Scotland flag


Country: Scotland

Capital: Edinburgh

Continent: Europe

Official languages: English; Scottish Gaelic, Scots, British Sign Language

Religion: Christianity

Patron saint: Saint Andrew

Motto: In My Defens God Me Defend (In my defence God me defend)

Status: Country

Government: Devolved parliamentary legislature within a constitutional monarchy

Population: 5 424 800 (2017)

Demonym: Scottish; Scots

Currency: Pound sterling (GBP)

Drives on the left

Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time; British Summer Time (UTC +1:00)

Calling code: +44

Internet TLD: .uk


Neighbouring countries: England


Scotland on the UK map


Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the south and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east and the North Channel and the Irish Sea to the south-west. In addition to the mainland, the country is made up of more than 790 islands.


Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland


The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became James I, King of England and King of 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 a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801 Great Britain entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.


Glasgow City Chambers
Glasgow City Chambers. Credit: Michael D. Beckwith


The legal system within Scotland has 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 union with England.


Historic centre of Edinburgh
The historic centre of Edinburgh. Credit: Peggy Choucair


Scotland is divided into 32 subdivision (known as local authorities, or 'councils'). Glasgow City is the largest subdivision in Scotland in terms of population, with Highland being the largest in terms of area. Limited self-governing power is devolved from the Scottish Government, such as education, social services and roads and transportation, to each subdivision, with decision making being decided by councillors who are elected at local elections every five years. The head of each subdivision is usually the Lord Provost alongside the Leader of the Council with a Chief Executive being appointed as director of the council area.


Dugald Stewart Monument
Dugald Stewart Monument, Calton Hill. Credit: Wolf Blur


In 1997 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 who, alongside their responsibilities at Deputy First Minister, is also a cabinet secretary within the Scottish Government.


Stirling bridge
Stirling bridge. Credit: Shilmar


Scotland is represented in the United Kingdom Parliament by 59 MPs and the European Parliament by 6 MEPs. Scotland is a member of the British-Irish Council and sends five members of the Scottish Parliament to the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.


Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle. Credit: Memory Catcher


Treble clef heart

'Scots Wha Hae' (English: Scots, Who Have) is a patriotic song of Scotland using both Scottish and English words. For centuries this song served as an unofficial national anthem of the country but lately, it has been supplanted by 'Scotland the Brave' and 'Flower of Scotland'.

The lyrics of 'Scots Wha Hae' were written by Robert Burns in 1793 in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England. Robert Burns wrote the lyrics to the traditional Scottish tune 'Hey Tuttie Tatie', which, according to tradition, was played by Bruce's army at the Battle of Bannockburn, and by the Franco-Scots army at the Siege of Orleans.


Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. Credit: Shilmar


'Scotland the Brave' (Scottish Gaelic: Alba an Àigh) is a Scottish patriotic song. It was one of several songs considered an unofficial national anthem of Scotland (others being 'Flower of Scotland' and 'Scots Wha Hae').


Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle, Inverness. Credit: Monica Volpin


'Flower of Scotland' (Scots: Flouer o Scotland, Scottish Gaelic: Flùr na h-Alba) is a Scottish song, frequently used at special occasions and sporting events. Although there is no official national anthem of Scotland, 'Flower of Scotland' is one of the songs that fulfil the role along with other two. Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries wrote both the lyrics and music for the song. The words refer to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England's Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The song was composed and is sung in English, typically with Scots pronunciation of a few words (e.g. 'Tae' as opposed to 'To').


Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye. Credit: Frank Winkler


The song has been used as a National Anthem by the Scotland national rugby union team, ever since the winger, Billy Steele, encouraged his team-mates to sing it on the victorious Lions tour of South Africa in 1974. The song was adopted as the pre-game anthem during the deciding match of the 1990 Five Nations Championship between Scotland and England, which Scotland won 13-7 to win the Grand Slam.


Craigievar  Castle
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeen. Credit: Emma Gibb


The Scottish Football Association adopted 'Flower of Scotland' as its pre-game national anthem in 1997 although it was first used by them in 1993. Usually, only the first and third verses are sung. At any home International Scotland Rugby union test match the first verse is accompanied by bagpipes followed by the third verse unaccompanied by any instrument.


Bullers of Buchan
Bullers of Buchan, Aberdeenshire. Credit: Emma Gibb


When sung at sporting events, crowds will often call back after certain lines – after the words 'and stood against him', 'England' or 'Gainst who?' may be heard.


Rock Stacks of Duncansby
Rock Stacks of Duncansby, North of Scotland. Credit: Frank Winkler


The song was used as the victory anthem of Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, replacing 'Scotland the Brave'. This trend continued to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where it was again Team Scotland's anthem and was sung following a Scottish first place (notably it was sung 4 times when Team Scotland won 4 gold medals in the opening day). This usage continued at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, too.