Northern Ireland Scotland and Wales Scotland elects 72 of the 651 members of the Commons. The Lords has limited power. Most of its members are nobles who inherit their seats. For more information on the British government see United Kingdom (Government).
The Scottish Office. Scotland's chief minister is the secretary of state for Scotland. This official is appointed by the prime minister and is a member of the Cabinet.
The secretary's office called the Scottish Office, is based in Edinburgh with an additional office in London. The Scottish Office has five main departments. The Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department deals with Scotland's agricultural and fishing industries. The Scottish Office Industry Department deals with industrial and economic development. The Scottish Office Environment Department is concerned with such fields as environmental protection housing and public utilities. The Scottish Office Education Department supervises public education. The Scottish Office Home and Health Department is responsible for criminal justice, police and fire protection prisons and public health. Each department of the Scottish Office is run by a secretary.
Devolution. Most Scots believe that Scotland should have greater control over its own affair's and they support some amount of devolution (the granting of self-government). However the amount of self-government desired differs among Scots Many want Scotland to be come an independent country within the European community, an economic organization of European nations. Many others believe that Scotland should have its own legislative assembly while remaining a part of the United Kingdom. The Scottish National Party favors independence. The Labour Party and the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, which represent more than three fourths of the Scottish members of Parliament, favor devolution within the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party opposes independence or a large degree of devolution.
Population. Scotland has a population of about 5 million. About three fourths of the people live in the lowlands of central Scotland a region that makes up only about a sixth of Scotland s mainland. The rugged Highlands and the hilly uplands of southern Scotland are more sparsely populated. The Highlands, which cover about two-thirds of the Scottish mainland, have some of the most thinly populated areas in Scotland. Less than 2 percent of the people live in Scotland s three island authority areas of Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles.
One of Scotland's major problems has been emigration. Particularly in the 1960's thousands of people left Scotland because of limited job opportunities. But new industries, such as the production of oil from the North Sea, have helped provide more jobs.
Ancestry. Most Scottish people are descended from peoples who came to Scotland thousands of years ago. There groups included the Celts, Scandinavians and a Celtic tribe from Ireland called the Scots. Each group influenced Scottish civilization.
Language. English is the official language throughout the United Kingdom. In Scotland English is spoken in a variety of dialects.
About 80,000 Scots speak Gaelic an ancient Celtic language. Most of these people live in the Highlands or on the islands west of the mainland See Gaelic language.
Way of life
Small homes row houses and apartment buildings made of stone are common in Scotland s cities. Many Scottish cities developed around coal mining and heavy industry during the 1800's and early 1900's. Much of the housing then was of poor quality. But after World War II ended in 1945 the government began extensive efforts to improve living conditions in Scotland. It replaced much of the housing with modern government owned dwellings. The district councils and island authority councils own the government dwellings which are called council houses. By the 1990's privately owned housing was becoming more popular than government owned housing in Scotland.
Scotland occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain. The River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills form Scotland's southern border with England. The North Channel separates southwestern Scotland from Northern Ireland. The northwest coast faces the Atlantic Ocean. The east coast faces the North Sea, which separates Scotland from the mainland of Europe. For information on Scotland's climate, see the table with the Climate section of United Kingdom.
Rivers and lakes. The River Clyde is Scotland's most important river. Ships from the Atlantic Ocean can sail up the Clyde to Glasgow. The Clyde was narrow and shallow until the 1700's, when engineers widened and deepened the river to make it navigable. Scotland's longest rivers flow eastward into the North Sea. The Tay, 120 miles (193 kilometers) long, is the largest river in Scotland. It carries more water than any other river in the United Kingdom.
Many of Scotland's rivers flow into wide bays called firths. The firths of Clyde and Lorn lie on the west coast. The firths of Forth and Tay and Moray Firth are on the east coast. All ships bound for Glasgow must pass through the Firth of Clyde. A suspension bridge, one of the longest in the world, spans the Firth of Forth at Queensferry. It is 8,244 feet (2,513 meters) long.
Most of Scotland's lakes, which are called lochs, lie in deep Highland valleys. Loch Lomond is Scotland's