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Scotland, general information

Interesting facts on Scotland

Note that some of the information (gas prices!) can be outdated since we made this page after visiting the country for the last time!
Official name Officially Scotland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but we like to treat it as a souvereign country (we are a bit chauvinist where Scotland is concerned).
Area 78,772 square km (almost twice as large as Holland)
Number of inhabitants 5.1 million, but declining
Population density 66 people per square kilometer
Capital Edinburgh
Monetary unit Scottish or British Pound (GBP); 1 pound was about € 1,50 in April 2003, but is now about 1 (Jan. 2009). Like Ireland, Scotland has its own banknotes which are sometimes refused by the English.. (1 € = $ 1.24; 1 Dollar = € 0.7; Rate in Jan. 2009)
Fuel prices
License plate of cars UK
Telephone country prefix 44
Internet country code .uk
Time difference GMT; 1 hour earlier than in Holland
Road network Most roads are good, but there are a lot of single track roads in the Highlands, very narrow roads.
Prices in general Scotland was more expensive than Holland, mainly because the exchange rate of the Pound used to be so high. For a pint of beer we pay around £ 2
The best in Officially Scotland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but we like to treat it as a souvereign country (we are a bit chauvinist where Scotland is concerned). The Highlands and its people without a doubt, especially the west coast. But then, we love Scotland and we like it all. Only the southeast we find a bit less interesting.

Geographical data

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom (officially: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), but most people call it just England which is not really true. The last countings tell there are about 5.2 million inhabitants at this moment, an average population density of 66 people per square kilometer (the average in the whole UK is 381 p. sq. km.). But the number of people is declining and the expectation is there will be no more than 5 million people in 2026. Scotland makes up for almost 35% of the surface of the UK (78.722 sq. km.), but only 9.5% of the population lives there.
Scotland and it's offshore islands are the northern part of the British island. On the west and north coast the Atlantic forms the border and in the east coast the Northsea. In the south the border with England goes over the Cheviott Hills, for 90 kilometers. The biggest distance from north to south on the Scottish mainland (Cape Wrath - Mull of Kintyre) is 441 km. and from east to west (Applecross-Peterhead) 248 km. The west coast is, in a straight line, 416 km. long, but in reality (because of the many bays) 3200 km. Scotland counts 790 islands, of which 130 are inhabited.
Geografically Scotland consists of 2 parts: the mainland and the islands. On the mainland, one can discern 3 clear landmasses: the northen Highlands, the central Highlands and the Lowlands. The Highlands are divded by the Great Glen, a narrow gap in the mountain landscape. For a matter of fact, the glens are very characteristic to the whole country. They are valleys, made by glaciers with steep walls and often with elongated lakes (lochs). The highest top in this area (and of the whole of the UK) is Ben Nevis (1344 meters), near Fort William.

Population

The population distinguishes itself from the English through it's own language and literature, jurisdiction, education and organisation of the church. The Scots have a strong historical consciousness. The greater part of the population springs from the original Scottish population, which in fact is a jumble of Picts, Celts and Normans.
Contrary to the rest of the UK, less people live in the cities and more in the countryside. With a population density of 66 people per square kilometer it is fairly quiet. Yet the distribution is very uneven: more than 1.5 of the 5 million inhabitants lives in one of the 4 big cities: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.
Our experiences have shown us that the people are very friendly and helpful, but they seem to have an inferiority complex in relation to the English; they still feel being dominated by them. It is almost, after centuries of British rule, as if it is genetically determined.

Languages

English is the official language of Scotland, but one can clearly discern a Scottish kind of english, a dialect. In the Highlands there are still people who speak Gaelic. Gaelic springs from the various (6) Celtic languages of the past and nowadays 3 forms have survived: Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge), Manx Gaelic (Gailck) and Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig). These 3 languages are being spoken in Ireland, on the island Man and in Scotland. The speakers of these languages are called Gaels (formerly Celts). About 60.000 people in Scotland still speak it, so not more than 1% of the total population!
A few centuries ago there were 3 more languages besides English: Pictic, Gaelic and Norwegian. In the present Scottish language many words pop up from these 3 languages.

History

For an extensive survey on Scottish history have a look at our special Scotland history page.
Since there are already so many sources on the internet we will give you a few links with more information about Scotland history:
Complete contents of books about Scottish history At first difficult to navigate, but apart from that an outstanding website with much information Timeline of Scottish history Nice site with orderly information

Climate

Scotland lies on the edge of the European continent and is surrounded by water on 3 sides. It has a moderate seaclimate with soft winters and cool summers. A belt of westward winds continuously sends a dense layer of clouds over the land.
The west coast is generally wetter than the east but less windy. On the east coast the rainfall averages 650mm and on the west coast it averages 1500mm. Average summer highs are about 19 degrees and winter temperatures rarely drop below 0 degrees.
Generally, there is snow in the higher areas from December until March. For the most sunshine and a minimum of rain, one has to go there in May or June. July and August are hotter, but also more wet and there are countless midgets. The autumn really can be called unstable: sometimes beuatiful and dry, sometimes wet, but quiet, sometimes very stormy. From experience we know that for the last few years the weather is very unpredictable and different than it used to be: too much rain and low temperatures. We never went for the weather, but seem to have been quite lucky: most days were dry and on almost every day we saw at least a bit of sunshine.
In Scotland, the weather can show every season in a single day! Even on the sunniest of days care needs to be taken on the hills and mountains. On a mountain, within only 5 minutes, a mist can envelope a walker and make navigation difficult. On the other hand, brooding clouds can ease to spectacular shafts of bright sunlight.

Flora and fauna

The Highlands are barren and unhospitable. The landscape consists of infertile plains without trees. The vegetation includes heather, fern, a variety of grasses, Juneper berry and similar small bushes. Some 4.000 years ago, there were mainly pine trees (Scots pine), but deforestation, intensive grazing by sheep and changes in climate, have replaced the once extensive woods with a thick layer of peat. Reforesting has begun, but the new woods are quite one-sided and monotonous.
There is a great variety of birds, near the coast more than in the inetrior. On the islands and on the steep cliffs of the mainland, many seabirds nest, like ospreys, auks, terns and gannets. In the mountain areas there are golden eagles and ravens, on the moors snow hen and pheasants and owls and sangbirds in the woods.
The largest mammal on land is the deer, which causes a lot of damage to new plantations and nests of rare birds. Big mammals, like the wolf, beaver, beer and elk are extinct already in the 18th century.
The sheep, the Scottish Highlanders, and also the Shetland pony's, which all walk about freely, are half wild.

Economy

For centuries, the economical development of Scotland lagged behind that of England, it's location being one reason. This results in emigration from many people from this area to make money somewhere else. Edinburgh is the financial center of the country. There, also the Bank of Scotland is established (where they make their own Scottish bank notes). Also, there are many insurance companies and investment bussinesses that can help people get a personal or small business loan to further the economical growth of the country. Tourism still is important to the economy of the country, although, for various reasons, it is less than it used to be.
Almost 80% of the Scottish soil is used for agricultural purposes. In the South and Middle Scotland there are vast farming areas, where cattle breeding is the main activity. Nevertheless, The mouth and foot disease disaster in 2001 hurt Scotland, economically, more in tourism than in the agrarian sector.
The fishing industry is important along all of the coast (haddock, codfish, herring, crustaceans). The breeding of salmon also appears. Most important places with a fishing industry are: Aberdeen, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Kinlochbervie, Lerwick and Ullapool.
Among the minerals, which Scotland possesses, are coal (in Lothian, Fife and Ayr) and iron ore (in het south west, Strathclyde). But, like in other parts of the UK, mining industry is declining. The mining of oil and gas from the Northsea is also of importance to Scotland's economy.
True Scottish export articles are whisky (mostly to the United States), woolen fabrics (tweed) and foods. Most important buyers are England and the countries of the Commonwealth.
Scotland has a good road and railway network. There are four international airports: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Prestwick, and several smaller airports, used for local traffic.

Tourism

Tourism is very important to the economy of Scotland, but it has suffered a lot from cattle ailments the last few years, like the foot and mouth disease and the mad cow disease. And after the attacks on September 11th 2001, the American tourists stayed away. This, of course, applies for the whole of Europe and the British government has taken all sorts of measures to increase the numbers of tourists again, but as yet Scottish tourism is doing badly. But we couldn't find accurate data on this.

The Scottish-English conflict

The Scots are very proud of their country, nationalistic even; this is proven by their history and we noticed it ourselves also. Since 1999, July the first, Scotland has its own Parliament in Edinburgh, after 292 years. It has very limited powers and responsibilities, with major policy (taxation, economy, transport, defence, foreign policy, broadcasting) still decided by Westminster - but it is a Parliament nonetheless. There are 129 members of Scottish Parliament who can decide on other matters, under the direction of the first minister.
Many Scots still feel the dependancy to the UK (and England) is too great and think they are being put at a disadvantage compared to the other parts of the kingdom. There have been studies about the division of financial support, which proved that Scotland got it's share and maybe even more. The majority of the people want self-government to a larger extent, but are not striving for total independance.
Yet there are political movements whose aims are self-rule and independance. The Scottisch National Party is a party which claims to look after the interests of the Scottish people. The party was founded in 1934, when circumstances of life were miserable for the workers and Scotland was neglected by the UK.
A website from the movement Siol nan Gaidheal about the independance of Scotland can be found here.

The actual weather in Scotland:

Edinburgh Glasgow Inverness Skye
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