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State

Capital

Scotland*

Edinburgh

Alba

Dunedin

Currency unit

British pound

Connections

Borders

Britain

Climate

EU

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History

The English name refers to the Scots who came from Ireland; the Gaelic name refers to Albion, the Latin name for the whole island of Great Britain.

The nation was formed of three cultural traditions: the Celtic speaking Gaels, who had migrated from Ireland; the Anglo-Saxons who migrated from England; the Norse who settled in the eastern side. Very little is known about the Picts who were there before the Gaels arrived but were probably speakers of a Cymric language related closely to Welsh. The Romans never conquered the country north of the Forth-Clyde line, and withdrew to Hadrian's Wall (Newcastle to Carlisle).

The Orkney and Shetland islands off the north coast are peopled by descendants of the Vikings. These islands at one time belonged to Norway and Shetlanders still practice Norse customs with the people speaking a Norse dialect, heavily influenced by Scots and English. The western Isles are still partly Gaelic speaking but were also at one time a Norse kingdom which at other times was closely connected with Gaelic Ireland and the Isle of Man. The Gaels migrated from Ulster.

The first king who ruled over a united kingdom of Gaels and Saxons was Kenneth Macalpine (997-1005). His reign may be considered the beginning of the state of Scotland.

In medieval times Scotland was frequently at war with England and allied with France. The kings of England, especially Edward the first, considered Scotland to be a rebellious vassal of England. However, following the unsuccessful war of Edward the second ending with the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) the Treaty of 1328 saw England give up claims to rule Scotland. This can be considered the confirmation of Scottish Independence.

France used Scotland as a pawn to prevent England sending its full power into France. The border country, which changed hands several times between the two kingdoms, was in reality an Afghan-like area where no law was enforceable. It only became pacified after the Act of Union. Some of its clans may have migrated to Appalachia. Similarly, the Highland area maintained a Homeric culture until 1745 when the area was conquered by the British army.

Scotland was an independent kingdom until 1601 when James the 6th, the king of Scotland, became king of England also (as James 1st). From then until 1707 Scotland had a separate government which did not always do what the English government wished. This was especially important during the English Civil War when independent Scottish action affected the result. During the Cromwell period (Commonwealth 1653-1660) Scotland and Ireland were incorporated with England as a unitary state but the restoration of monarchy saw the previous separation restored.

In 1707 the Act of Union between England and Scotland created what is now the United Kingdom. This is said to be an indirect effect of climate change as the Little Ice Age was reaching its worst period and the harvests in Scotland had been consistently poor. Union with England was seen as the way to prevent destitution by means of access to England's overseas trade and colonies. It also followed the disastrous result of Scottish attempts in 1698 to found a colony in Central America - The Darien Scheme - when most wealthy Scots became bankrupt. In 1715 and in 1745 there were revolts, based mainly in the Gaelic area, to restore the Stuart dynasty. Was this a nationalist revolt? Not really, as the Stuart family (the son and grandson of James the second of England & seventh of Scotland) wished to regain the English and Irish thrones as well. Moreover, the revolt owed much to French policy and an attempt to restore the Catholic religion. The Gaelic followers of these revolts were following their traditional chiefs. The Presbyterian lowlanders (speaking Anglo dialects) would not have supported a restoration of Catholicism, and largely did not support the rebellions. The 1745 revolt, involving the Young Pretender, "Bonny Prince Charlie" ended in a defeat of the Highland clans at Culloden, near Inverness.

Following the Union Scotland was transformed by rapid industrialization and Glasgow, previously a small town, became for a time the second largest city in the United Kingdom, based on the tobacco trade with America. Coal mining, steel and shipbuilding made Central Scotland a major industrial area of the United Kingdom. Many Scots pursued careers in the British Empire, the Merchant navy and the military.

In a foretaste of the 20th century horrors of ethnic cleansing, the Gaelic speaking people of the Highlands were evicted by the landlords, the former tribal chiefs, in a successful attempt to prevent further revolts of the type which occurred in 1715 and 1745. Many were shipped to Canada and other British colonies. The language is said to have more speakers in Canada now than in Scotland. The landlords believed sheep would pay better than peasants. (They were wrong.) Many of the others were recruited into the British Army (the Highland regiments).

Modern
With the decline of the Empire many of the overseas career opportunities have vanished. The heavy industry has mostly disappeared leaving less well-paying jobs.

There is a nationalist party and a widespread disillusionment with rule from London. Will Scotland become independent within the European Union? Only the voters can decide. In 1979 a referendum on devolved government gained a majority of votes but not the larger proportion required by the Act. (The British Labour Government then fell, when the Scottish Nationalists withdrew support). Possibly if a Labour government had been elected Nationalist feeling would have subsided, as Scotland usually elects a majority of Labour MPs but there is a growing desire for a separate independence within the European Union, perhaps to have a chance of gaining economic assistance This is part of the debate about the formation of a European Federation; there are several sub-units of the existing sovereign states which may demand separate membership. It is also part of the debate about the changing role of Britain following the disappearance of the Empire.

The 2001 elections to Westminster showed that the Nationalist vote had not increased, so it may have reached a plateau.

Languages

English;

Scots (a language derived, like English, from Anglo-Saxon) not much used in written form;

Gaelic (close to Irish Gaelic) very small numbers


 Robert Louis Stevenson - Kidnapped
novel set in the post Culloden period





Les aventures de David Balfour

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Politics

There is a Scottish legal system and administration. Scots elect Members of Parliament to sit in the British parliament in Westminster and Members of the Scottish Parliament to sit in Edinburgh. There are local governments: Regions and Districts. The Administration consists of an Executive with ministers approved by the Scottish Parliament which was set up following the victory of the Labour Party at the British General Election of 1997. This is an example of Devolution.

Since 1979 the Scottish Ministers in the British government had been appointed by a party which had received only about 25% of the votes of Scots electors. This may have contributed to a rise in support for the Nationalist Party, as the ministers imposed policies which the voters did not support: water privatization, reduction of local government powers, closure of heavy industry and a Poll Tax to replace property taxes.

At the April 1992 election the opposition parties proposed a subordinate assembly to control Scottish affairs, perhaps pointing the way to a federal structure for the United Kingdom. Alternatively it might have led to independence within the European Union. The situation has some similarities with the relation of Canada to Quebec, or Catalonia to Spain. This project was suspended when the Conservative government was re-elected and the nationalists actually gained fewer votes. But like the Quebec situation the question will not go away. At present the Nationalists (SNP) have a majority in the Scottish Parliament, and form the Scottish government. They hope to use it as the basis for independence within the European Union. So far polls suggest a majority of the voters does not support this policy.

1997 elections resulted in a Labour majority at Westminster and no conservative seats in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament elections produced an assembly with Labour the largest party, Nationalists second, Liberals third and Tories fourth (thanks to Additional Members, using the German system of election). A Labour-Liberal coalition executive was formed, with a Labour Chief Minister. In the latest elections for the SP in May 2003 the Scottish National Party lost seats. This may be a sign that support for separation (as in Quebec) is declining.

However, opinion polls in 2006 suggest that Nationalist support is rising again, perhaps out of distaste for the Blair government's support for the Iraq war. There were elections for the SP in May 2007. The result under the PR system was no party having an absolute majority, but the Nationalists with one more seat than Labour. The SNP leader formed a minority government, as no other party was willing to form a coalition. This means that the government could be defeated in the Parliament, and either a new negotiation for a coalition occur, or new elections.

On the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Union (16 January 2007) opinion polls showed (only) 56% of Scots voters were in favor of the Union continuing. How this affected the votes in May is not yet clear. It may reflect the unpopularity of then prime minister Tony Blair and the Iraq war.

The 2007 elections for the Scottish Parliament gave the Nationalists one seat more than Labour, but not an overall majority. The SNP leader, Alex Salmond, then formed an administration. Probably his more radical proposals - such as a referendum on the Union - would be blocked by the combined votes of the other parties, mostly in favour of the Union continuing. However, in the meantime he has the power to do things, and opinion polls suggest he is gaining support.

Gordon Brown a Scottish MP then became British Prime Minister. The opposition Conservatives claim that he (and other Scots MPs) doesn't have the right to make laws in England because of devolution.

The 2011 elections for the Scottish Parliament gave the Nationalists a majority of seats. Alex Salmond has formed an administration and rules without regard for the other parties. He intends to off a referendum on independence, but does not say when. So far, polls suggest voters would vote no.

Interesting reading

Arthur Herman - How the Scots invented the Modern World
The people who made the American Revolution possible were the Scots intellectuals of the "Scottish Enlightenment". This book tells their story.



How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It


Michael Lynch - Scotland, a new history


Scotland: A New History


 History

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Economics

Scotland developed an industrial economy from the time it joined with England. Glasgow became an important shipbuilding and trading center - the Second City of the British Empire. Coal and steel were also important. Glasgow was the center of the tobacco trade with America.

All these heavy industries have now declined almost to nothing. Scotland now has an economy based on light industry, electronics and services and is in a state of some depression. This may be the cause of talk of secession.

The oil industry based on Aberdeen was the main center of growth in the 1980s but this is now in decline. The profits from the oil industry have generally gone to the British government and multi-national companies rather than to Scots business. The nationalists tend to believe that Scotland ought to have received more benefit from the oil. They compare Scotland's position with Norway and Sweden which are comparable in population, and indeed, language. The announced closure (1992) of the last steel works was probably an important trigger for the rise in separatist sentiment. It was followed by the closure of most of the last coal mines. The result is a growing population of unemployed poor people, an unwise policy of government.

George Rosie - Curious Scotland


Curious Scotland: Tales From a Hidden History


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Green/Ecology

The ancient forests of the Highlands were removed by ancient industry or killed by the deer and sheep after the peasants had been evicted. Perhaps the forest may now be replanted.

 History

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 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

British norm, possibly better than in England.

Climate effects

Climate change may make Scotland more inhabitable than southern England and population movements northwards are a possible result, especially as southern Europe turns into arid desert.

Last revised 29/08/11


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