Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, was once one of the world's dominant industrial cities and now lies at the centre of the Greater Glasgow conurbation. The first fixed settlements were constructed in Scotland around 9,500 years ago and villages emerged around 6,000 years ago. The well-preserved village of Skara Brae on the Mainland of Orkney dates from this period.
Due to its excellence in engineering Scotland became known across the world. The locomotives built in Glasgow and the Clyde built ships are typical of this. India, South America and Australia still use some of the prefabricated cast iron buildings produced in Scotland. Prominent Scottish scientists, engineers and architects of the industrial age included David Dale, Joseph Black, Thomas Telford, Robert Stevenson, James Watt, James Nasmyth, Robert Adam and John MacAdam.
Scotland entered into the political union with England in 1707, enabling the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. This union resulted from the Treaty of Union agreed in 1706. Scotland's legal system continues to be separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and in private law.
Scottish waters include a large sector of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union. This has given Aberdeen, the third largest city in Scotland, the title of Europe's oil capital.
There are seven cities in Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling and most recently Perth, which was awarded city status as part of the Queen’s 2012 jubilee celebrations.
The whole mainland area of Scotland is 78,772 km2 (30,414 sq mi). Scotland only maintains one land border and that is with England and stretches for 96 kilometres. A few miles north of the village of Newtonmore in Badenoch is the geographical centre of Scotland.
Scotland’s highest point is Ben Nevis at 1,344metres above sea level, whilst the River Tay, Scotland's longest river, flows for 190 kilometres. The whole of Scotland was covered by ice sheets during the Pleistocene ice ages and the landscape is much affected by glacial erosion.
Scotland officially recognises three languages, Scottish Gaelic, Scots and English. Almost all Scots speak Scottish Standard English, and in 1996, the General Register Office for Scotland estimated that 30% of the population are fluent in Scots.
There are 15 Scottish universities, including some of the oldest in the world. These include the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, Robert Gordon University, and the University of Dundee-many of which are ranked amongst the best in the UK.
Scottish music is a significant element of the nation's culture, with both traditional and modern influences. The Great Highland Bagpipe is a famous traditional Scottish instrument. The 19th and 20th centuries saw success for the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott. The movement of 'Kailyard School' towards the end of the 19th century by J.M.Barrie saw elements of fantasy and folklore re-enter fashion. Scottish theatre plays an important role in Scottish society, from Sir Harry Lauder to the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and many other theatres throughout Scotland. A variety of music festivals are held in Scotland including the Hebridean Celtic Festival at Stornoway and Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
Celtic Culture is celebrated through a number of festivals in many locations around the world. Various national sporting competitions are held in Scotland. It enjoys independent representation at many international sporting events including the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby Union World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, but not at the Olympic Games where Scottish athletes are part of the Great Britain team. The most popular sport in Scotland is football where teams compete in the world's oldest national competition - the Scottish Cup.
The national flag of Scotland, known as the Saltire or St. Andrew's Cross, dates from the 9th century, and is thus the oldest national flag still in use. Since 1606 the Saltire has also formed part of the design of the Union Flag. The Golden Eagle is something of a national icon. The national day of Scotland is St Andrews day, the 30th November. Scotland is taken from the Latin Scoti, the term applied to Gaels, people from what is now Scotland.