inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands were originally of Celtic descent,
and a small number of them still speak Gaelic, an ancient Celtic
language which is now being encouraged once again in schools. In the
southern part of the nation, the people are descended from ancient Scots
with liberal inputs by Nordic influences and a bit of Anglo-Saxon.
The Scots have been stereotyped as being thrifty, cautious, and careful
of detail. They are far from being all alike, however. Scotland is a
country in which individualism flourishes. This rich mix explains, in
part, why Scots have been responsible for more of the significant
discoveries and inventions we take for granted in today's world than any
church-going Scots belong to the national Church of Scotland, which is
Presbyterian. The congregation of each kirk (church) chooses its own
minister after a trial sermon, and every member of the church has some
share in governing it. In general, sermon and prayer occupy a larger
place in the church service than ritual and music. The Roman Catholic
church has many members, especially in the Greater Glasgow area where
there are many people descended from Irish immigrants. The Episcopal
church of Scotland resembles the Church of England but is an independent
The Scots have a great respect for learning, and their history is full
of people of humble birth who acquired university educations. In the
early 20th century education was made easier for poor students by the
Scottish-born American industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. He set up the
Carnegie Trust Fund in 1901 to help needy students and to foster
Education in Scotland is free in publicly maintained local authority
schools from nursery school (3 to 5 years) through secondary school. At
about 11 years of age primary school students enter secondary schools.
Students may legally leave school at 16 but very few now do. Students
who earn a certificate can continue to the colleges and the
universities. Scotland has many universities, the oldest being St.
Andrews, founded in 1410. Edinburgh is known for its school of medicine.
The University of Glasgow emphasizes science and engineering.
On the northwest coast and on the islands there are tenant farmers
called crofters. The crofts (small farms) are usually on or near the
coast. Houses are built of stone gathered from the hillsides. They are
roofed with corrugated iron or a thatch of reeds and heather. Peat cut
from the moors furnishes fuel for cooking and heating. Rugged ground,
poor soil, and excessive rain restrict crops to oats, potatoes, and
barley. Crofters add to the family food supply by fishing--in lakes and
streams if inland or in the sea if near the coast. They raise sheep on
the hills and pasture a few cattle in the glens. In parts of the
Highlands, large sheep or beef cattle farms predominate. Although there
are thousands of crofts in the northern area, many are no longer
cultivated. Crofting must be supplemented by other work, such as
forestry, road work, cottage industries, or providing services to
In early days the ruggedness of the land led to the separation of the
Highlanders into small groups called clans. Each clan was ruled by a
chief, and the members of a clan claimed descent from a common ancestor.
The traditional garment of the Highland clansmen is the kilt (short,
pleated skirt), which is suitable for climbing the rough hills. Each
clan had its own colourful pattern--called a tartan--for weaving cloth.
Today the kilt is not a crofter's dress but a national costume, proudly
worn for special occasions.
There are more than 100 gatherings of the clans, which draw many
visitors to the Highlands. At these gatherings athletes wearing kilts
compete in such ancient Highland sports as throwing the hammer and
tossing the caber, a long, heavy pole. Bagpipers and Highland dancers
add color and interest to the gatherings.
The Scottish culture is a vigorous one in its own right. Edinburgh's
International Festival of Music and Drama, which began in 1947, draws
more than 300,000 visitors every year, making it one of the world's
largest cultural events. The Scottish National Orchestra and the
country's opera and ballet companies, which are supported by the
Scottish Arts Council, have been widely acclaimed. The Glasgow School of
Art is world famous. The architect and designer Charles Rennie
Mackintosh (1868-1928) studied there and later designed its buildings
Scottish writers have had the choice of three languages: Scottish
Gaelic; Lallans, or Lowland Scots; and English. The 20th-century poets
Sorley Maclean and George Campbell Hay led a Gaelic revival, but a
Lallans revival that developed after World War I faded. After World War
II a new generation of Scottish poets was called the Lallans MaKars
(makers). The most notable Scottish poets who wrote in Lallans and
English were Robert Fergusson (1750-74) and Robert Burns (1759-96).
The bulk of the population lives in the belt that runs across the waist
from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Scotland's two largest cities. During the
years following the Highland clearances, when landowners forcibly
removed crofters from the land, the potato famines, and the Industrial
Revolution, the population of the cities exploded. Before the
traditional heavy industries began a decline in the latter part of the
20th century, the region was the heart of a great industrial area. The
service industries, however, boomed and today form the core of the
On the banks of the River Clyde below Glasgow, shipyards once produced
every kind of ship, and goods flowed to all parts of the world from its
docks. Iron and steel mills and other metal plants, engineering works,
machinery factories, chemical works, and textile mills predominated.
Shrinking world markets and foreign competition, however, undercut the
city's fortunes in the era after World War II. Pollution, poor housing,
urban blight, unemployment, violent crime, and other social problems
plagued the city. In the last quarter of the 20th century, however,
Glasgow began to revive. With ambitious rebuilding and marketing plans,
the city promoted itself as a tourist centre and attracted investors.
Glasgow was designated a European City of Culture in 1990 and is viewed
as a dynamic and cultured city.
Edinburgh is the seat of government in Scotland, the centre of the
Scottish legal system, the home of the Church of Scotland, the site of
four universities, and Europe's largest financial centre after London.
Banking, insurance, finance, tourism, medicine, and other service
industries have supplanted the engineering industries and traditional
light manufactures of printing and brewing.