By Oleksiy ZABOLOTNYI

Saint Andrew’s Flag

Scotland lies in the northern part of the island of Britain. It is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, and covers a total area of 78,783 square kilometers, and has a population of 5.1 million. Scotland is divided into three natural parts: the fertile plains of the lowlands in the south, the industrial Central Scotland, and the mountainous Highlands in the North. Cultural life in Scotland is immensely varied, comprising ancient and new, from Highland Games and historical battlefields, to modern art galleries and the world-known Edinburgh International Festival with its wide-ranging avant-garde Festival Fringe events. Left: Annual Highland Games. Tossing the caber. Below centre: The Sword Dance contest is part of the Highland Games. Below right: Royal Mile in Edinburgh during the Festival.

From Turbulence to Prosperity In contrast to the stable and prosperous Scotland of today the country’s history has been turbulent and bloody. Of its 44 kings between the years 500 and 1603 (when the crowns of England and Scotland were united) 18 died violently. Scotland has been inhabited since about 6000 BC, attracting waves of settlers and invaders: the Celts from Europe, Scots from Ireland (who brought Gaelic language) and Vikings from Scandinavia. By 843 AD a united Scottish kingdom was established. But towards the end of the 13th century the English invaded and then began Scotland’s wars of independence: first under Sir William Wallace (“Braveheart”), continued by king Robert the Bruce, and then ended with the Declaration of Independence in 1320 and a treaty with England in 1328.

The next 420 years saw continuing tension, with religious conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, Political marriages with royal houses of Europe, the Treaty of Union in 1707 and, finally, another royal uprising. Prince Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”) brought his army of highland clansmen as close as 100 miles from London. He was forced to retreat and defeated in 1746 at Culloden, near Inverness, the last battle fought on British soil.

Left: The battle at Culloden

Scotland then faced the necessity to modernize. The ability to adapt to new circumstances and Scottish creativity, firmly based on high standards of education, brought with them prosperity to the nation. Tartan – the Tradition of Scottish Heritage Tartan is a pattern consisting of crisscrossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartan is particularly associated with Celtic countries, especially Scotland. Scottish kilts (kind of skirts) have tartan patterns, which indicate their owner’s belonging to a particular clan (family). Tartan plaid (a kind of a blanket) worn over the shoulder is also a part of the national costume. Below left: The Black Watch tartan serves as an example of a hunting tartan. Below centre: The Royal Stuart tartan. Below right: Sir Sean Connery proudly wears his tartan on special occasions.

Above left: The thistle is a time-honoured floral emblem of Scotland. Above centre: The Royal Scottish Coat of Arms Above right: The Royal Coat of Arms as it is used by Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament The Holyrood site in Edinburgh has been selected as the location for the new Scottish Parliament, which assumed legislative power in July 1999. DEVOLUTION is the delegation of power from a central body to local bodies. This enables decisions to be made at a level closer to the point at which it will have an impact. The Scottish Parliament has 129 elected representatives known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). They can make laws and increase or reduce the rate of tax as much as 3 per cent. The Scottish Government (Executive) comprises the First Minister, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General (the last two known as the Scottish Law Officers), and also other ministers appointed by the First Minister. Matters that are still controlled from London include defence, foreign policy and employment.

Above: The complex of the Scottish Parliament buildings in Holyrood is one of the most amazing architectural sights in the world.