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Scottish History

Scotland’s history largely began with the arrival of the Roman Empire to England in 54 BC. They controlled most of Britain and called England and Wales Britannia, as it was a Roman province. They tried to invade Scotland in 43 AD, but the Scots or Picts eventually fought them off. The Romans failed to conquer Scotland (Caledonia), which forced them to build Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England to keep the Picts out, as the Roman’s thought of them as savages.

The population of Scotland mainly comprised of Picts and Scotti (Scots), which were from Ireland originally. There were several different languages spoken as well, but the main one was Gaelic, which was mainly spoken in the Highlands.

In 795, the Vikings attacked Iona and later went on to settle most of Scotland and Northumbria in England. The Vikings called this new Territory the Kingdom of Alba, which later became known as Scotland, except that of Northumbria and there control of the area lasted till 1018, when Scotland finally was able to control most of the territory. In 1066, after the Norman Conquest by William of Orange in England, the army came north and made all the Scottish nobles pay homage to William or face execution. The Scottish nobles did give homage, but still tried to break free of English rule. 

In the 13th century Edward I took power and he invaded Scotland in 1296 to put down the talk of independence. This time William Wallace and Andrew de Moray built up an army to resist the English occupation. This led to the Battle at Stirling Bridge, where the Scots dealt Edward and his army a massive defeat. William Wallace ruled Scotland for a short period till Edward brought up another army under his leadership and defeated Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Wallace escaped, but still continued to be Guardian of Scotland and Robert the Bruce was appointed the new leader of Scotland. William Wallace was eventually captured in 1305 and was executed in London for treason even though he owed no allegiance to England. His body parts were ripped apart and put on each corner of Britain as warning not to try and fight the English. It didn’t have the effect Edward was hoping as Scotland’s new King Robert Bruce of Annandale built up his forces and beat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Northampton in 1326, which recognized Scottish Independence. If you have seen the movie “Braveheart”, this is what these events are based around. 

The English tried several times after Robert the Bruce’s death, but were fought back many times. In 1545, Mary I of Scotland (or ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’) was born and James V was her father who had been in exile in France for many years. Mary was sent to France at the age of five, as the intended bride of the heir of the French throne. Elizabeth I took control of England in the 1558 and Scotland went through a Protestant Reformation and many people were executed. In 1560 the parliament adopted Protestant as the faith, but Catholicism was still practiced up in the Highlands of the Scotland. This all happened while Mary was still in France, but she couldn’t do anything to stop the events from happening. In 1603, Elizabeth died not leaving any direct heirs, which led to her male Protestant cousin, who was Mary’s son, but grew up as a Protestant. He was the King of Scots and who became King James I of England in a Union of the Crowns. He was the first King to rule the entire island of Great Britain even though he continued to rule them both separately. During his reign Britain built an establishment at Jamestown in North America in 1607, which led to the beginning of English colonization of the world. A Civil War broke out in 1642 and lasted till 1645, which led to mass exodus of mainly Scots and Irish to North America. Nova Scotia in Canada originally was called New Scotland, as it saw thousands of Scottish immigrants.

In 1745, an uprising was under way under the leadership of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was leader of the Jacobites. He inflicted huge loses on the English forces, but was later defeated at the Battle of Culloden near Inverness. This led to the Scottish clearances, where Scottish and Irish were forced from there land and sent to North America to settle the new world. Also, the Highlanders were banded from wearing kilts and playing bagpipes. Uprising would happen again, but they were soon put down by the English.

Scotland’s two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh grew immensely after these events, as Glasgow was a huge industrial city and became one of the largest cities in the world, and known as “the Second City of the Empire”. Edinburgh was home to famous Scots like Walter Scot and Robert Burns and Edinburgh University opened, which is one of the best in Britain.

After both world wars Scotland suffered enormously as thousands of young Highlanders has died fighting, which caused a whole generation to be lost and most of the highland communities couldn’t cope. In Glasgow the fall of the shipping industry caused a huge decline and unemployment was very high. The economy stayed that way till the discovery of oil in the North Sea, as the country moved towards a more service based economy and it helped in regards to employment. 

On September 11, 1997, Tony Blair’s government held a referendum on Scottish independence and it was voted in favor and a Scottish Parliament has been built at Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

In 2007, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won the Scottish parliament elections and formed a minority government. New First Minister, Alex Salmond, hopes to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence before 2011, though the SNP may be unable to get a Bill to hold such a referendum approved by the Scottish parliament due to the minority position of the SNP government. If a referendum is held, an opinion poll in late 2007 suggested the result could be close as support for independence had reached 40% with just 44% supporting retention of the Union. The response of the unionist parties has been to call for the establishment of a Commission to examine further devolution of powers, a position that has the support of the Prime Minister. I guess time will only tell what will happen to this beautiful country.




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