“”We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.
|—Voltaire actually said this|
Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba) is the second largest country on the island of Great Britain and in the multinational state the United Kingdom. The magical land of
immortals haggis, kilts, golf, and the Great Highland Bagpipe is, like the rest of Britain – known as very, very wet. Famous tourist attractions in Scotland include Nessie, Sir Walter Scott's birthplace, J. K. Rowling, and attending a show at the Glasgow Empire on a day when both Rangers and Celtic lost at home.
Scotland in the United Kingdom
“”The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!
Scotland has enjoyed a hilariously up-and-down relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland fought England over political and provincial issues in the early middle ages, though relations between the two countries eventually stabilised to the extent where they decided to become a unified state along with Wales in 1707. In 2014 after a nail biting final campaign (mainly older) Scots voted by a
tiny 55-45 majority to stay in the United Kingdom.  A post-referendum poll suggested that the 18-24, 55-64 and 65+ age cohorts voted to retain the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, whereas the 16-17, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 cohorts voted to separate.
Ireland's ties with Scotland go back a long, long way. In the old days, Scotia referred to Ireland, not to Scotland. However, as Gaelic speaking Scots managed to gain dominance within several kingdoms in the region, the name "Scots" and "Scotia" came to be applied to Scotland, which had previously been known as Caledonia, and as Alba by Gaels, who wished to be different.
In modern day Northern Ireland, much of the Protestant community is descended from Scottish (and some northern English) migrants to northern parts of the island, who are today referred to as Ulster-Scots, the ones who settled in Appalachia in the eighteenth century and their descendants in the United States are called Scots-Irish. Despite the Ulster-Scots social/ethnic group being traditionally Protestant unionist in nature, the Catholic Provisional IRA's bombing campaign on mainland Great Britain for a united Irish state throughout the 1970s and 1980s focused on targets solely in England, never targeting Scotland, except for one attack on Sullom Voe oil terminal in Shetland.
Political opinion about the issue of Northern Ireland and the Crown is notably divided in Scotland, with some favoring the continued existence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland while others favour the total independence and reunification of the island of Ireland from the Union. Typically, the Old Firm football rivalry between Glasgow football sides Celtic and Rangers FC have been charged with political opinion, with supporters of the teams sometimes favouring independence and unionism respectively. At Old Firm matches, it is commonplace for Celtic fans to fly the Irish Tricolor, while Rangers fans tend to fly the Union Flag, as many people in the Glasgow area are descended from Catholic and Protestant Irish immigrants who came to Scotland for work, bringing the sectarian hatreds of their homeland with them; indeed Celtic was founded in an effort to help (mainly Catholic) Irish immigrants - as evidenced by the shamrock on the Celtic club badge - while Rangers mainly catered to the native Protestant Scots as well as Ulster Protestant immigrants. Old Firm bigotry tends to be mostly located in and around Glasgow, in the industrial rust belt, where it is compulsory to vote Labour, and their fans are somewhat confused about the issue of Scottish independence since it doesn't appear to involve Ireland.
“”How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?
|—Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh asking a Scottish driving instructor in 1995|
The nature of the Scots can be summed up by the simple observation that Scotland is the only country whose national dress includes a knife in the sock. There are high levels of obesity like in England due to a diet high in fried foods,[note 1] but have low blood pressure due to their habit of eating oatmeal (apparently). Scotland has the world's highest proportion of redheads; approximately 13% of the population has red hair and about 40% carry the recessive redhead gene.
Notable contemporary Scottish people include Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, George Galloway,
doctor Gillian McKeith, and David Tennant (more of a Doctor than Gillian any day). Scotland has a vast tradition of great scientists including Alexander Fleming, Alexander Graham Bell, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), James Clerk Maxwell, David Brewster (inventor of the kaleidoscope), Robert Watson-Watt, John Dunlop, and more recently Newcastle-born Peter Higgs.
Other notable, though considerably more dead, Scottish people include a large number of progressive thinkers who flourished in what is known as the Scottish Enlightenment, from around the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. Some of the better-remembered names today include David Hume, James Hutton, Adam Smith and James Watt. Scotland's most famous writers (apart from J.K. Rowling, obviously) Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Walter Scott also lived during this period. More recent authors include fairy-believer Arthur Conan Doyle, fairy-lover J.M. Barrie, and Unionist step-counter John Buchan. Bisexual monarch James VI and I flourished a bit earlier.[note 2]
In Scotland, their only gripe with "Scotch" Americans is that they ruin Edinburgh for a few months every year and make inane statements about "their clan", or think Braveheart still dominates Scottish political life (a film which aimed to take the wind out of the threat of Scottish nationalism in the late 90s).
Scotland is a traditionally Christian country, converted by 1000 CE, largely thanks to the efforts of Irish missionaries such as St Columba (who was the first person to see the Loch Ness Monster). Initially Celtic Christian, it was brought in greater conformity with Rome by St Margaret in the 11th century.
In the 16th century, the Scottish Reformation happened, thanks partly to noted misogynist and Mariaphobe John Knox. Protestantism gradually spread until Catholicism was restricted to the Gaelic-speaking fringes of the Highlands and islands. More recently, however, Catholicism has had something of a resurgence with Irish and then Polish immigrants meaning there are now more active Catholics than Church of Scotland parishioners.
In the 18th century, Scottish philosopher David Hume was famed for his atheism, and Scots have often taken a rational approach to religion. Humanist weddings are popular in Scotland, and it is predicted they will soon become more common than church weddings.
The top bit of Britain has always been a place with many languages, where influences from Scandinavia, England, Ireland, and further afield meet. The dominant language is (approximately) English like wot the Queen speeks, but particularly in the north and west, Gaelic (descended from Old Irish) was widespread into the early modern era until rulers (in both Edinburgh and London) took steps to stamp it out. Once upon a time, Pictish was spoken in the east and Cambric (closely related to Welsh) in the south, and the northern isles spoke Norse as part of Norway. There's also quite a few Polish and south Asian people who still speak the languages of their parents. The royal family spoke French for a while, and there were even Latin speakers once upon a time. Certain nationalists want to deny this complex linguistic heritage and insist that everybody spoke Gaelic till the evil English made them stop.
The other indigenous language is Scots, which is related to English but dates back to the early Anglian invasion of southeast Scotland in the 6th century CE. Scots was transported to Northern Ireland by Protestant settlers, where it is now promoted by Unionists who're jealous of Nationalists and their strange language (Irish). The precise nature and status of Scots is controversial, with some people insisting it's just a dialect of English or a vulgar way of speaking that isn't proper English; this is complicated by the fact that the term Scots doesn't refer to just one thing. Today it is used of any language that isn't standard English that is spoken by indigenous residents of Scotland (including Doric - the Anglic dialect of Aberdeenshire - plus the contemporary urban speech of Glasgow and the Norse-inflected dialects of Orkney and Shetland), but around the 15th and 16th centuries it was the language of the Scottish court and Renaissance Scottish literature.
The country is populated by rebellious commoners who, in 1995, were led to independence from England by the Australian Mel Gibson. For that, Gibson won an Academy Award and had Gibson's Law named after him.
Common misconceptions about Scotland are: that it originated Scotch (the sublime beverage), wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Rod Stewart, Scotch™ transparent tape, and Scott paper towels; and that it has been inhabited for over 10,000 years.
Several things can be "scotched"; including rumours, snakes, butter and eggs.
The traditional courtesy extended to an Englishman who calls someone from Scotland "Scotch" is a Glasgow kiss.[note 3]
The kilt is a skirt worn by
jessies all true Scotsmen, usually while playing the bagpipes or on formal occasions, ideally both.[note 4] Kilts have distinctive plaid patterns which supposedly represent the wearer's clan. However, most of those 'clan designations' were in fact created in the early 19th century, as is frequently pointed out by the wearers of traditional Scottish garb such as jeans, string vests, T-shirts, and three-piece suits.
The curious often ask whether anything is worn under the kilt. No: it's all in perfect working order.
The Scots have a wholly unjustified reputation for meanness: on the contrary, they are an admirably prudent, frugal and thrifty nation.[note 5]
Scotland is named for the Scoti or Scots, a Gaelic people who invaded from Ireland in the first millennium CE. That's generally accepted fact. What isn't fact is that the Scoti were descended from an Egyptian princess, Scota or Scotia - this myth seems to date to the 11th or 12th century CE. (With a similar level of idiocy, the Britons are said to be descended from Brutus of Troy.)
Scottish culture is full of symbols and objects that exemplify Scottish identity, but perhaps the greatest is Highland dress, the kilt, and the tartan from which it is made. Except most of this imagery is a 19th century distortion: there is little that is medieval about the design of the modern kilt or the tartan from which it is made. The image of Highland warriors clad in long tartan plaids taking on the English is a popular one, pre-dating Braveheart, but it is also largely false. Recent historians like Hugh Trevor-Roper have demonstrated that the modern tartan kilt was largely a Victorian invention, or at any rate a Victorian popularisation of costumes of small historical and geographical range now taken to be universal in Scotland's history (Trevor-Roper was a staunch unionist, which may be relevant).
The kilt commonly worn today, a pleated skirt-like garment that hangs from waist to around the knee, and known as the modern kilt, small kilt, or walking kilt, was invented in the late 17th or early 18th century as a modification of the great kilt, a long tartan robe. Some reports say the modern kilt was invented in 1720 by Thomas Rawlinson, a Quaker from Lancashire, who halved the traditional kilt and sewed in pleats. However, this idea is contested by others and Rawlinson may merely have popularised an earlier design. This was briefly popular, but tartan and the kilt was entirely banned in 1746 following the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden (part of the War of the Austrian Succession). It regained a niche when the ban was repealed in 1782, but only reached popularity as a Scottish national (as opposed to Highland) dress in 1822 when George IV became the first British monarch to visit Scotland since the 17th century.
The traditional dress of the Scottish highlander was in fact not even the tartan great kilt, seen in films such as Braveheart and Rob Roy. The full-length great kilt wrapped around the body was only developed in the 16th century (well after Wallace and the Bruce) from a smaller cloak worn over a tunic. The pattern of the fabric was not typically the elaborate tartan known today: simple checks were common with those who could afford them, as were plain cloths. Before the evolution of the great kilt, Scots seem to have worn leggings with their cloaks rather than going bare-arsed. In battle, medieval Scottish soldiers did not wear flowing kilts but chain mail or leather armour, for obvious reasons such as not getting stabbed. The Scots were not ignorant savages, but in touch with European advances in arms, armour, military tactics, and fortifications, and many Scots fought in Europe as mercenaries.
The Vestiarium Scoticum was a piece of fakelore published in Edinburgh in 1842 and claimed to be a 15th century manuscript about the history of Scottish dress, reproduced from a 1721 edition; it was presented to the world by John Sobieski Stuart, who claimed to be direct descendents of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the Polish royal family. The Sobieski Stuarts claimed that the book offered the history of the traditional tartans of various Scottish clans (tribal groups who controlled the Scottish Highlands), and the book said that each clan had a distinctive tartan design. Today you can still go into a Scottish tartan shop and somebody will sell you "your" specific tartan. But this notion of distinctive tartans identifying clans seems to have been purely a 19th century one.
The Vestiarium's accuracy was soon questioned, with a 1847 article in the Quarterly Review attacking both the Sobieski Stuart's genealogy and the book's authenticity; they doubtless had in mind another recent hoax of Scottish history, the fake poems of the Celtic bard Ossian (see Fakelore). Various defences of the book followed, although no independent experts were able to view any of the old copies of the text. In 1895, the Glasgow Herald published a series of articles by Andrew Ross which investigated more deeply: the 1721 edition had finally appeared from somewhere and was studied by various experts, who suggested the paper may have been treated by chemicals to artifically age it, adding to suspicions of fakery. Today the authors are identified as John and Charles Allen, two brothers with a fondness for tartan who were nonetheless not Scottish. Nonetheless, the book was by then essential to the Scottish tartan industry and its fictional tartan designs are still widely used.
It is likely that there were regional traditions in fabric, and there is evidence of very ancient checked designs: the oldest known Scottish tartan is the Falkirk sett from the 3rd century CE. But all the members of a clan did not wear the same tartan. Accounts of the 1746 battle of Culloden say that clans were distinguished by coloured ribbons on their hats.. David Morier's An Incident in the Rebellion of 1745, painted around 1760, shows soldiers with a variety of tartans, although there is no indication that different clans had specific designs. (But Morier's painting is inaccurate in its portrayal of Jacobites armed with swords facing loyalists with guns: in reality, the Highland charge depended on running up to the enemy, then firing muskets at close range and afterwards setting about with their swords.)
Today there are those who claim that tartan and the kilt were purely a Victorian invention; this is an overstatement. But representations of the Wars of Scottish Independence with flowing kilts and bare arses are totally inaccurate.
Does Scotland really exist?
Legal advice prepared for the British Government on International Law with regards to the referendum on the Independence of Scotland, suggests, in the context of the union of 1707, that
- No True Scotsman
- Northern Ireland
- The Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia, which is Latin for "New Scotland"
- Scottish National Party - The last bastion of the lefties. It's like Helm's Deep.
- West Lothian Question
- Essay:Too small, too poor, too stupid
- United Kingdom
- Church of Scotland
- Siol nan Gaidheal
- The deep-fried Mars bar is considered a delicacy,
- The numbers are thought to record either the notches on his bedposts or his pitching record.[citation NOT needed]
- "Twa' the bonne' off, an' pu' the heid on him!"
- German troops in World War I nicknamed Highland regiments The Ladies From Hell. Draw your own conclusions.
- Especially the Aberdonians.
- Address Tae A Haggis
- Americans can only purchase "homegrown" or imitation haggis
- Scottish referendum: Scotland votes 'No' to independence
- Lord Ascroft, Twitter, 19 Sep 2014
- Prince Philip: 90 of the Duke of Edinburgh's most excruciating gaffes and jokes by Heather Saul (Friday 17 July 2015) The Independent.
- Oats - A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people. (Samuel Johnson, 1755)
- Columba encountered Loch Ness monster, Christianity.com
- Catholic Church moves into Pole position, The Scotsman, 25 May 2008
- Humanist weddings 'on the increase' in Scotland
- See the Wikipedia article on Languages of Scotland.
- Gaelic Civilisation: The Gaelic Soul of Alba, Sion nan Gaidheal website, accessed 11 Jan 2019
- Random thouchts on Ulster-Scotch, Slugger O'Toole, 27 Dec 2008
- Website help over Scots language, BBC, 28 Feb 2011
- A Facial at Fortnum's? Never, Jonathan Glancey, Guardian, 5 Nov 2007
- See the Wikipedia article on Scotch Tape.
- 25 Awesome Things Scotland Gave the World, Culture Trip
- See the Wikipedia article on How the Scots Invented the Modern World.
- Charlie, he's my darling.
- See the Wikipedia article on Scota.
- The Invention of Scotland by Hugh Trevor-Roper: review, Adam Sisman, The Daily Telegraph, June 6, 2008
- See the Wikipedia article on History of the kilt.
- The History of Tartan, Country Life, August 8, 2014
- A history of tartan: from Falkirk to Mod, Jude Stewart, The Scotsman, 2 Dec 2015
- Medieval arms and armour, Scottish Association of the Teachers of History website
- The Welsh brothers who sold Scotland's 'fake' tartan dream, The Scotsman, 31 Aug 2016
- See the Wikipedia article on Vestiarium Scoticum.
- See the Wikipedia article on Tartan.
- See the Wikipedia article on David Morier.
- Culloden, battlefieldsofbritain.co.uk
- Part IV §35, Annex A Opinion: Referendum on the Independence of Scotland – International Law Aspects