With a victory for Scottish nationalists in elections likely to be seen as a mandate for a new referendum on independence, we cast an eye over Scotland and its history.
– Still in UK… –
Scotland and England went through centuries of wars and rivalry before the two crowns joined up in 1707.
But in 1998 Scotland regained a limited autonomy. The 129-seat Scottish Parliament can pass certain laws and change taxes.
A hotly contested referendum on independence in 2014 resulted in 55 percent of Scots voting to stay within the union.
But nationalists remain the most powerful political force. Since the 2016 Brexit referendum they have pushed for a second independence plebiscite, arguing that Scotland had voted nearly two to one to stay in the EU.
With polls consistently showing a majority for independence, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made a second referendum central to her election campaign.
– Castles and lochs –
At the northernmost end of the UK, Scotland stretches from the southern lowlands through the highlands to the Shetland Islands, which are closer to Norway than they are to the capital Edinburgh.
A land of mists, salmon-rich rivers, imposing castles and prestigious golf courses, Scotland’s tourism sector brought in £7.7 billion (8.1 billion euros) in the year prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Top spots include Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, Loch Lomond and Loch Ness — known for its mythical monster, Nessie — and the wild landscape of the Isle of Skye, one of the country’s 790 islands.
The nation of 5.5 million people speaks English and, less commonly, Scots Gaelic.
– No Romans here –
While the Roman Empire covered all of what is today England, it could not conquer the bulk of rebellious Caledonia, as Scotland was then known.
The Emperor Hadrian even built a wall in 122 AD to keep Caledonia’s wild Picts out.
A second wall, called the Antonine Wall, was built by the Romans in 142 AD across southern Scotland as they pushed their empire as far north as it would get.
But it was quickly abandoned.
– Oil, wind and whisky –
Scotland’s gross domestic product per capita of £30,800 in 2019 is slightly higher than the UK average, according to the Scottish government.
Scotland holds three-fifths of Europe’s oil reserves and the continent’s second biggest known gas reserves.
They are held mainly in the Shetlands whose rich waters also have more fish than England, Northern Ireland and Wales put together.
In a bid to wean itself off North Sea oil, Scotland has become a renewable energy giant. It has 25 percent of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal resources and is home to the world’s first floating wind farm.
Whisky is Scotland’s national drink but also its second biggest export, worth £5.5 billion in 2018.
– Arts hotspot –
Edinburgh’s annual arts festival is one of the biggest in the world, attracting audiences of more than four million.
For Burns Night every January, Scots gather to eat the famed haggis — minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs — and celebrate their national icon, poet Robert Burns.
And visitors will not leave before hearing the skirl of bagpipes or catching sight of men in kilts made in various tartans which show which clan they belong to.