Facts about Scotland
Official name: Scotland, Alba
Form of government: constitutional monarchy
Capital city: Edinburgh
Largest city: Glasgow
Population: around 5.2 million
Monetary unit: Pound sterling (GBP)
Official languages: English/Gaelic/Scots
Area: 78,772 km² (30,414 sq mi)
Major mountain ranges: Southern Uplands, Central Lowlands, Grampian Mountains, North West Highlands
Major rivers: River Tay, River Spey, River Dee, River Tweed, River Clyde
Scotland’s geography and landscape
Scotland is a country in Europe and is part of the island of Great Britain (Europe’s largest island) alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This lush beautiful country is bursting with green spaces, lush forests, towering mountains and vast lochs (the Scottish word for lakes!).
The country can be roughly divided into three areas – lowlands, Highlands and islands. The lowlandsare known for their fertile farmland and thick woodlands, the Highlands for their towering mountains, sweeping moorland and deep lochs, and the islands for their compact wild landscapes, beautiful beaches and far-reaching sea views.
Did you know?
Hundreds of millions of years ago Scotland’s landmass was once completely separate from England and Wales – it was actually joined to America and Greenland!
Scottish wildlife and nature
With so many habitats, there’s plenty of fascinating wildlife to see in Scotland. You’ll find river dwellers such as otters, salmon and trout and red squirrels and birds, such as capercaillies, find refuge in the thick forests.
Out on the mountains and in the moorland you might spot majestic red deer or mountain hares while the islands are the perfect place to spot seals and seabirds, such as puffins.
Many animal species are protected in Scotland and there are two National Parks – the Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park – as well as numerous beautiful nature reserves, that have been set up to protect the land and the wildlife that lives there.
Scotland has been populated for 12,000 years, and has a rich and complex history. In 43 AD the Romans successfully invaded Britain and fought frequently with the native Scots, called the Caledonians.
From the 1200s to the 1300s the Scottish clan system became firmly established in the Highlands. Ruled over by a clan chief, these clans were like tribes and were made up of family members and people who had a loyalty to the chief. Each clan held a particular territory and clan members could be distinguished by the clothes they wore – the origins of what we now know as Scottish clan tartan!
In 1707 the Act of Union was signed, meaning Scotland, England and Wales were now a single state with one monarch (known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain).
In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart, or ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ as he is often known, travelled to Scotland to reclaim the thrones that his grandfather, once king of England, Ireland and Scotland, had lost in 1668. He had support from lots of Scottish clans but despite their early victories, they were defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
Following the battle, the British government was determined to bring the Highlanders under their control and harsh laws were passed to eradicate all aspect of Highland culture, including the Gaeliclanguage and traditional clothing. This signalled the end of the Highland clan system.
Despite these uncertain times, the 1700s also saw the beginning of one of the greatest periods in Scotland’s history – the Scottish Enlightenment. From the mid 1700s to the early 1800s educated Scottish people, such as professors, doctors and writers, began to question what was previously believed and instead formulate new theories and ideas. The discoveries and advances that were made during this time went on to shape the modern world as we know it.
Scottish people and culture
The Scots are a nation of innovators. Throughout the centuries Scottish people have brought us a huge range of new concepts, architectural techniques, scientific discoveries, inventions and more. Some of these wonderful things include the telephone, the television, tarmac, the steam engine, anaesthesia, penicillin, the pedal bicycle and the decimal point!
Many famed athletes and Olympic medal winners come from Scotland, including tennis player Andy Murray, rower Katherine Grainger and cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. Scotland also has a strong history for producing influential writers, including the poet Robert Burns, JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan and Sir Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels.
Did you know?
In the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is thought to be located in the Highlands of Scotland.
Scottish government and economy
Following centuries of Scotland’s policies lying in the hands of English politicians miles away in Westminster in London, a new Scottish Parliament was created and opened in 1999 at Holyrood in Edinburgh.
The Scottish Parliament is made up of 129 elected representatives who debate issues and make laws for Scotland. The head of the Scottish Government is the First Minister.
From 1850 – 1950 Scotland’s economy mainly centred around heavy industry like shipbuilding, coal mining, steel and iron ore mining and locomotive building. During World War I and World War II this brought prosperity to Scotland, but shortly afterwards the economy went into steep decline.
In the 1970s crude oil began to be pumped from the North Sea, creating a new industry in Scotland. The country now boasts a strong and varied economy, with industries such as financial and business, renewable energy and sustainable tourism.