil and gas.
St Andrews Cathedral was once the most important religious site
in the whole of Scotland. Today the cathedral is in ruins but it is still an impressive and inspiring site.
There was already an important religious community at St Andrews,
known then as Kilrymont, in the 8th century. It grew in status with the arrival
of relics associated with the martyred apostle St Andrew. Traditionally these relics consisted of an arm bone, three fingers, a tooth, and a knee cap. These relics were interred in a shrine which, by the 10th century, had become a major place of pilgrimage for travellers from all across Europe. The pilgrims in turn provided a valuable source of income for construction work.
In 1123 Robert became bishop and established the Augustinian priory St Rule’s, whose church and tower is still standing today at the cathedral site.
In the 1160s Bishop Arnold initiated the building of a vast new cathedral. The
building work suffered many setbacks. Gales caused widespread destruction in the 1270s and during his occupation
in the Wars of Independence, Edward 1 of England ordered the stripping of
lead from the roof for ammunition. The cathedral was finally consecrated
in 1318, attended by King Robert the Bruce, who, according to legend, rode up the aisle on a horse. The scale and wealth of the building
was dazzling. The longest church – and the biggest building of any kind − in Scotland, it was an impressive seat for the bishops of the Scottish Church. The cathedral also housed the priory, living quarters of the canons who maintained
the cathedral. The town thrived around the cathedral and benefited from the
visitors it beckoned.
The life of this awesome complex of buildings, however, came to an abrupt end in 1559 with the Reformation. Following a rousing sermon against idolatry by preacher John Knox, the interior of the cathedral was sacked by a Protestant mob. Worship at the cathedral ceased almost immediately and the site declined into a source of building material and latterly a favored local burial ground.