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Och aye. It's Bonnie Scotland.
The Flag of Scotland, also known as St Andrew's Cross or the Saltire. St Andrew himself never went within a thousand miles of Scotland and had probably never heard of it. In fact, it didn't exist when he was alive.
We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.
Voltaire actually said this[1]

Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba) is the second largest country on the island of Great Britain and in the multinational state of the United Kingdom. Like the rest of Britain, the magical land of immortalsWikipedia haggis,[2][3] kilts, golf, and the Great Highland Bagpipe is very wet. Famous tourist attractions in Scotland include:

  • Nessie.
  • Sir Walter Scott's birthplace.
  • JK Rowling.
  • Attending a show at the Glasgow Empire on a day when both Rangers and Celtic lost at home.

Scotland in the United Kingdom[edit]

The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!
—Samuel Johnson

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. However, relations between the two countries eventually stabilised to the extent that 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 slim 55-45 majority to stay in the United Kingdom.[4] 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.[5]

With Ireland[edit]

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 favouring the continued existence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In contrast, 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 has been charged with political opinion, with supporters of the teams sometimes favouring independence and unionism, respectively. At Old Firm matches, it is common for Celtic fans to fly the Irish Tricolor. In contrast, 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 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. Their fans are somewhat confused about the issue of Scottish independence since it doesn't appear to involve Ireland.

Scottish people[edit]

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[6]

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[7] due to a diet high in fried foods,[note 1] but they have low blood pressure due to their habit of eating oatmeal (apparently).[8] 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.

Scotland was described as a "dark land overrun by homosexuals" by noted international vigilante Pat Robertson.[9]

Notable contemporary Scottish people include Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, George Galloway, doctor Gillian McKeith, and David TennantWikipedia (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 dead, Scottish people include many progressive thinkers who flourished in what is known as the Scottish Enlightenment from around the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. Some 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, lived during this period. More recent authors include fairy-believer Arthur Conan Doyle, fairy-lover J.M. Barrie, and Unionist step-counter John BuchanWikipedia. 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 stupid 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[10]). 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.[11]

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.[12]


Scotland's religious breakdown, according to the 2011 Census, follows. People are allowed to write their own options without specifying if they are practising, theoretical, self-identification, or bullshit, so some groups apparently have multiple names, and some choices are vague or a bit silly. For instance, it's unclear if the division between Anglican, Church of England, and Scottish Episcopal reflects real differences in doctrine or observance. And people who answer Religion="Church" or "Non-denominational" aren't helping much.[13]

Figures also include "Jedi Knight 11,746", "Mixed Religion 1,774", "Wicca 949", "Heavy Metal 597", "Druid 245", "Own belief system 152", "Vodun 15", and several Asian religions. There are many minority Christian sects listed such as "Christadelphian 352", "Christian Scientist 142", "Christian Spiritualist Church 26", and various national Orthodox churches.


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 Charlie speeks. 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, Cambric (closely related to Welsh) in the south, and the northern isles spoke Norse as part of Norway. There are also quite a few Polish and South Asian people who still speak their parents' languages. The royal family spoke French for a while, and there were even Latin speakers once upon a time.[14] Certain nationalists want to deny this complex linguistic heritage and insist that everybody spoke Gaelic till the evil English made them stop.[15]

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, as Ulster-Scots, it is now promoted by Unionists who are jealous of Nationalists and their strange language (Irish).[16] 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 for any language that isn't standard English that is spoken by indigenous residents of Scotland (including Doric - the Anglic dialect of Aberdeenshire - plus the recent 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.[17]


Scotland's national animal is the unicorn.[18]

Mel Gibson[edit]

The country is populated by rebellious commoners who, in 1995, were led to independence from England by the Australian American 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.

Scotch eggs were invented in London.[19] Scotch tape was invented in Minnesota.[20] But almost everything else in world history was invented in Scotland.[21][22]

The traditional courtesy extended to an Englishman who calls someone from Scotland "Scotch" is a Glasgow kiss.[note 3]

The kilt[edit]

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.[23]


The Scots have a wholly unjustified reputation for meanness: on the contrary, they are an admirably prudent, frugal and thrifty nation.[note 5]


For more information, see: Descent from antiquity: Scotland

Scotland is named for the Scoti or Scots, a Gaelic people who arrived from Ireland in the 1st millennium CE. That's a 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[24] (with similar idiocy, the Britons are said to be descended from Brutus of TroyWikipedia).

Legendary kings[edit]

In the 16th century, the Scots set about making up their history, with the first two major volumes of Scottish history being John MajorWikipedia (or Mair)'s De Gestis Scotorum (published in Paris in 1521) and Hector BoeceWikipedia's Historia Gentis Scotorum, published locally in 1527; the former was pretty factually-based, but the latter excelled at making shit up. To these, George BuchananWikipedia added his Rerum Scoticarum Historia in 1582, strongly influenced by Boece. These set the tone of Scottish history for hundreds of years, influencing other writers, including Raphael Holinshed (whose chronicles were the basis for much of Shakespeare's historical knowledge of people like Macbeth).[25]

Boece and Buchanan traced the Scottish throne to Fergus I (330-305 BCE), supposedly an Irish king who came over for a while but drowned off Carrick Fergus ("Fergus's rock"), which was named after him. This is not supported by any modern historians. They produced fictitious genealogies from Fergus to the 9th century Kenneth MacAlpin, traditionally the first king of Scotland, although little is known about him.[26] Boece appears to have reckoned that Scotland and England existed as two kingdoms side by side back to the time of Jesus and made up legends such as the story of King Galdus, who may be identified with Calgacus, who is mentioned by Tacitus as leading an army defeated by the Romans in 83 CE at the Battle of Mons GraupiusWikipedia.[27]

Buchanan propagated a myth around Kenneth I (Cináed mac Ailpín), who he claimed was the first truly Scottish (Gaelic) king. The latter had defeated the Picts after lots of blood and betrayal and established a royal dynasty. The Picts had a kingdom in northeast Scotland, and the Scots were an Irish (Gaelic) tribe who settled in Argyll around 500 CE and appeared to have displaced the Picts (or at least their language) towards the end of the first millennium CE. One particularly colourful legend holds that Kenneth called all his rivals to a meeting, got them really drunk, and made them sit on benches that were booby-trapped with spikes that impaled and killed them all (quite why you'd want a king who does this sort of shit is a good question, but it's a fun story, even if archaeologists are yet to find any evidence).[28]

Creating a heroic king of the appropriate ethnicity is nationalist pseudohistory 101. There's very little known about this period, but what seems to have happened in reality is that Kenneth was the son of a Pictish princess, his father was in some sense Gaelic, and through some medieval skullduggery, Kenneth became king of the Picts. Around the same time, the Scots' kingdom (Dal Riada) was partly captured by Vikings, and the remnants seem to have joined up with Kenneth. From Kenneth's time, we know that the Picts started to adopt Gaelic, although it's unclear why (some historians hypothesise that he agreed to the new language in exchange for the Scots' support of his kingship). Four of Kenneth's successors, such as Causantín mac CináedaWikipedia (Constantine I) and ÁedWikipedia, were called Kings of the Picts in contemporary accounts (there were no Scottish records but some Irish and Anglo-Saxon chronicles survive). Historian Alex Woolf says the idea of Kenneth as King of the Scots was first propagated around 1210 or 1220.[29] Also, calling him King of Scotland is misleading because he was only king of Pictland and the part of Dal Riada the Vikings hadn't captured: much of present-day Scotland was then ruled by Vikings, Britons, or Angles/Northumbrians.

Tartan myths[edit]

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 medieval about the design of the modern kilt or its tartan. The image of Highland warriors clad in long tartan plaids taking on the English is popular, 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).[30]

Kilts and bare bottoms[edit]

The kilt commonly worn today, a pleated skirt-like garment that hangs from the 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.[31] However, this idea is contested by others, and Rawlinson may merely have popularised an earlier design.[32] This was briefly popular, but tartan and the kilt were 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. It 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.[31][32]

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.[31] The fabric pattern 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.[33] In battle, medieval Scottish soldiers did not wear flowing kilts but chain mail or leather armour for obvious reasons such as not getting stabbed.[34] 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.

Clan tartans[edit]

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 a direct descendent of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the Polish royal family. Sobieski Stuart claimed that the book offered the history of the traditional tartans of various Scottish clans (tribal groups who controlled the Scottish Highlands). The book said 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 a 19th-century idea.

The Vestiarium's accuracy was soon questioned, with an 1847 article in the Quarterly Review attacking both the Sobieski Stuart genealogy and the book's authenticity; they doubtless had another recent hoax of Scottish history in mind, the fake poems of the Celtic bard Ossian (see Fakelore). Various defences of the book followed, although no independent experts could view any of the old copies of the text. In 1895, the Glasgow Herald published a series of articles by Andrew Ross which investigated the Vestiarium 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 artificially 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.[35][36][30]

David Morier's An Incident in the Rebellion of 1745, painted around 1760, shows soldiers with a variety of tartans

There were likely 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.[33] 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.[37] 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.[38] But Morier's painting is inaccurate in portraying Jacobites armed with swords facing loyalists with guns. In reality, the Highland charge depended on running up to the enemy, firing muskets at close range and setting about with their swords.[39]

Today, some claim that tartan and the kilt were purely Victorian inventions; this is an overstatement.[33] But representations of the Wars of Scottish Independence with flowing kilts and bare arses are totally inaccurate.

Misconceptions and anti-Scottish sentiment[edit]

Scotland has been subjected to a long history of misconceptions and offensive stereotypes, primarily centred around inhabitants' accents or the country's alleged brutality. Much of this originates from the anti-Scottish sentiment established by medieval authors (who rarely visited the country but just went off "common knowledge"). In the 16th century, Scotland, particularly the Gaelic-speaking Highlands, was characterised as lawless, savage and filled with wild Scots.[40]

Another prominent belief is that the country still resembles Braveheart disregarding that film was set in the late 1400s and was, in fact, based on a poem by Blind Harry.[41]

In the modern day, anti-Scottish sentiment has continued to be present. An English football supporter was banned for life for shouting "Kill all the Jocks" before attacking Scottish football fans.[42] One Scottish woman says she was forced to move from her home in England because of anti-Scottish feelings,[43] while another had a haggis thrown through her front window.[44] In 2008 a student nurse from London was fined for assault and hurling anti-Scottish abuse at police while drunk during the T in the Park festival in Kinross.[45] In another incident, a pregnant woman in South Shields attacked a random shopper because of her Scottish accent.[46]

Is anti-Scottish sentiment racist?[edit]

Due to the nature of racial categories, it is hard to distinguish if anti-Scottish sentiment is, in fact, racist. Cultural theorist Stuart Hall argues that the idea of race is dependent on changing social and political relations. Whether or not one is racialised depends, at any given time, on one's relationship to power. As Scottish people have long been seen as British, they cannot be subject to Racism.

However, as the disparity of power grows between Scotland and the rest of the UK, such as the unfairness of Devolution,[47] the West Lothian question[48] and the Barnett formula[49] as causes.[50] Anti-Scottish sentiment can be further argued to be a form of bigotry, and as argued by Jason Michael McCann:

When Scottish people are subjected to any kind of abuse on the basis of their national origin it is perfectly legitimate and reasonable to speak of this as racism.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. The deep-fried Mars barWikipedia is considered a delicacy,
  2. The numbers are thought to record either the notches on his bedposts or his pitching record.[citation NOT needed]
  3. "Twa' the bonne' off, an' pu' the heid on him!"
  4. German troops in World War I nicknamed Highland regiments The Ladies From Hell. Draw your own conclusions.
  5. Especially the Aberdonians.


  2. Address Tae A Haggis
  3. Americans can only purchase "homegrown" or imitation haggis
  4. Scottish referendum: Scotland votes 'No' to independence
  5. Lord Ascroft, Twitter, 19 Sep 2014
  6. Prince Philip: 90 of the Duke of Edinburgh's most excruciating gaffes and jokes by Heather Saul (Friday 17 July 2015) The Independent.
  8. Oats - A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people. (Samuel Johnson, 1755)
  10. Columba encountered Loch Ness monster,
  11. Catholic Church moves into Pole position, The Scotsman, 25 May 2008
  12. Humanist weddings 'on the increase' in Scotland
  13. Religion (detailed), Scotland's Census 2011 - National Records of Scotland
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Languages of Scotland.
  15. Gaelic Civilisation: The Gaelic Soul of Alba, Sion nan Gaidheal website, accessed 11 Jan 2019
  16. Random thouchts on Ulster-Scotch, Slugger O'Toole, 27 Dec 2008
  17. Website help over Scots language, BBC, 28 Feb 2011
  19. A Facial at Fortnum's? Never, Jonathan Glancey, Guardian, 5 Nov 2007
  20. See the Wikipedia article on Scotch Tape.
  21. 25 Awesome Things Scotland Gave the World, Culture Trip
  22. See the Wikipedia article on How the Scots Invented the Modern World.
  23. Charlie, he's my darling.
  24. See the Wikipedia article on Scota.
  25. Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth,
  26. See the Wikipedia article on Legendary kings of Scotland.
  27. King Galdus,
  28. King Kenneth I, Undiscovered Scotland
  29. See the Wikipedia article on Kenneth MacAlpin.
  30. 30.0 30.1 The Invention of Scotland by Hugh Trevor-Roper: review, Adam Sisman, The Daily Telegraph, June 6, 2008
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 See the Wikipedia article on History of the kilt.
  32. 32.0 32.1 The History of Tartan, Country Life, August 8, 2014
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 A history of tartan: from Falkirk to Mod, Jude Stewart, The Scotsman, 2 Dec 2015
  34. Medieval arms and armour, Scottish Association of the Teachers of History website
  35. The Welsh brothers who sold Scotland's 'fake' tartan dream, The Scotsman, 31 Aug 2016
  36. See the Wikipedia article on Vestiarium Scoticum.
  37. See the Wikipedia article on Tartan.
  38. See the Wikipedia article on David Morier.
  39. Culloden,
  40. [ W. Camden, Britannia, or, A Chorographical description of the most flourishing kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. (London 1610), p114-127]
  41. [1]
  42. "'Kill the Jocks' Thug is Caged; Curse of the Casuals Day 4 – Girlfriend Assaulted". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  43. "Mum Run out of England for Being Scottish; Racist Hell: Victim Tells How Cats Were Killed and Home Burned". Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  44. "Police probe haggis 'hate crime'". BBC News. 23 May 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  45. "Student nurse fined hundreds for assault and anti-Scottish abuse". STV News. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  46. "Pregnant-woman-attacks-Scottish-shopper". Daily Mail. 2014-06-05. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  50. Walker, Helen (3 December 2007). "Scottish MPs voice concern over increase in anti-Scottish sentiment". The Journal. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.