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Facts


Population: 5,373 million(2015)
Area: 80 077 km²
Capital City: Edinburgh


About Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the south, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the south-west. In addition to the mainland, the country has more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Scotland, the U.K.’s northernmost country, is a land of mountain wildernesses such as the Cairngorms and Northwest Highlands, interspersed with glacial glens (valleys) and lochs (lakes). Its major cities are Edinburgh, the capital, with its iconic hilltop castle, and Glasgow, famed for its vibrant cultural scene. Scotland is also famous for golf, the game first played at the Old Course at St Andrews in the 1400s.


Currency

The currency in Scotland is not different from the rest of the United Kingdom in that it is also consists of British Pounds (£), although Scottish banks print their own versions. These “Scottish notes” are widely accepted throughout the United Kingdom, although cases have been reported of a few shops outside Scotland refusing them.
Money can be exchanged in banks, at foreign exchange bureaus and hotels. The exchange bureaus are generally open for longer than banks are but charge higher commission rates. Banks are usually open from 9:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday. Some banks are also open on Saturdays.
If you plan to use American Express, MasterCard or Visa Cards, you will find that credit cards and debits cards are widely accepted. The same is true of Travelers cheques which should be in GBP to avoid extra exchange rate charges. There are also a multitude of ATMs available throughout Scotland so you will have easy access to cash.


Climate


The climate of Scotland is temperate and oceanic, and tends to be very changeable. As it is warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic, it has much milder winters (but cooler, wetter summers) than areas on similar latitudes, such as Labrador, southern Scandinavia, the Moscow region in Russia, and the Kamchatka Peninsula on the opposite side of Eurasia. However, temperatures are generally lower than in the rest of the UK, with the coldest ever UK temperature of −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F) recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, on 11 February 1895. Winter maxima average 6 °C (43 °F) in the Lowlands, with summer maxima averaging 18 °C (64 °F). The highest temperature recorded was 32.9 °C (91.2 °F) at Greycrook, Scottish Borders on 9 August 2003.
The west of Scotland is usually warmer than the east, owing to the influence of Atlantic ocean currents and the colder surface temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is one of the sunniest places in the country: it had more than 300 hours of sunshine in May 1975. Rainfall varies widely across Scotland. The western highlands of Scotland are the wettest, with annual rainfall in a few places exceeding 3,000 mm (120 in). In comparison, much of lowland Scotland receives less than 800 mm (31 in) annually. Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude. Braemar has an average of 59 snow days per year, while many coastal areas average fewer than 10 days of lying snow per year.


languages

Scotland has three officially recognised languages: English, Scots, and Scottish Gaelic. Scottish Standard English, a variety of English as spoken in Scotland, is at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with broad Scots at the other. Scottish Standard English may have been influenced to varying degrees by Scots. The 2011 census indicated that 63{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} of the population had “no skills in Scots”. Others speak Highland English. Gaelic is mostly spoken in the Western Isles, where a large proportion of people still speak it; however, nationally its use is confined to just 1{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} of the population. The number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland dropped from 250,000 in 1881 to 60,000 in 2008.

Economy


The Economy of Scotland had an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of up to £152 billion in 2015. In 2014, Scotland’s per capita GDP was one of the highest in the EU. Scotland has a Western-style open mixed economy closely linked with the rest of the UK and the wider world. Traditionally, the Scottish economy has been dominated by heavy industry underpinned by shipbuilding in Glasgow, coal mining and steel industries. Petroleum related industries associated with the extraction of North Sea oil have also been important employers from the 1970s, especially in the north-east of Scotland.
In February 2012, the Centre for Economics and Business Research concluded that “Scotland receives no net subsidy” from the UK, as greater per capita tax generation in Scotland balanced out greater per capita public spending. More recent data, from 2012–13, show that Scotland generated 9.1{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} (£53.1bn; this included a geographical share of North Sea oil revenue – without it, the figures were 8.2{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} and £47.6bn) of the UK’s tax revenues and received 9.3{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} (£65.2bn) of spending. Scotland’s public spending deficit in 2012–13 was £12bn, a £3.5bn increase on the previous year; over the same period, the UK’s deficit decreased by £2.6bn. Over the past thirty years, Scotland contributed a relative budget surplus of almost £20billion to the UK economy.
In the final quarter of 2016, the Scottish economy contracted by 0.2{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477}; the UK as a whole grew by 0.7{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} in the same period. As of September 2015, the Scottish unemployment rate of 5.9{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} was above the UK rate of 5.5{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477}, while the Scottish employment rate of 74.0{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} was higher than the UK figure of 73.5{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477}. De-industrialisation during the 1970s and 1980s saw a shift from a manufacturing focus towards a more service-oriented economy.


Education


The Scottish education system has always been distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom, with a characteristic emphasis on a broad education. In the 15th century, the Humanist emphasis on education cumulated with the passing of the Education Act 1496, which decreed that all sons of barons and freeholders of substance should attend grammar schools to learn “perfyct Latyne”, resulting in an increase in literacy among a male and wealthy elite. In the Reformation, the 1560 First Book of Discipline set out a plan for a school in every parish, but this proved financially impossible. In 1616 an act in Privy council commanded every parish to establish a school. By the late seventeenth century there was a largely complete network of parish schools in the lowlands, but in the Highlands basic education was still lacking in many areas. Education remained a matter for the church rather than the state until the Education Act (1872).
Scotland’s universities are complemented in the provision of Further and Higher Education by 43 colleges. Colleges offer National Certificates, Higher National Certificates, and Higher National Diplomas. These Group Awards, alongside Scottish Vocational Qualifications, aim to ensure Scotland’s population has the appropriate skills and knowledge to meet workplace needs. In 2014, research reported by the Office for National Statistics found that Scotland was the most highly educated country in Europe and among the most well-educated in the world in terms of tertiary education attainment, with roughly 40{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} of people in Scotland aged 16–64 educated to NVQ level 4 and above. Based on the original data for EU statistical regions, all four Scottish regions ranked significantly above the European average for completion of tertiary-level education by 25- to 64-year-olds.


Religion


Just over half (54{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477}) of the Scottish population reported being a Christian while nearly 37{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} reported not having a religion in a 2011 census. Since the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the national church (the Church of Scotland, also known as The Kirk) has been Protestant in classification and Reformed in theology. Since 1689 it has had a Presbyterian system of church government and enjoys independence from the state. Its membership is 398,389, about 7.5{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} of the total population, though according to the 2014 Scottish Annual Household Survey, 27.8{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477}, or 1.5 million adherents, identified Church of Scotland as their religion. The Church operates a territorial parish structure, with every community in Scotland having a local congregation.
Scotland also has a significant Roman Catholic population, 19{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} professing that faith, particularly in Greater Glasgow and the north-west. After the Reformation, Roman Catholicism in Scotland continued in the Highlands and some western islands like Uist and Barra, and it was strengthened during the 19th century by immigration from Ireland. Other Christian denominations in Scotland include the Free Church of Scotland, and various other Presbyterian offshoots. Scotland’s third largest church is the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Islam is the largest non-Christian religion (estimated at around 75,000, which is about 1.4{a8ebb7af5c9afe4e6e327155ff1f4575d773b7d69d8c6efb270dabc498e4a477} of the population), and there are also significant Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities, especially in Glasgow. The Samyé Ling monastery near Eskdalemuir, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, is the first Buddhist monastery in western Europe.


Health care


Health care in Scotland is mainly provided by NHS Scotland, Scotland’s public health care system. This was founded by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 (later repealed by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978) that took effect on 5 July 1948 to coincide with the launch of the NHS in England and Wales. However, even prior to 1948, half of Scotland’s landmass was already covered by state-funded health care, provided by the Highlands and Islands Medical Service. Healthcare policy and funding is the responsibility of the Scottish Government’s Health Directorates. The current Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport is Shona Robison and the Director-General (DG) Health and chief executive, NHS Scotland is Paul Gray.
In 2008, the NHS in Scotland had around 158,000 staff including more than 47,500 nurses, midwives and health visitors and over 3,800 consultants. There are also more than 12,000 doctors, family practitioners and allied health professionals, including dentists, opticians and community pharmacists, who operate as independent contractors providing a range of services within the NHS in return for fees and allowances. These fees and allowances were removed in May 2010, and prescriptions are entirely free, although dentists and opticians may charge if the patient’s household earns over a certain amount, about £30,000 per annum.


Politics and government


The head of state of the United Kingdom is the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952). The regnal numbering (“Elizabeth II”) caused controversy around the time of her coronation because there had never been an Elizabeth I in Scotland. The British government stated in April 1953 that future British monarchs would be numbered according to either their English or their Scottish predecessors, whichever number would be higher. For instance, any future King James would be styled James VIII—since the last Scottish King James was James VII (also James II of England, etc.)—while the next King Henry would be King Henry IX throughout the UK even though there have been no Scottish kings of that name. A legal action, MacCormick v Lord Advocate (1953 SC 396), was brought in Scotland to contest the right of the Queen to entitle herself “Elizabeth II” within Scotland, but the Crown won the case.
The monarchy of the United Kingdom continues to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to pre-union Scotland, including: the Royal Standard of Scotland, the Royal coat of arms used in Scotland together with its associated Royal Standard, royal titles including that of Duke of Rothesay, certain Great Officers of State, the chivalric Order of the Thistle and, since 1999, reinstating a ceremonial role for the Crown of Scotland after a 292-year hiatus.
Scotland has limited self-government within the United Kingdom, as well as representation in the UK Parliament. Executive and legislative powers respectively have been devolved to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh since 1999. The UK Parliament retains control over reserved matters specified in the Scotland Act 1998, including UK taxes, social security, defence, international relations and broadcasting. The Scottish Parliament has legislative authority for all other areas relating to Scotland. It initially had only a limited power to vary income tax, but powers over taxation and social security were significantly expanded by the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016.


Scotland is represented in the British House of Commons by 59 MPs elected from territory-based Scottish constituencies. In the 2017 general election, the SNP won 35 of the 59 seats. This represented a significant decline from the 2015 general election, when the SNP won 56 seats. Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties also represent Scottish constituencies in the House of Commons. The next United Kingdom general election is scheduled for 5 May 2022. The Scotland Office represents the UK government in Scotland on reserved matters and represents Scottish interests within the UK government. The Scotland Office is led by the Secretary of State for Scotland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom; the incumbent is Conservative MP David Mundell.


Cuisine


Scottish cuisine has distinctive attributes and recipes of its own but shares much with wider British and European cuisine as a result of local and foreign influences, both ancient and modern. Traditional Scottish dishes exist alongside international foodstuffs brought about by migration. Scotland’s natural larder of game, dairy products, fish, fruit, and vegetables is the chief factor in traditional Scots cooking, with a high reliance on simplicity and a lack of spices from abroad, as these were historically rare and expensive. Irn-Bru is the most common Scottish carbonated soft drink, often described as “Scotland’s other national drink” (after whisky). During the Late Middle Ages and early modern era, French cuisine played a role in Scottish cookery due to cultural exchanges brought about by the “Auld Alliance”, especially during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, on her return to Scotland, brought an entourage of French staff who are considered responsible for revolutionising Scots cooking and for some of Scotland’s unique food terminology.

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