Is Scotland a country?

Written by Chris Thornton | 2nd of August 2021
Scottish government building.

Yes, Scotland is a country. Let's dig a little more into Scotland's country status and try and make sense of the United Kingdom's complicated structure... without getting too political!

Scotland might be a country but is not an independent country (yet!) as it exists within the framework of The United Kingdom and retains its sovereign state status and strong national identity.

The United Kingdom / United Kingdom of Great Britain

The United Kingdom / UK / United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a unitary sovereign country, meaning it is run by a single central government that is ultimately supreme over all matters. Four countries currently make up the UK - England Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.  The "British Isles" is purely a name given to the geography of Great Britain and Ireland in the Atlantic Ocean to the west and North Sea to the east.  Scotland occupies the northern third of Great Britain.

In this case, the UK parliament in England at Westminster is the main supreme parliament/government, however, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have gained some self-autonomy through a process called devolution with their own devolved governments.

So Scotland has two types of politicians in two different parliaments. We send MP's (Members of Parliament) to Westminster, they are responsible for their Scottish constituents for their area for UK-wide issues. We have MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh) again they represent constituents for areas of Scotland, but this time just in the Scottish Parliament. So as an example, currently in the Moray region, Douglas Ross MP represents us at the British Government / Westminster UK government, and Richard Lochhead MSP at the Scottish Parliament.

There are currently 73 MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament.

Detail of the Scottish government building in Scotland's capital of Edinburgh.

What is Devolution?

Devolution is a process of giving more powers of self-governance to the constituent countries' government / Parliament. So over time, governing powers have been granted to The Scottish Parliament in Scotland, The Senedd / Welsh Government in Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, you guessed it - in Northern Ireland.

An example in Scotland would be health matters being devolved from Westminster, so the Scottish Parliament would have powers over our Scottish NHS (National Health Service). The Scottish Government recently gained the ability to set the rate of income tax for Scotland.

Matters that are currently devolved from Westminster are:

  • Transport and Taxation.
  • Consumer advocacy and advice
  • Equal opportunities
  • Environment
  • Housing
  • Rural affairs
  • Justice
  • Health
  • Education
  • The Economy

Are laws different in Scotland from the rest of the UK?

Yes, Scotland has always had its own distinct legal system called "Scots Law", different from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What is Scottish Independence?

So is Scotland a country? Yes, but not an independent country in control of all powers available. Nearly half the people in Scotland feel Scotland could run itself better and be more prosperous if it had full control over all powers a country normally has.

There has always been a portion of the population fighting for Scottish independence since Scotland joined the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, and today are represented by the SNP (Scottish National Party), Scottish Greens, and Alba political parties.

With the discovery of vast oil deposits in the North Sea to the North and East of Scotland in the 1970s, independence supporters used it as an opportunity to push for independence. A study named the McCrone Report was commissioned by the UK Government at this time and found that Scotland would have been one of the wealthiest countries in the world if it chose to be an independent country due to the immense oil revenues collected. The report was not made public until 2005.

A referendum was held in 2014, asking the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?". It was a tight race but Scotland's population voted "No" with 55% of the vote, Scotland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom but received some further devolution of powers.  Scotland remained in the UK but the independence campaigners fight on seeking full Scottish control of the country.

Yes Flag from the ill fated independence campaign in 2014.

The Scotland Act

As a result of the "No" vote in 2014, the Scotland Act followed in 2016 and devolved more powers were granted to the Scottish Government, mainly powers over Taxation.

Since 2014 the independence movement has not died away, with many polls showing for the first time a pro-independence percentage of 58%, an increase of 13% since 2014. This has mainly been down to a disparity with UK government policies such as Brexit (The United Kingdom leaving the European Union).

Independence supporters in Edinburgh 2018 wishing separation from the United Kingdom Parliament

A majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU, while England and Wales voted to leave. Scotland voted to remain by 62% and Northern Ireland also voted to remain at 55%. Being forced to leave the EU has driven support for independence, and will likely lead to another independence referendum in the coming years, easily before 2025.

Many European countries have spoken out in support of Scotland rejoining the EU upon attaining independence from the United Kingdom. Scotland would then not only be a country but an independent country.

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