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Introduction

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Scotland
Scotland in Europe

Scotland (Scots: Scotland, Scottish Gaelic: Alba [ˈal̪ˠapə] (listen)) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a 96-mile (154-kilometre) border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast and the Irish Sea to the south. It also contains more than 790 islands, principally in the archipelagos of the Hebrides and the Northern Isles. Most of the population, including the capital Edinburgh, is concentrated in the Central Belt—the plain between the Scottish Highlands and the Southern Uplands—in the Scottish Lowlands.

Scotland is divided into 32 administrative subdivisions or local authorities, known as council areas. Glasgow City is the largest council area in terms of population, with Highland being the largest in terms of area. Limited self-governing power, covering matters such as education, social services and roads and transportation, is devolved from the Scottish Government to each subdivision. Scotland is the second-largest country in the United Kingdom, and accounted for 8.3% of the population in 2012.

The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the 9th century and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI of Scotland became king of England and Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The union also created the Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (in 1922, the Irish Free State seceded from the United Kingdom, leading to the latter being officially renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1927).

Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 incorporating union with England.

In 1999, a Scottish Parliament was re-established, in the form of a devolved unicameral legislature comprising 129 members, having authority over many areas of domestic policy. The head of the Scottish Government is the first minister of Scotland, who is supported by the deputy first minister of Scotland. Scotland is represented in the United Kingdom Parliament by 59 MPs. It is also a member of the British–Irish Council, sending five members of the Scottish Parliament to the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly, as well as being part of the Joint Ministerial Committee, represented by the first minister. (Full article...)

Selected article

Tartan is regarded as a cultural icon of Scotland
Tartan is regarded as a cultural icon of Scotland

Tartan (Scottish Gaelic: breacan [ˈpɾʲɛxkən]) is a patterned cloth consisting of criss-crossed, horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland, as Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns.

Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over—two under the warp, advancing one thread at each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett. Tartan is often called "plaid" (particularly in North America), but in Scotland, a plaid is a large piece of tartan cloth, worn as a type of kilt or large shawl. The term plaid is also used in Scotland for an ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.

The Dress Act of 1746 attempted to bring the warrior clans under government control by banning the tartan and other aspects of Gaelic culture. When the law was repealed in 1782, it was no longer ordinary Highland dress, but was adopted instead as the symbolic national dress of Scotland, a status that was widely popularised after King George IV wore a tartan kilt in his 1822 visit to Scotland. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the highland tartans were only associated with either regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan. This was because like other materials, tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes and would usually only use the natural dyes available in that area, as synthetic dye production was non-existent and transportation of other dye materials across long distances was prohibitively expensive. The patterns were simply different regional checked-cloth patterns, chosen by the wearer's preference—in the same way as people nowadays choose what colours and patterns they like in their clothing, without particular reference to propriety. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that many patterns were created and artificially associated with Scottish clans, families, or institutions who were (or wished to be seen as) associated in some way with a Scottish heritage. The Victorians' penchant for ordered taxonomy and the new chemical dyes then available meant that the idea of specific patterns of bright colours, or "dress" tartans, could be created and applied to a nostalgic view of Scottish history. The Irish also wore tartan clothing but to a far lesser degree than their Gaelic cousins in Scotland. (Full article...) Read more ...

Selected quotes

" ...   History is written from then to now but understood back to front   ... "

Allan Massie

" ...   Growing old is great. It’s like getting drunk. Everyone around you gets better-looking   ... "

Billy Connolly

In the news

In the news
19 July 2022 – 2022 European heat waves
Scotland reports a record temperature of 35.1 °C (95.2 °F) at Floors Castle. Initially, the highest temperature was thought to have been set at RAF Charterhall, reaching 34.8 °C (94.6 °F). (BBC News) (BBC News 2)
28 June 2022 – Scottish independence
Proposed second Scottish independence referendum
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, announces during a parliamentary debate session that an independence referendum bill will be tabled in the Scottish Parliament. The bill sets the date for the break-up vote at October 19, 2023. Sturgeon will try to bypass Prime Minister Boris Johnson's unlikely permission to conduct the referendum by referring the bill to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. (CNBC) (The Guardian)

Selected biography

Portrait of Hutton by  Sir Henry Raeburn, 1776
Portrait of Hutton by Sir Henry Raeburn, 1776

James Hutton FRSE ( /ˈhʌtən/; 3 June 1726 – 26 March 1797) was a Scottish geologist, agriculturalist, chemical manufacturer, naturalist and physician. Often referred to as the father of modern geology, he played a key role in establishing geology as a modern science.

Hutton advanced the idea that the physical world's remote history can be inferred from evidence in present-day rocks. Through his study of features in the landscape and coastlines of his native Scottish lowlands, such as Salisbury Crags or Siccar Point, he developed the theory that geological features could not be static but underwent continuing transformation over indefinitely long periods of time. From this he argued, in agreement with many other early geologists, that the Earth could not be young. He was one of the earliest proponents of what in the 1830s became known as uniformitarianism, the science which explains features of the Earth's crust as the outcome of continuing natural processes over the long geologic time scale. Hutton also put forward a thesis for a ‘system of the habitable Earth’ proposed as a deistic mechanism designed to keep the world eternally suitable for humans, an early attempt to formulate what today might be called one kind of anthropic principle.

Some reflections similar to those of Hutton can be found in publications of his contemporaries, such as the French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, but it is chiefly Hutton's pioneering work that established the field. (Full article...) Read more ...

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