Scotland’s recorded history begins with the Romans. A fleet carrying Roman soldiers arrived on the east coast of Scotland about A.D. 80 with the express aim of subduing the wild tribes who had proved troublesome to earlier Roman attempts to colonize the area. This northern outpost of the Roman Empire, which went as far as the Firth of Tay, was called Caledonia – a name still associated with Scotland today. Popular legend has it that Pontius Pilate, who as Roman Procurator of Judea ordered the execution of Christ, was born here.
By A.D. 500 – several centuries after the departure of the Romans – four clear ethnic groups had formed. To the north, in the highlands, were the Picts – a suspicious and warlike people. On the west coast, in modern-day Argyll, were the Scots – who had a strong Irish influence. The Britons, who spoke a form of Welsh, occupied what is now Strathclyde, while in the south east were the Angles with their strong connections to England.
The greatest influence which began to bring the Scottish tribes together was Christianity. By A.D. 844 Kenneth MacAlpine was able to proclaim himself King of Scots. But a true sense of nationhood probably did not evolve until 1314. In that year, King Robert the Bruce defeated an English army of superior strength at the Battle of Bannockburn. Scotland gained its independence, Bruce established his kingdom – and forged a nation.
Scotland began to take on two distinct lifestyles. In central and southern Scotland while fighting still continued across the border with England and each regularly raided and stole from the other, a more sophisticated lifestyle was emerging, particularly around Edinburgh, the capital.
Education, politics and the Arts began to flourish. Scottish seaports, particularly on the east coast and along the shores of the Firth of Forth, successfully traded with the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Baltic. A strong bond of friendship developed with France – and southern Scotland became more outward looking.
Meanwhile, in the highlands, the clan, or family system developed. Communities grew up around chieftains. Mainly they lived a hard, simple life – existing from growing a few crops and raising cattle. However, they were bound by family loyalty to support the chieftain if he decided to go to war or fight with his neighbor. Each clan wove a cloth with a distinctive pattern to mark them out from the other families. This was tartan with which Scotland is still closely identified today.
The clan system, as a way of life, effectively ended in 1746 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite army was defeated at Culloden.
When the Scottish Parliament signed the Act of Union in 1707 it allowed for the Protestant succession to the throne of Britain, uniform taxation and equal trade, while leaving Scotland with its own legal and ecclesiastical systems.
With Scottish MPs and Lords now sitting in Parliament in London, advice on Scottish affairs was largely given by the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s principle law officer.
However, in 1885 a Secretary for Scotland was appointed and a Scottish Office established in London. He took responsibility for administering Scotland’s separate legal system and the Scottish Boards for agriculture, education, local government and health.
The Scotland Act 1998 gave the necessary statutory framework to set up a Scottish Parliament and Government (Executive), which the majority of Scottish people had endorsed in a referendum in September 1997.
Elections to the first Scottish Parliament for almost 300 years were held in May 1999, and it met for the first time in July 1999.
For further information on the Scottish Government, click here.
Further information on Scotland’s history is available from:
BBC Online – History: www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/index.shtml
History from Rampant Scotland Directory: www.rampantscotland.com/history.htm