Culture of Scotland

From Academic Kids

Addressing the  during :Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,  Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Addressing the haggis during Burns supper:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!

The culture of Scotland is the national culture of Scotland (which has a civic culture somewhat distinct from that of the rest of the British Isles). It originates from various differences, some entrenched as part of the Act of Union, others facets of nationhood not readily defined but readily identifiable.


Scots law

Scotland retains Scots Law, its own unique legal system, based on Roman law, which combines features of both civil law and common law. The terms of union with England specified the retention of separate systems. The barristers being called advocates, and the judges of the high court for civil cases are also the judges for the high court for criminal cases. Scots Law differs from England's common law system.

Formerly, there were several regional law systems in Scotland, one of which was Udal Law (also called allodail or odal law) in Shetland and Orkney. This was a direct descendant of Old Norse Law, but was abolished in 1611. Despite this, Scottish courts have acknowledged the supremacy of udal law in some property cases as recently as the 1990s. There is a movement to restore udal law[1] ( to the islands as part of a devolution of power from Edinburgh to Shetland and Orkney.

Various systems based on common Celtic Law also survived in the Highlands until the 1800s.

Scottish education

Scotland also has a separate Scottish education system. The Act of Union guaranteed the rights of the Scottish universities, but more importantly, Scotland became the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education. This began with the Education Act of 1696 and became compulsory for children from the implementation of the Education Act of 1872 onwards.

As a result, for over two hundred years Scotland had a higher percentage of its population educated at primary, secondary and tertiary levels than any other country in Europe. The differences in education have manifested themselves in different ways, but most noticeably in the number of Scots who went on to become leaders in their fields during the 18th and 19th centuries. The politician Jim Wallace stated in October 2004, that Scotland produces a higher number of university and college graduates per-head than anywhere else in Europe.

School students in Scotland sit Standard Grade exams while students in England sit GCSE exams, and then Higher Grade exams rather than the English A-level system. Also, a Scottish university's honours degree takes four years of study as opposed to three in the rest of the UK. The university systems in several Commonwealth countries show marked affinities with the Scottish rather than the English system.

Banking and Currency

Banking in Scotland also features unique characteristics. Although the Bank of England remains the central bank for the UK Government, three Scottish corporate banks still issue their own banknotes: (the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale Bank). These notes have no status as legal tender in England, Wales or Northern Ireland (although they can be used throughout the UK, particularly in Northern Ireland, where Irish banks also issue their own banknotes, and they are also freely accepted in the Channel Islands). In Scotland, neither they nor the Bank of England's notes rank as legal tender (as Scots law lacks the concept), however banknotes issued by any of the four banks meet with common acceptance. See British banknotes.

For a further discussion read Legal Tender (

The modern system of branch banking (in which banks maintain a nationwide system of offices rather than one or two central offices) originated in Scotland. Only strong political pressure during the 19th century prevented the resultant strong banking system from taking over banking in England. However, although Scottish banks proved unwelcome in England at the time, their business model became widely copied, firstly in England and later in the rest of the world.

The Savings Bank movement was created in Scotland in 1810 by the Reverend Henry Duncan as a means of allowing his parishioners to save smaller amounts of money than the major banks would accept as deposits at that time. His model for the Ruthwell Parish Bank was adopted by well-to-do sponsors throughout the world, with most of the British savings banks eventually amalgamating to form the Trustee Savings Bank -- more recently merged with the commercial bank, Lloyds, to form Lloyds TSB -- and the American examples becoming a Savings and Loan Association. See [2] ( for further information.


Scotland has many national sporting associations, such as the Scottish Football Association (SFA) or the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU). This gives the country independent representation at many international sporting events such as the football World Cup. Scotland cannot compete in the Olympic Games independently however, and Scottish athletes must compete as part of the Great Britain team if they wish to take part. Scotland does however send its own team to compete in the Commonwealth Games.

Scotland also has its own sporting competitions distinct from the rest of the UK, such as the Scottish Football League and the SRU.

Scotland is considered the "Home of Golf", and is well known for its courses. As well as its world famous Highland Games (athletic competitions), it is also the home of curling, and shinty, a stick game similar to Ireland's hurling, and England's field hockey. Scottish cricket is a minority game.

Scottish rugby clubs compete in the Celtic League, along with teams from Ireland and Wales.


Scotland has distinct media from the rest of the UK. For example, it produces many national newspapers such as the Daily Record (Scotland's leading tabloid), the The Herald broadsheet, based in Glasgow, and The Scotsman in Edinburgh. The Herald, formerly known as the Glasgow Herald, changed its name to promote a national rather than a regional identity, while The Scotsman, which used to be a broadsheet, recently switched to tabloid format. Sunday newspapers include the tabloid Sunday Mail (published by Daily Record parent company Trinity Mirror) and the Sunday Post, while the Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday have associations with The Herald and The Scotsman respectively. Regional dailies include The Courier and Advertiser in Dundee in the east, and The Press and Journal serving Aberdeen and the north.

Scotland has its own BBC services which include the national radio stations, BBC Radio Scotland and Scottish Gaelic language service, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal. There are also a number of BBC and independent local radio stations throughout the country. In addition to radio, BBC Scotland also runs two national television stations. Much of the output of BBC Scotland Television, such as news and current affairs programmes, and the Glasgow-based soap opera, River City, are intended for broadcast within Scotland, whilst others, such as drama and comedy programmes, aim at audiences throughout the UK and further afield. Sports coverage also differs, reflecting the fact that the country has its own football leagues, separate from those of England.

Three Independent Television stations (Scottish TV, Grampian TV and Border) also broadcast in Scotland. Although they previously had independent existences, Scottish TV (serving the Central Lowlands) and Grampian (serving the Highlands and Islands) now belong to the same company (The Scottish Media Group) and resemble each other closely, apart from local news coverage. "Border" has had a more complex position, as it also has to serve neighbouring areas across the border in England, as well as the Isle of Man, and it now has separate news programs for each side of the border. Most of the independent television output equates to that transmitted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the exception of news and current affairs, sport, cultural and Scottish Gaelic language programming.

Food and drink

Although the Deep fried Mars bar is jokingly said to exemplify the modern Scottish diet, Scottish cuisine offers such traditional dishes as haggis, Buccleuch Scotch beef, the Arbroath Smokie, cranachan, bannock, Scotch Broth and shortbread.


Other facets of Scottish culture

Scotland retains its own distinct sense of nationhood. Academic research consistently shows that people in Scotland feel Scottish, whilst not necessarily feeling the need to see that translated into the establishment of a fully-independent Scottish nation-state.

Scotland also has its own unique family of languages and dialects, helping to foster a strong sense of "Scottish-ness". See Scots language and Scottish Gaelic language. An organisation called Iomairt Cholm Cille ( has been set up to support Gaelic-speaking communities in both Scotland and Ireland and to promote links between them.

Scotland retains its own national church, separate from that of England. See Church of Scotland and Religion in the United Kingdom.

The patron saint of Scotland is Saint Andrew, and Saint Andrew's Day is celebrated in the country on 30 November.

These factors combine together to form a strong, readily identifiable Scottish civic culture.


Scotland's iconic claims to fame include:

See also


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