Scotland is the northernmost country in the U.K. and its peoples, who have included Picts, Gaels and Scots, have a rich and colourful history. Many people have heard of Macbeth, King of Scots (the Eleventh Century monarch who was immortalised by Shakespeare), and Mary, Queen of Scots (famous for having been executed in 1587 by her cousin Elizabeth who was Queen of England at the time). Hadrian’s Wall, which stretches for 73 miles right across the north of England from East to West gives an sense of what Scotland was like during the Roman invasions. It was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian between 122 and 128 AD to “separate Romans from barbarians” as the Caledonians (collective name for the southern Scottish tribal clans) were impossible to subdue.
Thankfully, today’s Scotland is much more hospitable place and has a well-earned reputation as a beautiful country full of mountains, glens (valleys) and lochs (Scottish name for lakes) although much of its green beauty comes from a fair amount of rain!
Scotland is known around the World as ‘the home of golf’ and there are over 550 courses throughout the country, the most famous being the 16th century Old Course at St Andrews.
Scotland’s population is small at only around 5.3 million and approximately 3.5 million people live in the ‘Central Belt’ which is an area running from East to West between Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, and Glasgow, the country’s largest city, which hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The Central Belt covers only an eighth of the total land mass of the country so there are many parts of Scotland which remain very unpopulated and remote. The North of the country has the wildest, harshest and most remote environments within the British Isles and there are many areas which are completely uninhabited, although it was not always the case. Many parts of the Scottish Highlands were once well populated and over half Scotland’s population lived in the Highlands prior to 1750, but people were driven out to make way for sheep farming during the notorious Highland Clearances in the late 18th Century.
Nowadays it is possible to walk for days through places such as the Cairngorm mountain range without seeing any civilisation and, further north, Letterewe is one of the largest areas in Western Europe with absolutely no civilisation, not even a road, nor any mobile phone connection! Some areas are now so remote and unvisited that crossing them in winter would be as risky as crossing the Canadian Arctic or Siberian wastes.
(See – Search and go: Getting lost in the Scottish wilderness- http://www.searchandgo.com/articles/recreation/scottish-wilderness-1.php)
The Scotland of today is certainly a very interesting place to live and raise children, especially in terms of the political scene. For instance, the three main parties in Scotland are led by women and it is the only place in the world where the majority of party leaders (four out of the six parties) identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). That said, only 46 out 129 members of the Scottish Parliament are women, many of whom have no children.
In fact, none of the female party leaders have children and I think this shows that our society and the parliamentary system need to change a lot before women enjoy the same opportunities as men – i.e. the ability to juggle family and work life without compromising their status at work.
In terms of the political scene, Scotland has had its own devolved parliament since 1999 and the Scottish Parliament looks after many devolved matters such as health, education, justice and policing. Few people outside the country realise that Scotland has had its own legal and education system for centuries. The Scottish legal system is based on Roman Law (rather ironic when you consider that Scotland was a place they couldn’t invade!) and is quite different from the legal system in England which is based on ‘precedent’.
This gives many Scots a very strong sense of identity and of belonging to a Scottish nation, rather than identifying themselves as British, a point which other nations, both in the UK and elsewhere, often find difficult to understand!
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, heads the SNP (Scottish National Party). The SNP was founded as a party for an independent Scotland and it has been increasing in popularity, having convincingly won several elections over the past decade. Nicola is the first female leader and she has been popular with many of the electorate, especially young women who view her as a good role model.
The subject of Scottish independence has continued to dominate the UK headlines over the past couple of years despite an independence referendum in September 2014 where 55% of the population voted to stay in the UK. However, people in the UK will soon be asked to vote on whether the UK should remain in the European Union (E.U.) and this has once again raised the question of independence for Scotland. If the vote turns out to be in favour of the UK leaving Europe, the result is likely to prompt another independence referendum in Scotland because the majority of Scots wish to stay part of Europe and many feel that it is undemocratic if Scotland is forced to leave due its being part of the UK. Some people in Scotland who previously voted against independence feel so strongly that we should remain in Europe that they would now be prepared to vote for independence if the UK as a whole votes to leave the E.U. This means there could be a much higher likelihood of an independent Scotland and many people are impatiently awaiting the results of the referendum which takes place on the 23rd of June.
It looks families in Scotland will face an interesting few months!
What are some interesting facts about the country you live in?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Judith Nelson of Scotland.