Alba / Scotland
Scotland is one of the four home countries that make up the United Kingdom.It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. As a political entity, Scotland emerged in the Middle Ages, and has kept its border with England essentially stable to present.
Scotland, England and Ireland formed a personal union under a single monarch in 1603. The Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England lost their existence as separate states in 1707, when the Act of Union was passed and the United Kingdom of Great Britain was established. The Parliament of Scotland ceased to exist at that moment.
A Scottish Parliament with law-making powers was reinstated in 1999, after the Scottish people had voted a proposal for devolution in a popular referendum in 1997.
Scotland held its first-ever independence referendum on 18 September 2014. 55.3% of valid votes were for the "no" option, while 44.7% were for the "yes" ballot. In 2016, after a deal between Scottish and UK parties, the UK Parliament passed a law devolving further powers to Scotland.
Almost all Scots speak English, which is also the main language used by the administration, schools and the media. Scotland has two own languages. Scots is a Germanic language, similar to English, which is spoken by 1.5 million people (2011 census). Gaelic is a Celtic language spoken by 57,000 people (2011) mainly concentrated in the Western Isles.
The 2011 Scottish census included for the first time ever a question on national identity. 62.4% answered “Scottish only”, 18.3% “Scottish and British”, 8.4% “British only” and 2.3% “English only”.
Politics and administration
Scottish autonomy, or devolution, is exercised through a range of institutions of self-government. The two main ones are the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, which has legislative powers. Scottish powers include health, education, justice, policing, environment, agriculture and fisheries, tourism and local transport.
The main Scottish-only party is the Scottish National Party (SNP, centre and left-of-centre). The party’s goal is Scottish independence. It seeks to hold a second self-determination referendum. The Scottish Green Party (green politics, left-of-centre and left) is the second largest pro-independence party as regards its number of seats. RISE (anti-capitalist left) is the country’s third largest pro-independence party.
The remaining Scottish parties (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Liberaldemocrats) are a part of their respective UK parties.
First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon, SNP (since 2014)
Political system: Legislative and executive autonomy (devolution) within the United Kingdom.
Distribution of seats in Parliament (2016). 129 members:
Scottish National Party (SNP) - 63
Scottish Conservative Party - 31
Scottish Labour Party - 24
Scottish Green Party - 6
Scottish Liberal Democrats - 5
Electoral system: First-past-the-post for 73 individual constituencies and 56 members selected from "party lists" in the country's eight electoral regions.
Scottish Parliament www.scottish.parliament.uk
Scottish Government www.gov.scot
Scottish Labour Party www.scottishlabour.org.uk
Scottish Conservative Party www.scottishconservatives.com
Scottish Green Party greens.scot
Scottish Liberal Democrats www.scotlibdems.org.uk
Language and Culture
Website on Scotland www.scotland.org
Bòrd na Gàidhlig - The Gaelic Development Agency www.bord-na-gaidhlig.org.uk
The Herald www.theherald.co.uk
The Scotsman www.scotsman.com
The National www.thenational.scot
(Last updated November 2017.)