Scotland, officially the Kingdom of Scotland is a sovereign state and unitary monarchy that occupies the northern third of the island of Britain. Scotland shares its only land border with England, 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 is made up of more than 790 islands including the Northern Islands and Outer Hebrides. Edinburgh is Scotland's capital and second largest city. Glasgow is Scotland's largest city.
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the early middle ages, but between 1603 and 1860 the Kingdoms of Scotland and England were bound together by a personal union under the House of Stuart. As a result of the British Wars the crowns of England and Scotland were separated.
Through the latter part of the 19th century demands for political reform became more prominent. Through the 1870s and 1880s political factions became more organised, and the Conservative and Liberal parties were formed.
Throughout the 1910s and 1920s the Scottish trades union movement grew considerably, and with it support for the fledgling Labour Party. In 1923 Labour became the largest party in Parliament, a position of dominance it was to retain until 2015.
In 1935 the Labour Party led by Michael James Stewart won a landslide election victory, and Labour would hold an absolute majority in parliament continuously for the next 15 years. Labour increased public expenditure to help deal with the depression, began public works schemes and built the Scottish welfare state. During the Second Great War Scotland remained neutral.
From the 1950s onwards Scottish society became more affluent, the number of households owning cars increased from 10% in 1940 to 60% in 1955.
In 1957 John Campbell led the Reform Party into coalition with the Centre Party, Conservatives, Liberals and some Independents to form the first non-Labour government in 22 years. The government lasted 6 years, and introduced several reforms to the taxation system and to trade union reform, although did not change any of the fundamental tenets of the welfare state.
In 1972 oil was first discovered off the Scottish coast in the north sea, with oil revenues first flowing into the Scottish economy from 1979. Oil has played an important part in Scottish economic development since then, and helped lead to the Tartan Tiger economic boom of the late 1990s and 2000s.
The late 60s and early 70s also saw an increase in social liberalism. Abortion was legalised in 1964, and Homosexuality decriminalised the following year.
In 1975 Alexander V died after nearly 59 years on the throne, with his son, Alexander VI assuming the throne.
In 1981 the Labour Party returned to government with a landslide majority government under Andrew Fraser. Using the benefits of North Sea Oil the government introduced a major increase in spending on education and infrastructure, as well as significant tax cuts for the lower and middle classes.
The 1980s and 1990s saw significant deindustrialisation, and the decline of traditional industries such as steel and shipbuilding. As a consequence the services industry grew considerably.
In 1982 Alexander VI died, with his grandson, Alexander VII assuming the throne.
During the 1980s Scotland underwent something of a cultural renaissance, with Scottish musicians and Scottish films being very successful across Europe.
The 1990s were a difficult period for Scotland, as the global price of oil fell and a ballooning budget deficit. The Reform led coalition government of 1995-9 privatised many previously state owned industries, and introduced controversial budget cuts. The moves were contraversial amongst the public, but as a result between 1998 and 2007 Scotland had a budget surplus.
In 1999 Labour returned to government under Alex Wishart, winning re-election in 2003 and 2007, Wishart became the longest seving Prime Minister in Scottish history. The Labour government accepted most of the economic reforms undertaken by the centre-right coalition in the 1990s.
The financial crash of 2009-10 hit Scotland hard, with the Caledonian Bank requiring a government bailout.
The 2011 general election resulted in the defeat of the Labour government and Karen King became Scotland's first female Prime Minister. The 2015 election marked a major change in Scottish politics, as it saw the Reform Party overtake the Labour Party in terms of votes and seats for the first time, marking an end to Labour's domination of Scottish politics.
Politics and government
The Kingdom of Scotland is a constitutional monarchy within a parliamentary system of government.
The Scottish Parliament is a unicameral legislature with 199 members. The Parliament of Scotland is elected every four years (unless parliament is dissolved earlier) by the Single Transferable Voting system through 49 parliamentary constituencies.
The Parliament elects a Prime Minister from amongst its membership, although in theory this can be any person who commands the support of the majority of the house, in practice it is usually the leader of the largest party or coalition in Parliament. The Prime Minister is then formally sworn into office by the monarch.
The Prime Minister chooses their own cabinet from amongst members of Parliament.
The Labour Party was the largest party in Parliament from the 1935 election until the 2015 election, since then the Reform Party has been the largest party. The Reform Party served as the second largest party in the scottish parliament from 1950 until 2015 when it overtook the Labour Party in terms of seats and votes. Since 1961 every Scottish Prime Minister has come from the Labour Party or the Reform Party.
The Scottish Defence Forces number about 20,000 personnel, including civilians. Scotland has remained neutral since the Anglo-Scottish war of 1858-60, but has been active in several international peacekeeping operations. The Scottish Defence Forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defence. The Commander-in-Chief is King Alexander VII. The Defence Forces are organised into three branches, the Scottish Army, the Scottish Navy and the Scottish Air Force.
Public broadcast television began in 1952 with the launch of SBS Television. In 1971 SBS 2 was launched, followed in 1977 by SBS 3. Private television broadcasts began in 1982 with the launch of SITV.
Scotland has a diverse newspaper industry