Scotland History, Language and Culture
History of Scotland
Scottish history is dotted with stirring, colourful figures, from Robert the Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charlie to William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots, although its written history begins with the arrival of the Romans in the 1st century AD. The invaders found strong resistance from the land’s current occupants, the Picts, which eventually led to Roman construction of Hadrian’s Wall.
Scotland was then subjected to Viking attacks and Norman influence. There was an infamous power-grab from the English in 1296, when Edward I deposed Scotland’s King John. William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace briefly ruled until being captured and executed.
Key events over the following centuries include the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Edward II was defeated by Robert the Bruce, and the 16th-century renewal of the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France, which saw the Scots invade England. In the tense decades that followed, Mary Queen of Scots was sentenced to death by Elizabeth I.
Despite the 1707 Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, there has always been a strong independent spirit in the nation. It still retains its own banknotes, legal and education systems, and from 1999 Scotland regained its own parliament as part of the devolution process. The Scottish parliament has powers over a number of domestic policies.
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond made political history in 2007 after becoming the first nationalist to be elected First Minister of Scotland, heading the first minority administration since devolution. The banking crisis hit Scotland’s confidence, however, battering its image as a strong financial centre, with The Royal Bank of Scotland at the centre of a media storm.
In 2011, the SNP won an outright majority in the Scottish parliamentary elections and held a referendum on independence in 2014. A hard-fought campaign on both sides resulted in the ‘No’ side winning, having accrued some 55% of the public vote. However, the SNP made history again at the UK general election in 2015, taking 56 of 59 seats in the country and becoming the third largest party in the Commons, under the leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. An appetite for independence lingers.
Did you know?
• 'Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott' is a perfect anagram of 'novel by a Scottish writer'.
• With something of a lack of foresight, King James II once ordered that “futeball and the golfe be utterly cryit down” – he was concerned the sports were stopping his yeomen practice their archery.
• When Queen Victoria visited the Highlands, it’s said she smoked cigarettes to keep away midges.
• Edinburgh was the first city on the planet to have its own fire brigade.
Religion in Scotland
Predominantly Christian (around 40% Church of Scotland, 15% Roman Catholic and 6% other Christian denominations) with small Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh minorities. Around a quarter of the population have no religion.
Social Conventions in Scotland
Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone's home and a small present such as flowers or chocolates is appreciated. It is polite to wait until everyone has been served before eating.
Language in Scotland
English. Gaelic is still spoken by around 1.3% of the population, mostly in the west and Highlands.