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Scottish Culture and History

Scotland is one of four constituent nations which form the United Kingdom (the other three are England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Scotland forms the northern part of the island of Great Britain. Scotland has given rise to many famous people, notable in the arts, literature, the sciences and as inventors, philosophers, architects and so on, than would be expected for a country of such modest size and population.

19/01/2004 :: Scottish History

The Midland Valley of Scotland represented the most northern extent of the Roman conquest of Britain after 79 A.D. Remnants of the Antonine Wall, which the Romans built between the River Forth and the River Clyde to defend this frontier, can still be seen. The lands to the north (known to the Romans as Caledonia) were occupied by a war-like tribe called the Picts. Little is known of the Picts, but their origin and language is most-likely Celtic. The more famous Hadrian's Wall, which is over 100 miles long and lies close to the current border between England and Scotland, was built by the retreating Romans (having been harried by continuous Pictish attacks) around 119 A.D.

In the 5th Century the "Scots" came from their home in Ireland and settled in the West of Scotland. The Scots, partially christianised when they came, had Saint Columba as their great missionary, and through him and his followers, built on the work of Saint Ninian converting the Picts and other tribes to christianity. Saint Columba is buried on the sacred island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland.

After centuries of wars with the Picts, they put the crown of Scots and Picts on the head of their king, Kenneth MacAlpin, in 843. The reign of Malcolm Canmore (1057 - 93) was a time of great social, political and religious revolution. Malcolm had spent much time in England and he and his saintly queen (Margaret) encouraged the introduction of english customs, civilisation, the english language and settlers. Many Normans (the normans having conquered England in 1066) brought French culture to Scotland.

During the seventy years from 1214, Scotland experienced an age of relative peace and prosperity. During this period there was almost perpetual peace with England and this co-incided with the reigns of Alexander II and his son, Alexander III (1249-86). Alexander II married Joan, the sister of Henry III, and Alexander III married Margaret, the English king's daughter. As in England, the thirteenth century in Scotland was a period of constitutional, judicial, financial and architectural change.

In October 1263, a sizeable fleet of longships surveyed the Scandinavian dominions of King Haakon IV of Norway off the west coast of Scotland. Bad weather forced some of the ships onto the beach at Largs where a skirmish with Scottish forces fighting in the name of Alexander III occurred. Although to call the confrontation a battle is a considerable exaggeration, the consequences of the event were far reaching. On his return to Norway, Haakon took ill at Kirkwall (in the Orkney Islands - also Scandinavian territory) and died. The following year, the independent King of Man broke his allegiance to Norway and recognised Alexander III as his superior. In 1266, Haakon's successor, Magnus, signed the Treaty of Perth which surrendered sovereignty of the Western Isles off Scotland to the Scottish crown. Of their once great territories, only the Orkney and Shetland Isles remained under the control of the Scandinavians (and their hold there was soon under threat from a series of Scottish bishops).

Scotland was a wealthy country through until the beginning of the 14th Century, when Edward I of England (known as the "Hammer of the Scots") was determined to incorporate Scotland into the English crown.

The defeat of Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314 was a great victory, reflected in the songs and spirit of Scottish nationalism until present times. The desire to preserve independence was embodied in a plea to the Pope, known as the Declaration of Arbroath. Long, bloody and destructive wars over the succeeding 300 years ensured that, while Scotland remained free, it was also poor.

John Knox, the Edinburgh churchman, played his part in the reformation in Scotland, which adopted a Presbyterian tradition losing the link between church and state (which is retained in England).

England and Scotland were linked through James VI of Scotland acceding to the English throne in 1603, following the death of Queen Elizabeth I (of England). Elizabeth had persecuted (and finally executed) James' mother and her own cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, but died childless.

Succeeding English monarchs were not as well disposed towards Scotland as James had been. Following the formal Act of Union in 1707, displeasure particularly amongst Highland Scots, supported the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 which attempted to restore respectively the Old and Young (Bonnie Prince Charlie) Pretenders to the throne of Scotland.

After the 1745 rebellion, which was effectively a Civil War, the Highland Clearances began. Thousands were evicted from their rented crofts and the mass migration of Scots to other parts of the world began.  Despite the popularist view that the landlords were English, the majority were Scots, but not those of the gaelic-speaking Roman Catholic tradition who had fought for the 'Bonnie Prince'.

Scottish Culture

What does thrill people most about Scotland? Is it the famous Loch Ness monster or the Famous Grouse? Rob Roy or William Wallace? Ally McCoist or Sir Sean Connery? Perhaps is it just the amazing view from the 18th tee at the Old Course...

Scotland has given rise to many famous people, notable in the arts, literature, the sciences and as inventors, philosophers, architects and so on, than would be expected for a country of such modest size and population. It has given us the likes of Rob Roy, Braveheart, and Sir Walter Scott. In the present century it proffers manly types like Sir Sean Connery, Robbie Coltrane and Ewan MacGregor, even if they are only acting.

When you look at the landscape, ‘the land of brown heath and shaggy wood’ (Sir Walter Scott), you know it breeds a strong people. Geologically speaking, it is ancient, combining mountains, wilderness, Arctic landscape, as well as the classically pretty woods and lakes.

Some of the toughest sports in the world are pursued here. Who can overlook the Great Putt of the Inverness Stone at The Highland Games or the wonderfully-named sport of Munro-Bagging that attract the brave and the hardy? Hunting, biking, sailing, and countless other sports are played here, often in weather conditions that would deter a sportsman somewhere else. Why, even golf requires more strength and focus, swinging your ball into the wind on links courses right next to the sea.


 

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Mary Queen of Scots

John Knox