Scotland /english/

The terrain of Scotland is predominantly mountainous but may be divided into three distinct regions, from north to south: the

Scotland /english/



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Scotland, administrative division of the kingdom of Great Britain, occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain. Scotland is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean; on the east by the North Sea; on the southeast by England; on the south by Solway Firth, which partly separates it from England, and by the Irish Sea; and on the west by North Channel, which separates it from Ireland, and by the Atlantic Ocean. As a geopolitical entity Scotland includes 186 nearby islands, a majority of which are contained in three groupsnamely, the Hebrides, also known as the Western Islands, situated off the western coast; the Orkney Islands, situated off the northeastern coast; and the Shetland Islands, situated northeast of the Orkney Islands. The largest of the other islands is the Island of Arran. The area, including the islands, is 78,772 sq km (30,414 sq mi). Edinburgh (population, 1991, 421,213) is the capital of Scotland as well as a major industrial area and seaport.

The Land and Resources

Scotland has a very irregular coastline. The western coast in particular is deeply penetrated by numerous arms of the sea, most of which are narrow submerged valleys, known locally as sea lochs, and by a number of broad indentations, generally called firths. The principal firths are the Firth of Lorne, the Firth of Clyde, and Solway Firth. The major indentations on the eastern coast are Dornoch Firth, Moray Firth, the Firth of Tay, and the Firth of Forth. Measured around the various firths and lochs, the coastline of Scotland is about 3700 km (about 2300 mi) long.

Physiographic Regions

The terrain of Scotland is predominantly mountainous but may be divided into three distinct regions, from north to south: the Highlands, the Central Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands. More than one-half of the surface of Scotland is occupied by the Highlands, the most rugged region on the island of Great Britain. Consisting of parallel mountain chains with a general northeastern-southwestern trend and broken by deep ravines and valleys, the Highlands are noted for their scenic grandeur. Precipitous cliffs, moorland plateaus, mountain lakes, sea lochs, swift-flowing streams, and dense thickets are common to the Highlands, the most sparsely inhabited section of Scotland. The region is divided in two by a depression, known as the Glen More, or Great Glen, which extends from Moray Firth to Loch Linnhe. To the northwest of this lie heavily eroded peaks with fairly uniform elevations ranging from 610 to 915 m (about 2000 to 3000 ft). In the Highlands southeast of the Great Glen the topography is highly diversified. This region is traversed by the Grampian Mountains, the principal mountain system of Scotland. The highest peak of the Grampians is Ben Nevis (1343 m/4406 ft), the highest summit in Great Britain.

To the south of the Highlands lies the Central Lowlands, a narrow belt comprising only about one-tenth of the area of Scotland, but containing the majority of the country's population. The Central Lowlands are traversed by several chains of hills, including the Ochil and Sidlaw hills, and by several important rivers, notably the Clyde, Forth, and Tay.

The terrain of the Southern Uplands, a region much less elevated and rugged than the Highlands, consists largely of a moorland plateau traversed by rolling valleys and broken by mountainous outcroppings. Only a few summits in the Southern Uplands exceed 762 m (2500 ft) in elevation, the highest being Merrick (843 m/2765 ft) in the southwest. Adjoining the Southern Uplands region along the boundary with England are the Cheviot Hills.

Rivers and Lakes

Scotland is characterized by an abundance of streams and lakes (lochs). Notable among the lakes, which are especially numerous in the central and northern regions, are Loch Lomond (the largest), Loch Ness, Loch Tay, and Loch Katrine. Many of the rivers of Scotland, in particular the rivers in the west, are short, torrential streams, generally of little commercial importance. The longest river of Scotland is the Tay; the Clyde, however, is the principal navigational stream, site of the port of Glasgow. Other chief rivers include the Forth, Tweed, Dee, and Spey.


Like the climate of the rest of Great Britain, that of Scotland is subject to the moderating influences of the surrounding seas. As a result of these influences, extreme seasonal variations are rare, and temperate winters and cool summers are the outstanding climatic features. Low temperatures, however, are common during the winter season in the mountainous districts of the interior. In the western coastal region, which is subject to the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream, conditions are somewhat milder than in the east. The average January temperature of the eastern coastal region is 3.9њ C (39њ F), and the average January temperature of the western coastal region is 3.1њ C (37.5њ F); corresponding July averages are 13.8њ C (56.8њ F) and 15њ C (59њ F). The average January and July temperatures for the city of Edinburgh are 3.5њ C (38њ F) and 14.5њ C (58њ F), respectively. Precipitation, which is marked by regional variations, ranges from about 3810 mm (about 150 in) annually in the western Highlands to about 635 mm (about 25 in) annually in certain eastern areas.

Plant and Animal Life

The most common species of trees indigenous to Scotland are oak and coniferschiefly fir, pine, and larch. Large forested areas, however, are rare, and the only important woodlands are in the southern and eastern Highlands. Except in these wooded areas, vegetation in the elevated regions consists largely of heather, ferns, mosses, and grasses. Saxifrage, mountain willow, and other types of alpine and arctic flora occur at elevations above 610 m (2000 ft). Practically all of the cultivated plants of Scotland were imported from America and the European continent.

The only large indigenous mammal in Scotland is the deer. Both the red deer and the roe deer are found, but the red deer, whose habitat is the Highlands, is by far the more abundant of the two species. Other indigenous mammals are the hare, rabbit, otter, ermine, pine marten, and wildcat. Game birds include grouse, blackcock, ptarmigan, and waterfowl. The few predatory birds include the kite, osprey, and golden eagle. Scotland is famous for the salmon and trout that abound in its streams and lakes. Many species of fish, including cod, haddock, herring, and various types of shellfish, are found in the coastal waters.

Natural Resources

Scotland, like the rest of the island of Great Britain, has significant reserves of coal. It also possesses large deposits of zinc, chiefly in the south. The soil is generally rocky and infertile, except for that of the Central Lowlands. Northern Scotland has great hydroelectric power potential and contains Great Britain's largest hydroelectric generating stations. Beginning in the late 1970s, offshore oil deposits in the North Sea became an important part of the Scottish economy.


The people of Scotland, like those of Great Britain in general, are descendants of various racial stocks, including the Picts, Celts, Scandinavians, and Romans. Scotland is a mixed rural-industrial society. Scots divide themselves into Highlanders, who consider themselves of purer Celtic blood and retain a stronger feeling of the clan, and Lowlanders, who are largely of Teutonic blood.

Population Characteristics

The population of Scotland was (1991 preliminary) 4,957,289. The population density was about 64 persons per sq km (167 per sq mi). The highest density is in the Central Lowlands, where nearly three-quarters of the Scots live, and the lowest is in the Highlands. About two-thirds of the population are urban dwellers.

Principal Cities

The most populous city in Scotland (654,542) is Glasgow. The conurbation of Clydeside, which includes the cities of Glasgow and Clydebank, is the largest shipbuilding and marine engineering center in Great Britain. Other important industrial cities are Dundee (165,548) and Aberdeen (201,099).

Religion and Language

The Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian denomination, is the official state church. The Roman Catholic church is second in importance. Other leading denominations are the Episcopal Church in Scotland, Congregationalist, Baptist, Methodist, and Unitarian. Jews are a small minority.

English is generally spoken; fewer than 100,000 Scots (mainly inhabitants of the Highlands and island groups) also speak the Scottish form of Gaelic.


Schools in Scotland are administered by the Scottish Education Department and by local education authorities.

Elementary and Secondary Schools

In the mid-1980s some 879,000 pupils were attending publicly maintained schools and about 31,900 were in private schools. The transfer from elementary to secondary schools generally takes place at the age of 12. For a discussion on specialized schools.

Universities and Colleges

Scotland has about 66 institutions providing programs of study beyond the secondary level for those students who do not go on to the universities. These include colleges of agriculture, art, commerce, and science, and in the mid-1980s the total enrollment was more than 81,000. Teacher-training colleges numbered seven, with approximately 3000 students. Of the eight universities in Scotland, the oldest (University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and University of St. Andrews) were founded in the 15th and 16th centuries. Four universities have received their charters since 1960. Total university enrollment was about 43,100 in the early

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