To the 11th century AD

Skara Brae: c.2500 BC

In the extreme north of Scotland, in the Orkneys, a small neolithic community builds a village in about 2500 BC on a site already occupied for many generations. There is no wood on the island, so the walls of the one-room dwellings are of stone. So is the built-in furniture. There are stone beds and shelves and recessed cupboards, with a hearth in each hut. Low covered passages lead from one dwelling to another. Earth is piled up around to give shelter from the wind. There is even a drain from each of the seven or eight houses, leading to a common sewer.

A sudden disaster of some kind causes Skara Brae to be abandoned. Rapidly covered by sand, it is preserved intact until unearthed in 1850.

Pre-Roman Scotland: to the 1st century AD

In the neolithic period Scotland shares with the Atlantic coast of Europe the tradition of massive stone architecture, of which Skara Brae is a rare domestic example. The isle of Lewis provides a magnificent example of standing stones at Callanish, where the stone circle is in use as a temple of some kind well into the Bronze age (until about 1200 BC).

Like the rest of the British isles, the region is subject to successive waves of immigrants from the continent of Europe. The most significant are the Beaker people and the celts. The first written accounts of Scotland are by the Romans after their invasion of Britain. They list several tribes, of which the Caledonii are the most important.

Picts and Scots: 3rd - 9th century AD

With the frontier of the Roman empire established along the line of Hadrian's Wall, the tribes to the north are free to engage in their own power struggles largely undisturbed by Roman interference.

Gradually a new tribal group establishes a dominant position. They are the Picts, first mentioned in a Roman document of the 3rd century as the Picti. This may be a version of their own name for themselves, or it may mean that they tattoo their bodies (picti, Latin for 'painted people'). Theirs seems not to have been an Indo-European language, so they may have been indigenous people asserting themselves over the Celtic intruders.

The Picts, in their turn, are subdued by Celts - not from within Scotland but from overseas. In the 5th century a Celtic tribe from northern Ireland begins to settle on the west coast of Scotland. They are the Scots. (It is one of the endearing oddities of British history that the original Scots are northern Irish).

The Scots establish a kingdom, by the name of Dalriada, on both sides of the water. By the 9th century Dalriada in Ireland has succumbed to raids by Vikings. But from within Dalriada in Scotland there emerges the First scottish dynasty. The kings of this line establish themselves, over two centuries, against constant Viking pressure from all sides.

The Vikings and the British Isles: 9th - 10th century AD

The coasts of the British isles are now dotted with monasteries, not yet rich by the standards of medieval monasticism but with sufficient wealth to attract Viking marauders. One of the most famous islands, Iona, is raided three times in a decade (in 795, 802 and 805). Even monasteries which seem secure, pleasantly sited on inland rivers, fall victim to Viking longships rowing upstream. But gradually, during the 9th century, the raiders settle.

Soon all the Scottish islands and the Isle of Man are in Viking hands, and the intruders are even seizing territory on the mainland of both Britain and Ireland. In 838 Norwegians capture Dublin and establish a Norse kingdom in Ireland. From 865 the Danes settle in eastern England.

At this time the territory securely in the hands of the Scots and picts extends only from the great rift of Loch Ness down to the firths of Clyde and Forth. North of this central region, the Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands, together with much of the mainland, are in the hands of Vikings from Norway. In the southwest the border region of Strathclyde is often under threat from the Norwegian Vikings of Dublin. In the southeast Lothian is another border region. Until recently part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, it is exposed to the Danish vikings, whose capital city is York.

But at least by now, in the mid-9th century, there is a recognizable Scottish kingdom.

The MacAlpin dynasty: AD 843-1057

The love of early historians for precise turning points has caused the year 843 to be selected as the starting date of the Scottish kingdom. It is said to be the year in which Kenneth MacAlpin, already king of the Scots (since 840), is accepted also as king of the Picts. In reality the merging of the two kingdoms seems to have been a gradual process throughout the 9th century.

The significant fact is that Kenneth's male descendants provide kings in Scotland for the next two centuries; and during the early part of that period a separate Pictish kingdom fades from view. The name of Kenneth's father is said to be Alpin. So he and his descendants are known as MacAlpin.

An indication of the conscious merging of the Picts and scots under one rule is the use of Scone as the royal site of the MacAlpin dynasty. Situated in the east of Scotland (by contrast with the western base of the Scots in Dalriada), it has been strongly associated with the Pictish kings. Tradition maintains that as a gesture of unified rule Kenneth MacAlpin brings to Scone the sacred coronation stone, known now as the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny.

The MacAlpin kings win no territory from the Vikings on their northern borders. But they do significantly extend the boundaries of Scotland in the south.

During the MacAlpin dynasty the border regions of Strathclyde and Lothian are firmly established as Scottish.

In 945 the English king Edmund I subdues the independent kingdom of Strathclyde and then declares it subject to the king of Scotland; when the last king of Strathclyde dies, in about 1025, the region is merged with the Scottish realm. Similarly the English king Edgar, in 973, accepts Scottish control of Lothian - a state of affairs subsequently emphasized by a resounding Scottish victory over the English at Carham in 1018.

Duncan and Macbeth: AD 1034-1057

The death of Malcolm II in 1034 causes a succession crisis in the Macalpin dynasty and a civil war in Scotland. He has only a daughter, Bethoc, whose son Duncan succeeds to the throne. But Duncan is challenged by Macbeth, also descended in the female line from the royal family.

Contrary to Shakespeare's version of the story, Duncan is a young man - probably younger than Macbeth - and Macbeth may have an equally good claim to the throne (there is no precedent in the dynasty for inheritance through a female line). Nor does Macbeth murder Duncan in his bed; he kills him in battle near Elgin in 1040.

Macbeth reigns seventeen years as the king of Scotland (or king of Scots, in the more authentic phrase), and on the whole he rules well. Indeed the kingdom is calm enough for him to go on pilgrimage in 1050 to Rome, where he is said to have demonstrated his status by 'scattering money like seed'.

Duncan's son, Malcolm, eventually rises against Macbeth and kills him, in a battle at Lumphanan in 1057. Both men are members of the Macalpin dynasty, and the fact that Macbeth is buried in the holy island of Iona suggests that his contemporaries do not consider him a usurper. Macbeth is immediately succeeded by his stepson, Lulach. But Malcolm kills him too, in an ambush in 1058, before himself being crowned at Scone.

11th - 15th century

The Scottish kingdom: AD 1058-1286

The Scottish crown remains in the family of Malcolm iii for more than two centuries. During this time Scotland becomes more prosperous and more civilized, with the founding of great monasteries in the southern parts of the country.

Meanwhile the north is gradually recovered from the Vikings. A turning point is the battle of Largs, in 1263. The king of Norway lands a fleet to assert his long-standing right over the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. He is defeated by the Scottish king, Alexander III. In 1266, at a treaty agreed in Perth, the Norwegians cede the western isles to the Scottish king. Only the Shetlands and Orkneys remain in Norse hands.

The most significant theme during these reigns is the relationship of the Scottish kings with their Norman neighbours to the south. It is one of considerable complexity, involving both cooperation and hostility. In several generations the royal families of Scotland and England intermarry. The Scottish kings give land and power to great Norman families. They introduce into Scotland the structures of Norman feudalism.

Yet at the same time the border between the two kingdoms is a region of almost constant warfare. And the relationship between the kings themselves is one of prolonged struggle within a feudal framework.

The kings of England like to consider the Scottish kings their vassals, and at certain periods this status is accepted in Scotland - most notably for a while after 1174. In that year William the Lion is captured raiding into Northumberland. After a humiliating journey south, with his feet tied beneath his horse, he is imprisoned by Henry ii. He is released only when he does homage to the English king 'for Scotland and all his other lands'.

In the long run neither side prevails in this uneasy relationship, until matters are brought to a head by a vacancy on the Scottish throne. In 1286 Alexander III dies. His only heir is Margaret, a young Norwegian princess, the child of his deceased daughter Margaret and of Eric II, king of Norway.

Margaret the Maid of Norway: AD 1286-1290

At first the succession of the 4-year-old Margaret to the Scottish throne seems to offer an easy solution to the problem of the two kingdoms. She is acclaimed queen of Scotland in 1286. The king of England, Edward i, sets about arranging a marriage between the child and his own infant son (two years younger than Margaret), the future Edward II. The intention is that the bridegroom shall eventually rule over both kingdoms, with safeguards to ensure the separate integrity of Scotland.

In 1289 the pope gives his approval. In 1290 Margaret sails from Norway to meet her intended husband. During the journey she falls ill. She never reaches her Scottish kingdom. She dies, at the age of eight, in the Orkneys.

Edward I and Scotland: AD 1290-1297

When the Maid of norway dies, in 1290, there are thirteen claimants to the vacant Scottish throne - each somewhat tenuously related to the royal family. The king of England, Edward I, asserts his right as the feudal overlord to choose between them.

The two most serious contenders, descended from great-granddaughters of David I, are John de Balliol and Robert de Bruce. In 1292 Edward chooses John - an entirely reasonable choice, since John descends from the elder of the great-granddaughters. But Edward's humiliating treatment of the new king as his feudal vassal is less than tactful. So are his demands that Scottish barons shall do service in England's war against France.

Scottish resentment is expressed, in 1295, in a treaty with France against England. This prompts, in 1296, a swift and brutally effective invasion by Edward. It begins with the massacre of almost the entire male population of Berwick. Seventeen days later Stirling and Edinburgh castles are in English hands. John de Balliol and his court are prisoners, destined for the Tower of London. The sacred Scottish coronation seat, the Stone of scone, travels south at the same time - to a new home (until 1996) in Westminster Abbey. An English government is set up north of the border.

Scotland is humiliated, but only briefly so. The very next year, 1297, a war of independence is launched.

Scotland's Wars of Independence: from AD 1297

The main leader to emerge from the uprisings in Scotland in 1297 is William Wallace. Confronted by an English army outside Stirling, on September 11, he holds back his troops and thus entices the enemy across a narrow bridge over the river Forth. When about half are over the river, Wallace attacks so forcefully that nearly all the English on the northern bank are killed or are drowned in flight.

The prestige of this victory at Stirling Bridge enables Wallace to rule Scotland briefly on behalf of the imprisoned John de balliol. But the situation brings Edward I north in person in 1298.

At Falkirk, in 1298, Edward avenges the humiliation of Stirling bridge. English and Welsh archers inflict devastating casualties on the massed ranks of Scottish spearmen, in an early example of the power of the Longbow (half a century before its more famous deployment at Crécy).

This defeat undermines the authority of Wallace, who vanishes from history until his capture and execution in 1305. But Edward is committed now to holding down the Scots by force of arms - a task more difficult, over a much wider region, than his subjection of Wales. And from 1306 he is confronted by a newly proclaimed Scottish king, in the person of Robert de Bruce.

Edward's last campaign is an expedition north to destroy Bruce, but he never reaches Scotland. He dies of illness, just short of the border near Carlisle, in July 1307. His obsessive desire to subdue Scotland is reflected in the epitaph on his tomb in Westminster Abbey: Edwardus Primus Malleus Scotorum hic est, 'Here lies Edward I, Hammer of the Scots'.

The death of Edward is Bruce's good fortune. Edward II lacks his father's mettle. Bruce's victory over him at Bannockburn in 1314 is a turning point in the relations between England and Scotland. By 1328, in the treaty of Northampton, the English finally recognize Bruce as Robert I of Scotland - abandoning at the same time the English king's claim to be his feudal overlord.

Robert the Bruce: AD 1306-1314

Robert de Bruce, or Robert the Bruce as he is often known in British history, is the grandson of the Robert de Bruce whose claim to the Scottish throne was rejected in favour of John de balliol's. The Bruces are one of the great Norman families invited north of the border by the Scottish kings. The eldest son in every generation of the family is christened Robert. The head of the family in the early 14th century is Robert de Bruce VIII.

By 1306, with Wallace dead and John de balliol living privately in Normandy (after renouncing his throne), the Scots lack both a leader and a king. Bruce's ambition to fill both roles becomes evident after an act of violence in 1306.

John Comyn, a member of another great Norman family and a nephew of John de balliol, is a natural rival of Bruce's with perhaps slightly better claims to the Scottish throne. On 10 February 1306 the two men and several of their followers are in the Franciscan church in Dumfries. A quarrel breaks out. It is not known whether the event is premeditated. But it ends with John Comyn lying dead before the high altar.

After the murder Bruce moves quickly to secure his position. On March 25 he is crowned at Scone, still the sacred site for the occasion - even though it now lacks the ancient John de balliol, linked with Scottish kingship.

During the next few months the new king's fortunes could hardly sink lower. Defeated in two battles, in June and August, he flees for safety to the island of Rathlin off the northern Irish coast. (His supposed place of refuge is still shown as Bruce's Cave, but the story of the spider demonstrating to him the importance of perseverance is first told in the 19th century by Walter Scott.) In Bruce's absence three of his brothers are captured by the English and are executed.

In February 1307 Bruce returns to Scotland, to persevere in self-advancement. His final success, firmly establishing his authority within the kingdom, comes with victory at Bannockburn in 1314.

Bannockburn and after: AD 1314-1328

By 1314 Bruce's slow campaign of guerrilla warfare and attrition has brought into his hands all the English strongholds in Scotland except Stirling. The Scottish threat to this great castle brings Edward ii north to its defence.

On June 24 Bruce, with only about 8000 men, is confronted by an English army of double that size. But he chooses his ground well - an area of boggy turf about two miles south of Stirling, with a narrow front and the Bannock burn to cut off the enemy's retreat. The English cavalry flounder in the face of Scottish footsoldiers armed with spears. The day is a resounding success for Scotland, bringing rich rewards in prestige, booty and ransom.

In the years after Bannockburn, Bruce continually raids south across the border into England. And he extends his campaign against the English by sending Edward bruce, his only surviving brother, to attack them in 1315 in Ireland.

The Irish campaign ends in 1318 with the death of Edward bruce, but in the north of England Robert Bruce's aggressive tactics go unchecked. Edward ii marches north with large armies in 1319 and again in 1322, but achieves nothing. After his death, in 1327, the English are ready to come to terms.

At Edinburgh, in March 1328, a treaty is agreed - and is ratified at an English parliament in Northampton the following month. The Scots are to pay £20,000 in reparation for damage done in the northern counties of England, but otherwise the concessions are all to their benefit. Above all it is agreed that Scotland shall 'remain to Robert king of Scots and his heirs and successors free and divided from the kingdom of England, without any subjection, right of service, claim or demand'.

As a token for a better future, Bruce's 4-year-old son David is married in July, in Berwick, to Joanna, the 7-year-old sister of the new English king, Edward iii.

The agreements of 1328 raise the hope that Scotland is due at last for a period of calm. But the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329 brings his son David, now aged five, to the throne. The English instinct to meddle in Scottish affairs is revived. Edward, the son of John de balliol (who has died in 1314), is encouraged to stake a claim to his father's throne. Scotland is again plunged into war.

Robert the Bruce's son, David II, spends much of his reign in exile or in captivity. But he is still on the throne when he dies, childless, in 1371. The future of the royal house lies with the descendants of his elder sister, Marjorie. She married, in 1315, one of Scotland's hereditary stewards.

The Stewart dynasty: AD 1371-1503

The Stewarts, a family from Brittany, take their name from their job. In Brittany in the 11th century they are stewards to the local count. In about 1136 one of the family, Walter, becomes steward to the king of Scotland. Two decades later the appointment is made hereditary.

Another Walter, the 6th steward in this line, fights beside Robert the bruce at Bannockburn in 1314. He is knighted by the king on the field of battle. In the following year he marries Bruce's daughter Marjorie. Their child Robert, the 7th steward, succeeds his uncle David ii as king of Scots in 1371 - ruling as Robert II, and establishing the Stewart dynasty on the Scottish throne.

Stewart rule in Scotland is bedevilled from the start by the power of great barons (in particular the Douglas family), whose rich ancestral territories have been the reward for their support of Robert the bruce or of his son David ii. To the south the English remain as eager as ever to foment trouble when an opportunity presents itself.

Even so, during the 15th century, royal authority is gradually established in most parts of the kingdom. And the marriage of James III in 1469 to Margaret of Denmark brings into Scottish hands the last two island groups held by Scandinavians - the David ii.

Even the long centuries of turmoil with England seem to be settled (once again), when James IV makes two promising alliances with Robert the bruce. In 1502 the monarchs agree to a 'treaty of perpetual peace'. And in 1503 James marries Henry's daughter, Margaret Tudor.

In exactly 100 years' time this marriage will result in a final ironic reversal of the long English struggle to dominate the royal family of Scotland. It will deliver the Orkneys and shetlands to the Stewarts. But the intervening years bring many setbacks for the Scots.

16th century

England and Scotland in Europe: 16th century AD

In the greatest rivalry of 16th century Europe - that of Spain and france - the two kingdoms of the British Isles are peripheral players. But there are certain contexts in which they can harm or hinder the main contestants.

England can help Spain by invading across the Channel when France is engaged elsewhere. England can help France by denying Spanish ships an easy passage through the Channel to the Netherlands. And Scotland can help any enemy of England by marching into the northern English counties.

Royal marriages with France and Spain are used by both countries to reinforce these potential alliances. England's Henry VIII is himself already married to the Spanish Catherine of Aragon when, in 1514, he arranges a match for his sister Mary with the French king Louis xii.

Henry VIII's wedding plans for his daughter Mary are equally even-handed. When she is two, a betrothal is agreed between her and the infant son of the king of France, who by now is Francis I. When she is five, there is a new plan; she will instead marry Francis's hated Spanish rival, Charles V. When she is eleven, the prospective bridegroom is once again French - but now it is accepted that it may be either the young dauphin or his father, Francis I.

In the event the unfortunate Mary marries no one until 1554, when she is thirty-eight. By then she is herself queen of England, as Mary i, and her bridegroom is Spanish - the son of Charles V. Meanwhile Scotland's diplomats are busy at the same game. In 1548 the 5-year-old Scottish queen, Mary stuart, is betrothed to the dauphin of France. They marry in 1558.

These matrimonial negotiations are part of the wider diplomacy of England and Scotland in Europe, involving military alliances and sometimes war. The first occasion for war, in 1513, proves a disaster for Scotland.

Holy League and Flodden: AD 1513

In 1513 the European rivals entice both England and Scotland into their conflict. The pope, the emperor and the king of Spain have formed a Holy league against France. The king of Spain, Ferdinand ii, is the father-in-law of Henry VIII. He persuades his son-in-law to support the cause. In June 1513 Henry leads an army across the Channel into France.

Meanwhile the French king has recently agreed a treaty of alliance with Scotland. He now urges James IV, king of Scotland, to respond in kind to this English aggression. In August, within weeks of Henry's departure for France, James crosses the river Tweed to invade northern England.

Both the English and the Scottish kings have initial successes in their summer campaigns, but disaster strikes the Scots in September 1513. At Flodden they meet an English army sent north under the earl of Surrey. Scottish casualties amount to some 10,000 men, subsequently lamented in ballads as the 'flowers of the forest'. Among the dead is the king, James IV. He is succeeded by his one-year-old son, as James V. Scotland enters a profoundly unsettled period.

By contrast Henry returns to England in October, well pleased with his participation in two successful sieges and a victory over the French at Guinegate.

At the time of these adventures the Holy Roman emperor and the French king are Maximilian I and Louis XII. A few years later they are respectively Charles v and francis i.

Both are more powerful players than Henry VIII in Europe's current turmoil. But an alliance with England is nevertheless an asset. In 1520 Henry has the satisfaction of finding each ruler eager for his friendship - Francis I on the Field of Cloth of Gold, Charles V more discreetly in Kent. The result of those negotiations is an alliance with Spain. But soon Henry's urgent wish for a divorce will alienate Charles V - for Henry's queen, Catherine of aragon, is the emperor's aunt.

Scotland and France: AD 1513-1559

The disaster at Flodden, in an engagement undertaken on behalf of France, divides the kingdom as to whether Scottish interests are best served in alliance with France or with England.

The issue remains topical but unresolved during the minority of James V. By the time that he takes power into his own hands, in 1528, the three leading powers of Europe are all eager for an alliance with Scotland. From England Henry VIII offers James the hand in marriage of his daughter Mary. The emperor Charles V proposes the charms either of his own sister or of a Portuguese niece. Francis I of France will be happy for James to marry either of his daughters.

The young king of Scots accepts the French proposal, marrying in 1537 Madeleine, the elder daughter of Francis. She dies in Scotland only six months later, whereupon James chooses another French bride - Mary of Guise (also known as Mary of Lorraine). The Guise family are extremely powerful in France, and are becoming more so. With this marriage the Scottish link with France is secured for a generation.

When James V dies, in 1542, he and Mary of Guise have only one living child - a girl, only a week old, also called Mary. She is, from the second week of her life, Mary Queen of Scots.

When Mary is five, in 1548, she is sent by her mother to be brought up at the French court under the protection of her powerful Guise uncles. In 1558 she is married to the heir to the French throne. A year later her young husband inherits the crown as Francis II. Mary, now sixteen, is queen consort of France and queen of Scotland.

But this royal couple also claims the English throne. After the death of England's Mary I, in 1558, Mary Queen of Scots is greeted in France as the queen of England - on the Catholic argument that Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon was invalid, making Elizabeth I a bastard and Mary the legitimate heir (as the great-granddaughter of Henry VII).

Meanwhile the young queen's French mother, Mary of Guise, is ruling Scotland as regent with the support of French troops. (The French connection is the reason for the gradual change of spelling of the family name - instead of the original Stewart it becomes Stuart, a version easier for the French who have no 'w' in their alphabet.)

There seems real danger of a French invasion of England, to assert the Scottish queen's rights and to preserve the whole of Britain as a Catholic realm. This crisis is the first to confront Elizabeth i of England at the start of her reign. She is helped, in her response, by the progress of the Reformation in Scotland.

Reform in Scotland: AD 1546-1560

The first dramatic clash between reformers and the establishment in Scotland occurs in 1546. It is occasioned by the burning for heresy of George Wishart by the archbishop of St Andrews, Cardinal David Beaton. In retaliation Protestants murder the cardinal in May 1546 and seize the town and castle of St Andrews. Here they are besieged by the Scottish government while help from France is awaited.

In April 1547 the rebels in the castle are joined by John Knox, a close colleague of the martyred Wishart. His powerful preaching in St Andrews rapidly gives him the status of the leader of the reform movement. But in June retribution arrives in the form of French troops.

The castle is taken. Knox and the other Protestants are carried off to serve as galley slaves in the French fleet. Knox survives nineteen months of this before he is released.

Unable to return to Catholic Scotland, the preacher is welcomed in England. The kingdom is now experiencing its first real period of reform under Edward vi. Knox travels round the country spreading the faith. But the accession of Mary i in 1553 forces him to flee for safety to the continent, settling eventually in Calvin's Geneva.

Meanwhile the movement for reform is gathering strength in Scotland. It is given added impetus during a period when Knox returns for a few months (in 1555-6), and it is strengthened by nationalism - since the persecuting government is that of a foreign Catholic regent, Mary of guise, whose daughter Mary Queen of Scots is in France.

The turning point for the Scottish Reformation comes in 1559, when Mary of guise resolves to take strong measures to suppress the reformers. Knox returns from Geneva to take part in the confrontation. Fired by his preaching, an army of reformers marches south from Perth - sacking monasteries and smashing church images on their way.

By the end of June 1559 the reformers are in Edinburgh and Knox is preaching in St Giles' cathedral. They hold the city only briefly against Mary of guise's French forces. The next nine months are spent in spasmodic warfare, while Knox appeals desperately to Elizabeth and William Cecil for help. At last, in April 1560, the English send 10,000 troops. The result is a treaty between France and England in July. Both sides will withdraw, leaving the Scots to their own devices (the regent, Mary of guise, has conveniently died in June).

Knox immediately writes a doctrine for the reformed church of Scotland. It is accepted in August by the Scottish parliament, which also abolishes the authority of the pope and bans idolatry and the ceremony of the mass.

Knox's reforms of 1560 establish the general direction which will be taken by the church of Scotland, but it is not yet fully Presbyterian. It retains a role for bishops. This later becomes an issue of profound significance, when James VI and his son Charles I insist on imposing bishops upon a Scottish church now inclined to be non-episcopal. The Bishops' Wars of 1637-40 provoke the English Civil War and the execution of Charles I.

Under the Puritan parliament at Westminster a fully Presbyterian doctrine is promulgated and is accepted by the Scottish General Assembly in 1647. In 1690 William iii finally acknowledges that the church of Scotland is Presbyterian, in keeping with the terms of this Westminster Confession.

Mary in Scotland: AD 1561-1568

When parliament in Edinburgh makes reformed Christianity the religion of Scotland, and declares the mass a prohibited ceremony, the Catholic queen of Scots and her husband, Francis II, are reigning in France. But in December 1560, just four months after these events, Francis dies. At the age of seventeen, Mary is now merely a widowed sister-in-law of the new French king, Charles ix. With no position in her adopted realm, she returns to her own.

But she returns as the Catholic monarch of a kingdom which has adopted the Protestant faith. She returns as a pious Christian determined to go to mass in a country where the mass is outlawed. Conflict is inevitable, in a very personal clash between John Knox and his queen.

Mary's seven years in Scotland are a period of extraordinary drama, of which her personal confrontations with John Knox at Holyrood are only the first instalment; they are recorded in detail by Knox in accounts which do nothing to conceal his own ferocious rudeness to the young queen.

Nevertheless her first few years at home may be judged a success. She wins sufficient support from the Scottish nobles for her court to be a place of glamour and sophistication, and for the mass to be defiantly celebrated from time to time in spite of the profound disapproval of Knox and the recently Established church. But troubles begin after she marries her Catholic cousin, Henry Darnley, in 1565.

Darnley is handsome and charming, and his royal lineage means that any child of Mary's and his will have an enhanced claim to the English throne (Henry VII's daughter Margaret tudor is grandmother to Mary by her first marriage and to Darnley by her second). But these turn out to be Darnley's only merits. Idle, deceitful and unscrupulous, he soon earns Mary's hatred. The combination of his defects and her impulsiveness prompts a spiral of disaster.

The first significant event is the murder, with Darnley's involvement, of Mary's secretary - David Rizzio, an Italian.

Mary's easy familiarity with this low-born courtier, and his control of her important correspondence, outrages the Scottish nobility. On the evening of 9 March 1566 Rizzio is dragged from the queen's presence and stabbed to death. The plot involves personal danger to her too, for the conspirators have allowed Darnley to believe that they will depose Mary, leaving the throne to him by virtue of the 'crown matrimonial'.

Mary learns of Darnley's treacherous involvement some weeks later. By then she has herself conceived a passion for the earl of Bothwell, a talented soldier who supports her with his troops during the aftermath of the crisis. The attachment of Mary to Bothwell leads directly to the next murder.

This time the victim is Darnley. On 9 February 1567 Mary and her husband are lodging in a house in Edinburgh named Kirk o'Field. Before midnight she goes out to attend the wedding festivities of one of her servants. Between two and three in the morning a mighty explosion demolishes Kirk o'Field. Darnley has perhaps had warning of this and has tried to escape. His body is found in the garden, strangled.

Bothwell swaggers round Edinburgh, making light of the widespread rumour that he planned the murder. Three months later, at Holyrood, Mary marries him. This outrage proves one too many, uniting the Catholic and Protestant nobles in rebellion.

Abdication and flight: AD 1567-1568

When Mary and Bothwell confront the rebels at Carberry Hill, in June 1567, many in the royal contingent refuse to fight. After ensuring Bothwell's escape (he ends his days in Denmark), Mary surrenders to her nobles. She is taken to a castle on an island in Loch Leven.

Here, in July, she is shown a casket of letters which has fallen into the hands of her enemies. The letters seem to incriminate her in her husband's death (see the Casket Letters). Given the choice of abdication or a charge of murder, Mary signs a deed of abdication. Her one-year-old son, by Darnley, becomes king as James vi. Her illegitimate half-brother, the Protestant earl of Moray, is named as regent.

After months of imprisonment Mary is rescued from the castle in the lake, on 2 May 1568, by a group of nobles hoping to restore her to the throne. Their forces meet those of the regent Moray on May 13 at Langside, near Glasgow, and are soundly defeated.

Mary takes the bold decision to seek assistance from her cousin Elizabeth, south of the border, in the expectation that monarchs will stand together against rebels. She flees south, crossing the Solway Firth on May 16 to land in Cumberland. When Elizabeth receives her plea for help, she orders that Mary is to be treated with every respect but that she must be safely guarded. In July the Scottish queen is moved from Carlisle to a castle at Bolton.

James VI: AD 1567-1603

During the minority of James VI, Scotland reverts to a medieval turmoil of noble factions competing for power. The first regent, Moray, is murdered in 1570. The second is killed in 1571 in a civil war between Catholics fighting for Mary and the Protestant regency governing on behalf of her son (while also bringing him up in the Protestant faith).

The most effective regent, the earl of Morton, brings the civil war to an end in 1573 and for a while restores order. But in 1581, during a period of Catholic resurgence, he is executed for his part in the murder of Darnley.

After 1583, when the young king is able to take power into his own hands, the struggles in Scotland become constitutional - anticipating the themes which will dominate the following century in Britain. The central question now is how the monarch exercises authority, and what the nature of that authority is.

In Scotland the powerful new element in the community is the Protestant church. From 1574 it has another strong leader in Andrew Melville (Knox has died two years previously).

Melville is more rigorously Presbyterian than his predecessor. He wants a system similar to that in Calvin's Geneva, where an entirely independent church has its own internal structure of presbyterian courts composed of ministers and elected elders. Such a church is separate from government, but expects to exert a strong moral influence over those who govern.

James favours a diametrically opposite system, in which the monarch influences the church through bishops, appointed by himself, who sit in parliament. Such an episcopal church, non-independent, is essentially part of the machinery of government.

At times James has to yield to the strength of the Scottish church (in 1592 he authorizes the church courts which Melville wants), while on other occasions he wins some ground of his own (in 1600 three bishops appointed by him take their seats in the Scottish parliament).

During this prolonged debate James is moving towards a theory which becomes of great significance in the following century, that of the divine right of kings. In a book published anonymously in 1598 (The True Law of Free Monarchies) he argues that kings, being appointed by God to rule the people, are above human law. A wicked king is likely to be punished by God, but his subjects have no right to take action of their own in rebellion.

This gives a new gloss to the practice of Tudor monarchs in England. They have ruled with absolute power, but they have involved parliament - acquiring from its members at least the formal tokens of assent. James's theory implies that even this is not necessary. Parliament's view of the matter becomes a central theme of British politics once James, and then his son Charles, are on the throne of England as well as Scotland.

Meanwhile, after the execution of his mother in 1587 (an event which provokes him to little more than a formal protest), James's overriding political aim is to ensure that he succeeds Elizabeth on the English throne. He has every qualification for the role.

17th century

James VI and I: AD 1603

Unlike his mother, James is a Protestant. He is also undeniably the next in line of succession to Elizabeth's throne. Elizabeth is the last surviving descendant of Henry VIII, the only adult son of Henry VII. With her death the succession moves to the line of Henry VII's eldest daughter Margaret - married in 1503 to James IV of Scotland.

Margaret's two senior grandchildren are the first cousins Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Darnley, the parents of James VI. His claim is clear. But Elizabeth refuses to acknowledge him as her successor, until finally indicating this intention on her deathbed.

No doubt Elizabeth reasons that an element of uncertainty will keep her Scottish cousin (almost exactly the same age as her last favourite, Essex) on his best behaviour. She is proved right.

James is a skilful politician. During the last two years of Elizabeth's reign he is in secret correspondence with Robert Cecil, by now the queen's chief minister. At the same time James avoids any actions which might alarm the Roman Catholics in England and prompt a rebellion. As a result his succession in 1603 goes as smoothly as if he were Elizabeth's own son, rather than the king of a country where hostility to England has been the norm. James VI of Scotland now gains a new title as James I of England.

The second kingdom: AD 1603-1638

Between his accession to the throne of England in 1603 and his death in 1625 James VI returns only once to his Scottish kingdom. But the government which he has established and his undoctrinaire Church of scotland continue to serve the country well. Scotland's high educational standards are rooted in this period. In 1616 the Privy council orders the founding of a school in every Scottish parish.

A renewal of conflict between the Church of scotland and the Stuart monarchy comes in the 1630s. It is prompted by the policies of James's son, Charles I, and his English archbishop, William Laud.

The Bishops Wars: AD 1639-1640

In 1637 Charles I and Laud try to impose the full liturgy and hierarchy of the Anglican church on Scotland, where James I - in his more tactful early period - has put in place a workable compromise between the presbyterian and episcopal systems. This solution has held good for several decades.

Now the king's demands lead to riots in Edinburgh, in 1638, and the emergence of the Covenanters. It has been a tradition for members of the Church of scotland, when confronted by a crisis, to covenant themselves to a shared cause. They do so now in a National Covenant, first signed in Greyfriars' churchyard in Edinburgh in 1638 and then circulated throughout Scotland.

In 1639 the Covenanters take control in Edinburgh, Stirling and other Scottish towns. The General Assembly of the Church of scotland declares episcopacy abolished north of the border. A truce is agreed with the king later in 1639, but a second Bishops' War breaks out in 1640 when a Covenanters' army marches into England and seizes Newcastle.

The new crisis prompts Charles to summon parliament in London in 1640. But far from being willing to help the king against the Scottish presbyterians, the House of Commons - itself now predominantly presbyterian - presents Charles with Unprecedented demands.

The shifting alliances of the kirk: AD 1643-1690

The increasing friction between Charles I and the English parliament during the 1640s causes both sides to seek a Scottish alliance. Compared to the complex political currents flowing south of the border, the position of Scotland's dominant party is relatively simple. The Covenanters want a religious settlement. Their aim is to establish a presbyterian church as the only form of Christianity in both Scotland and England.

Their natural ally would therefore seem to be the predominantly presbyterian parliament in Westminster. An alliance is made, in the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, pledging Scottish armies for the English parliamentary cause in return for religious support.

The Scots believe that the Solemn League and Covenant commits the English parliament to securing a national presbyterian church in both kingdoms. English failure to honour this pledge (partly because Cromwell and the army do not favour presbyterian rule) causes the Covenanters to revise their commitment. They consider instead an alliance with the Stuart royal family.

In 1646 Charles I surrenders to a Scottish army at Newark. On this occasion, after several months of negotiation, the Covenanters fail to reach agreement with the king. They hand him over in 1647 to his English enemies. Yet only a year later a Scottish army invades England on the king's behalf, launching the second phase of the English Civil war.

This royal alliance is renewed, with equally disastrous results, when Covenanters fight for Charles II against Cromwell in the final stage of the Civil war. The army defeated with Charles at Worcester in 1651 is Scottish. The result is the submission of Scotland to English parliamentary rule, and the enforced administrative union of the two countries in 1652.

With the Stuart Restoration the religious system in Scotland is also restored, to the compromise achieved by James vi in the late 16th century. In 1662 Charles II imposes bishops once again north of the border, but in a manner enabling them to coexist with presbyterian assemblies.

The final stage in Scotland's religious saga derives, as at the Restoration, from English politics. When William III becomes king, he reverses the policy of his Stuart predecessors.

Bishops, the bone of contention for so long, are removed in 1689. In 1690 the Church of Scotland is formally given the presbyterian form of government which it retains to this day. (In 1712, after the Act of union with England, episcopalians in their turn are granted religious freedom. An Anglican church, with bishops, becomes a minority sect north of the border under the name Episcopal Church in Scotland.)

18th century

Act of Union: AD 1707

Given the centuries of hostility between Scotland and England, with warfare even in the 17th century under a shared Stuart king, the union of the two kingdoms seems to come with surprising suddeness. It has been under discussion for a considerable time, for James VI and I tries to achieve it after inheriting the English throne in 1603. But the idea meets with little favour (although imposed during the Commonwealth) until the early 18th century.

The motivation in 1707 is largely economic for the Scots and political for the English.

Scotland has recently suffered a disastrous failure in setting up a colony in 1698 in Darien, on the isthmus of Panama. By the time the experiment is abandoned, in 1700, it is estimated to have cost £200,000 and some 2000 lives. Tariff-free access to all English markets, both in Britain and in the developing colonies, seems commercially a rather more attractive option.

For England, engaged in lengthy wars with the French (who are sympathetic to the Exiled stuart dynasty), it is attractive to remove the danger of any threat from the country's only land border. The union of the kingdoms creates an island realm.

The Act of Union abolishes the Scottish parliament, giving the Scots instead a proportion of the seats at Westminster (forty-five in the commons, sixteen in the lords). Scotland's legal system, radically different from English common law, is specifically safeguarded.

There is unrest and warfare in Scotland during much of the 18th century because a strong faction, particularly in the Highlands, supports the Jacobite cause (the claim to the throne of the exiled Stuarts). This discontent erupts twice, in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. But the majority of Scots are content with a new role in a kingdom united under the title Great Britain. A renewal of Scottish nationalism must await the 20th century.

The Act of Union abolishes the Scottish parliament, giving the Scots instead a proportion of the seats at Westminster (forty-five in the commons, sixteen in the lords). Scotland's legal system, radically different from English common law, is specifically safeguarded.

With Scotland and Wales both now governed from Westminster, the history of England becomes - at any rate for the next three centuries - the central thread of the history of Great britain.

Stuarts in exile: AD 1689-1745

The Stuart dynasty does not come to an end, on the thrones of Scotland and England, until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. The revolution of 1688 has merely brought in a junior branch of the royal house, in place of the Catholic James VII and II (of Scotland and England). James lives in exile in France from 1689 until his death in 1701.

With the exiled king is his son, also James, born in 1688 and in terms of descent undeniably the rightful heir to the two kingdoms. In 1701 Louis XIV, eager to offend Britain, recognises the young prince as James VIII of Scotland and James III of England in succession to his father. These are the titles by which he is known to his supporters, the Jacobites. But to the English he is merely the Old Pretender.

James is the older of two pretenders because the Jacobite cause remains a passionate theme in British history long enough to support another. James's son, Charles Edward Stuart, is born in 1720. Known as the Young Pretender, or more romantically as Bonnie Prince Charlie, he takes on the leadership of the Stuart cause and presses it with considerably greater vigour than his father. Between them they make three attempts to recover their throne.

James first embarks from France to lead an uprising in Scotland in 1708, but he is prevented from landing in the Firth of Forth by the arrival of a British fleet. Seven years later he tries again, in response to efforts made by his followers at home.

A Jacobite uprising in Scotland, launched by the earl of Mar in September 1715, tempts James to cross from France later that year. He lands in December and goes to Scone, where preparations are under way for his coronation. But, finding his supporters disorganized and incompetent, the Old Pretender decides that discretion should indeed be the better part of valour. By February he is back in France.

The fiasco of this uprising of 1715, often known simply as the Fifteen, ensures that the Hanoverians are secure on the English throne. But the Jacobite cause remains a romantic one, passionately held. It surfaces again thirty years later in a final and more serious attempt, the Forty-five, led by the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The Forty-Five: AD 1745

Charles Edward Stuart seems to be offered an unrepeatable opportunity when France declares war on Britain in 1744, during the War of the Austrian Succession. He participates in early French Plans for invasion of Britain. These are soon abandoned, but events in 1745 - with Britain losing to France in the campaign on the continent - convince the young prince that he stands a chance of success in Scotland even without foreign support.

Charles lands in the Hebrides early in August 1745. The Jacobite Highland clans rally to his cause and the prince marches south, gathering forces as he goes. On September 16 he enters Edinburgh. On the next day he proclaims his father James viii of Scotland.

Within a week Charles has to defend this claim on the battlefield. At Prestonpans, on September 21, he meets and defeats an army led by Sir John Cope. After this victory (news of which promptes the recall of Cumberland and his army from the Netherlands) Charles marches south to invade England. He takes Carlisle in November and by early December has progressed as far south as Derby.

At this point his followers lose heart. They are too far from safety in Scotland, and the promised French support has not materialized. On December 6 Charles heads back north, pursued now by the Duke of cumberland.

The two sides finally meet in pitched battle on 16 April 1746 at Culloden. Charles has marched his force of about 5000 Scots through the previous night in an attempt to surprise the larger army (some 9000 men) of the Duke of cumberland. The battle, on an exposed moor, lasts only an hour. The Scots are competely routed.

It is the end of the Jacobite cause. A price of £30,000 is put on the Pretender's head, but he manages to escape back to France after five months in hiding (thanks to the romantic intervention of Flora Macdonald). Cumberland acquires the nickname 'butcher' because of his brutal persecution of Jacobite sympathisers. And the government introduces severe measures to Pacify the highlands.

Pacifying the Highlands: AD 1715-1782

The abortive Jacobite Uprising of 1715 makes the Whig government and the Hanoverian monarch well aware that the Highlands of Scotland require careful control. The most important response to the challenge is a programme of road building. Intended purely to facilitate the rapid movement of troops, the new roads are incidentally of great economic benefit to Scotland.

The task of building them is entrusted to George Wade, who is commander-in-chief of North Britain from 1724 to 1740. He supervises the construction of 240 miles of roads across the Highlands, to a very high standard for the period, together with some forty bridges.

After the much more serious rebellion of 1745, the British government takes more punitive measures. Estates are forfeited, Highlanders are not allowed to carry arms, and - in the most symbolic and widely remembered gesture - the wearing of Highland dress and tartan is forbidden in the 1747 Act of Proscription (the restriction is lifted in 1782).

The crisis of 1745, even though in the nature of a civil war, is used by the Hanoverian majority to stir up a fervour of national sentiment. The first recorded occasion of a British crowd singing the national anthem is at Drury Lane in September 1745, a month after the Young pretender has landed in Scotland.

On this occasion George Wade's efforts in Scotland earn him a place in the lyrics. The crowd fervently sing out their hope that the famous general will 'like a torrent rush, rebellious Scots to crush' and thus will 'confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks'.

The crisis was never as great as such dramatic treatment makes it seem. The majority of Scots, living an increasingly prosperous existence in the more comfortable Lowlands, have little sympathy with wild and dangerous Highland schemes. They are busy turning Edinburgh into one of the most civilized of 18th-century cities, in both architectural and intellectual terms - as the home of the Scottish enlightenment.

The Scottish Enlightenment: AD 1748-1785

During the second half of the 18th century Scotland is in the forefront of intellectual and scientific developments. The movement known now as the Scottish Enlightenment has much in common with the broader Enlightenment, in its emphasis on rational processes and the potential of scientific research. This Scottish version is mainly of interest for the concentration of achievement within a small region. The people involved are in the university departments and laboratories of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The founding figure can be said to be the philosopher David Hume. He publishes his most significant work, A Treatise on Human Nature, early in his life, in 1739-40, but it receives little attention at the time.

Hume travels during much of the 1740s, becoming better known only after he settles in Edinburgh in 1751. His treatise is now published again in three more accessible parts (An Essay concerning Human Understanding 1748, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals 1751, A Dissertation on the Passions 1757). His Political Discourses of 1752 give him a wider reputation, being translated into French.

At this time he becomes a close friend of Adam Smith, who as yet is a primarily a moral philosopher - making his name in 1759 with The Theory of Moral Sentiments. His great work of political economy, the wealth of nations, is still nearly two decades in the future.

Hume and Smith are the intellectual leaders of this Scottish movement, but they have distinguished colleagues in scientific research. In 1756 Joseph black, a lecturer in chemistry in Glasgow, publishes a paper which demonstrates the existence of carbon dioxide. Five years later Black discovers the principle of latent heat. By that time he has befriended a Glasgow laboratory technician, James watt, who also has an enquiring mind and an interest in heat.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh a 'Society of Gentleman in Scotland' has been formed to emulate the great publishing achievement of the continental Enlightenment, Diderot's encyclopédie which has been appearing in parts since 1751.

The gentlemen in Scotland produce between 1768 and 1771 the first edition of a dictionary of the arts and sciences under the title Encyclopaedia Britannica. Unlike its French predecessor, it has been revised and reissued ever since.

While the Encyclopaedia Britannica is coming off the presses, a retired doctor in Edinburgh has been studying the local rock strata. In 1785 James hutton reads a paper on this unusual topic to the newly founded Royal Society of Edinburgh. His approach breaks new ground. Hutton is the pioneer of scientific geology, one of the main contributions of the Scottish Enlightenment to the field of human enquiry.

Edinburgh New Town: from AD 1766

The confidence of Scotland during the Scottish Enlightenment is well suggested in the magnificent New Town built to the north of medieval Edinburgh. A valley and a lake separate the crowded ancient city, on the slope of the hill up to the castle, from open fields on the adjacent ridge.

In 1766 it is decided to drain the lake to facilitate access across the valley. Designs are invited for a new residential area on the other side. The competition is won by a 22-year-old local architect, James Craig, who submits a simple rectilinear plan of three streets (Princes Street, George Street, Queen Street) running parallel to the valley and terminating in two squares.

Work begins in 1767 and continues for half a century, with different architects all conforming to a style of restrained classicism and together creating a masterpiece of town planning. The peak of elegance is Charlotte Square, situated at the west end of George Street and named after George III's queen. The square is designed in 1791 by Robert Adam and the buildings on the north side (started just before his death in 1792) fulfil his intentions in every detail.

This new Edinburgh is a perfect metropolis for modern Scottish gentlemen. But many such gentlemen, at home on their estates, are now engendering future trouble by an equivalently modern approach to agriculture.

19th - 20th century

Clearances: 18th - 19th century AD

In rational 18th-century Britain there is much interest in improved farming (a pioneer is the famous Coke of Norfolk, who introduces new methods of stock breeding and agriculture on his estate at Holkham). In parts of Scotland, particularly in the Highlands, the most profitable improvement is the introduction of new and larger breeds of sheep such as the Blackface and the Cheviot.

To provide pasture for these valuable animals, lairds on many estates move tenants off their traditional common lands and relocate them elsewhere on poorer holdings - often near the coast, where the main livelihood is kelping (the laborious collection of kelp, or seaweed, for burning and sale as a chemical).

The distress of the displaced crofters is greatly increased during the 1840s by the Potato famine, resulting in increased emigration to Canada, the USA and Australia. The hardship of the 1840s brings the plight of the crofters to the attention of the national press. The clearances become, as they have remained ever since, a subject of passionate controversy in which both sides can cite often untypical examples to support their case.

Advocates of the lairds point to estates where the removal of the tenants to new occupations is an attempt to improve their standard of living in a failing economy. And it is true that many of the emigrants' passages across the ocean are paid for by their landlords.

Equally, humanitarians can identify cases where evictions are carried out for motives of greed and with harsh brutality (the most frequently quoted example of a heartless agent is Patrick Sellar, on the estates of Elizabeth Countess of Sutherland).

The surviving evidence is complex and often apparently contradictory, but certain clear facts emerge. The prosperity of the Highland estates, and with it the well-being of the crofters, rises and declines not so much from the actions of individual landlords as from the effects of the wider Scottish and British economies.

Yet it is also true that landlords during the period are increasingly out of touch with their tenants. The old bonds of the clan are weakened when the chieftain becomes, in the 18th-century manner, a British gentleman - and they are broken when Highland estates are sold, as they often now are, to Lowlanders or even to the English.

Underlying the problem is the fact that the clansmen, descending from a tradition of mutual obligations based on kinship and influenced by feudalism, enjoy very few legal rights in a modern sense. This is revealed in evidence given to the Napier Commission (the Royal Commission on the Crofters and Cottars of Scotland), which is set up in 1883 after the resentment of crofters in Skye flares into the so-called Battle of the Braes.

Lord Napier and his colleagues tour the Highlands in 1883-4 to hear the local grievances. Their report is the most authoritative account of injustices committed in the Highlands during the previous three or four generations.

The resulting legislation (the Crofters' Holdings Act of 1886) redresses the balance in the crofters' favour - by providing for fair rents to be fixed by tribunal, security of tenure and compensation for any improvements made to a croft. Criticized at first for not making provision for the poor who lack even a croft to support them, the act has since been described as the 'Magna Carta of Gaeldom'. The hint of Gaelic reflects another important theme of the period - that of language and nationalism.

Romantic Scotland: AD 1763-1856

During the period covered by the clearances, the image of Scotland undergoes a remarkable transformation. Again the centre of attention is the Highlands.

In 1773 Samuel Johnson is a somewhat reluctant Tourist to the hebrides. Ten years earlier he has expressed a very blunt opinion of the Highland landscape. On 6 July 1763, in the Mitre Tavern in London, a Scottish clergyman is so unwise as to praise in Dr Johnson's presence the noble scenery of his native land. He receives the withering rejoinder that 'the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England'.

During the next few decades this perception changes dramatically. In the early 19th century it is the high road to Scotland which is crammed with the carriages of tourists, eager to experience the thrill of wild Scottish scenery. Scotland becomes a significant theme in the developing Romantic movement. And the change is almost entirely down to one man - Sir Walter Scott.

In 1810 Scott publishes The Lady of the Lake, a stirring historical poem of love and adventure. Loch Katrine, in a rugged gorge of the Trossachs, is the home of the heroine, Ellen Douglas. The beatiful Ellen's Isle commemorates her, nestling in the loch against a background of high hills.

The poem is an immediate success. A new hotel is built to accomodate the rush of tourists, who wander through the landscape with their copies of the book, finding the exact spots in which to declaim the relevant passages. The Highlands acquire an aura for tourists which they have never lost. When Thomas Cook offers the first cheap organized tours of the railway era, in the 1840s, Scotland is a popular early destination.

Meanwhile Scott has also been contributing to the cause in other ways. At Abbotsford, between 1812 and 1824, he transforms a cottage into what he calls a 'conundrum castle' - a baronial mansion, combining details from many Scottish historical sources and soon to be on the tourists' itinerary.

Scott surpasses himself in the cause of romantic Scotland when he organizes the festivities, in 1822, for the first visit of a British monarch to Edinburgh since the union of 1707. A year after his coronation in Westminster, George iv travels to the north of his realm. The ageing reprobate appears in the role of a Scottish chieftain, Wearing tartan (banned until quite recently) and thus launching the 19th-century craze for Highland dress.

The nation's love affair with romantic Scotland reaches its climax in 1856, when Victoria and albert complete their own Scottish fairy-tale castle at Balmoral. When the queen visits Loch Katrine, she too carries with her The Lady of the Lake.

The industrial revolution: 19th century AD

From the 17th century there has been a developing coal industry in a belt of land across the centre of Scotland, stretching southwest from the Firth of Forth. By 1700 the many small coalfields in this region have a combined output of about 400,000 tons a year. A century later this has increased to some 2 million tons. During the 19th century output continues to grow, reaching a peak of more than 40 million tons in the early 20th century.

During the same period Scotland develops a thriving iron industry. In 1830 the region has twenty-seven furnaces producing about 5% of Britain's output of pig iron. By 1860 there are 133 furnaces accounting for as much as 25% of national production.

Part of the reason for this rapid increase is a Scottish invention of 1828, J.B. Neilson's hot-blast furnace. This dramatically reduces the amount of coal required to smelt iron. With this technology, and an abundant supply of local coal, Scotland is well equipped to supply what becomes its major industrial activity - shipbuilding on the Clyde.

The Clyde takes pride of place in the history of the steamship. The world's first practical steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas, is built in a Clyde shipyard and makes her maiden voyage in 1802. She has a wooden hull, and for several decades this remains the pattern; between 1812 and 1820 as many as forty-two wooden steamships are launched on the Clyde.

Neilson's breakthrough in iron technology in 1828 is well timed to benefit the Clyde in the next stage of shipbuilding. The world's first iron steamship, the Aaron Manby, is launched in this same decade (on the Thames in 1822) and the Clyde shipyards soon take advantage of this new development. The first iron shipyard in Scotland begins work at the mouth of the river Kelvin in 1834.

In 1839 a Glasgow marine-engineer, Robert Napier, establishes the city's important and lasting link with the Cunard company. His first contract is only to supply the steam engines for Cunard's transatlantic packet ships, but in 1841 he opens an iron shipyard at Govan. He is soon building iron ships both for Cunard and the rival P&O line.

On this foundation, established in the mid-19th century by Napier and others, Clydeside establishes a leading position among the world's shipbuilders. A central feature is the continuing link with Cunard.

All five of Cunard's greatest liners of the 20th century are built on the Clyde - the sister ships Mauretania and Lusitania (launched in 1906, as the first liners in the world driven by steam turbines) and the three Queens (Queen Mary 1934, Queen Elizabeth 1938, QE2 1967). The Queens, and the royal yacht Britannia as well, are all built at the greatest of the Clydeside enterprises, the John Brown shipyards.

Like heavy industry elsewhere in Britain, Scottish shipbuilding and mining suffer a disastrous decline in the second half of the 20th century. At the same period Scotland acquires a new resource in the North Sea oilfields, bringing welcome (even if only temporary) prosperity to regions from Aberdeen up to the vast terminal built at Sullom Voe in the Shetlands.

Varying aspects of these developments - ranging from the distress of unemployment in the industrial areas to a sense of unease that Scotland's oil wealth goes largely to the national exchequer in Westminster - contribute to a radical strand which is already well-established in the Scottish political tradition.

Radical Scotland: 19th - 20th century AD

The shipyards and the coal mines of Scotland, and the hard conditions in both, form the political character of Scotland's first great radical leader. James Keir Hardie spends his early childhood in the house of his stepfather, a joiner who finds occasional employment in the Clydeside yards. At the age of seven Hardie starts work as an errand boy in a shipping company. Three years later his step-father goes to sea. The ten-year-old finds employment in the mining industry. He dislikes what he sees.

In his teens Hardie goes to evening classes. In his early twenties he begins writing for the radical press and organizing his fellow miners to campaign for better working conditions.

By 1880, when he is twenty-four, Hardie is sufficiently well known as an activist to be blacklisted by the Lanarkshire mine owners. He moves to the neighbouring county of Ayr, becoming secretary of a miners' organization and founding in 1887 a monthly paper, The Miner. It deals with political issues beyond the immediate concerns of the coal fields and it gradually extends its readership to England.

In 1888 there is a by-election for the Mid-Lanark seat. Hardie stands as an independent Labour candidate. His low tally (a mere 617 votes) persuades him that a wider organization is a prerequisite of success. He is instrumental in the founding of the Scottish Labour party later in the same year.

Hardie's fame is now spreading. In 1892 he is invited to stand as an independent Labour candidate for the London constituency of West Ham (South). He wins the seat, becoming the first Labour member of the house of commons.

In the following year the Independent Labour party is formed, with Hardie as chairman. This evolves by 1906 into the Labour party. Meanwhile The Miner has been succeeded by Labour Leader, a weekly paper through which Hardie's influence spreads through Britain. Thus, over two decades, Scotland's trades union movement merges into the mainstream of British left-wing politics. Hardie himself, the odd man out in the house of commons in his cloth cap and tweeds, becomes known as 'the member for the unemployed'.

Within Scotland the radical tradition is strongly maintained, to such a point that the shipyard region becomes known during World War I as Red Clydeside. This reflects the influence of the Clyde Workers Committee, active from 1915 and deriving strength from two sources - union militancy (made easier by the sudden wartime need for ships and munitions) and pacifism.

The chairman of the committee, William Gallacher, later becomes a Communist MP for West Fife (from 1935 to 1950), but he is an exception. Scottish radicalism is firmly tied to the Labour party - to such an extent that the 1997 election returns fifty-six Labour M.P.s for Scotland and not a single Conservative.

Scottish nationalism: from AD 1886

The Labour Party, albeit with its roots firmly in Scotland, is essentially a British party. As such its interests are opposed to another radical strain in Scottish politics, that of Scottish nationalism.

There is much theoretical discussion of independence for Scotland from as early as 1886, when Gladstone brings to parliament the first of his Home Rule bills for Ireland. On the argument that the same dispensation should apply to Scotland, the Scottish Home Rule Association is founded in that year. But the lack of progess on Home Rule for Ireland means that it never gets up much head of steam. The effective campaign for an independent Scotland begins only in 1932 with the merging of two groups to form the Scottish National Party (or SNP).

The SNP wins its first seat in parliament in 1945 but there is not much progress until the late 1960s, when nationalist returns at the polls first begin to make Westminster take notice. The surprise victory of Winifred Ewing in a by-election at Hamilton in 1967 is something of a turning point. Local election successes follow in 1968, persuading the prime minister, Harold wilson, to set up a Royal Commission to look into the constitutional aspects of devolution.

The Commission, reporting in 1973, recommends Scottish and Welsh assemblies with devolved powers within the United Kingdom. The issue becomes of increased urgency when the SNP wins eleven seats at Westminster in October 1974, with more than 30% of the Scottish vote.

Devolution in Scotland and Wales: AD 1978-1999

After much debate a Scotland Act and a Wales Act are passed in 1978, arranging for a referendum in each region. The acts state that regional assemblies will be established if two conditions are met: a simple majority in favour, but also a minimum turnout of 40% of the electorate.

The referenda are held in March 1979. In Scotland there is a small majority in favour, but only 32% of the electorate vote. In Wales there is a large majority (4:1) against the proposed assembly. Later in 1979 a Conservative government wins a general election, beginning a spell in power which lasts for eighteen years. Conservative policy is anti-devolution (though as a gesture the Stone of Scone is returned to Scotland in 1996). So the issue hangs fire - until 1997.

'Decentralization of power to Scotland and Wales' is in the party manifesto with which Labour wins an overwhelming victory in the general election of 1997. The pledge is quickly delivered. Within weeks of the election a bill is passed, arranging for referenda to be held. The Scots are to be asked two questions: Do they want a Scottish parliament? Do they want it to have tax-raising powers? The Welsh are only to vote on a single issue, whether they want a Welsh assemby with devolved powers which do not include tax raising.

In a 60.4% turnout the Scots vote 74.3% for a parliament and 63.5% for tax-raising powers. In a 50.3% turnout the Welsh vote by a tiny majority (0.6%) in favour of an assembly.

Elections for both assemblies are held in May 1999, on a system of proportional representation. About two thirds of the candidates are returned on a first-past-the-post basis, with the other third added from party lists to achieve the required balance.

In both regions Labour wins the greatest number of seats, while falling short of an absolute majority in either. The second largest vote is in each case for nationalism, with the SNP winning 35 seats in Scotland and Plaid Cymru 17 seats in Wales. The Conservatives come third in both regions, and the Liberal Democrats fourth. But the Liberal Democrats, the most natural allies for Labour, have enough seats to provide a coalition majority in both Scotland and Wales.

It takes Donald Dewar, the Labour leader in Scotland, a few days to persuade the Liberal Democrats to join his administration. The sticking point is the £1000 tuition fee for university students, introduced by the Labour government in Westminster and strongly opposed in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. A compromise is reached, and two cabinet places are allocated to the Liberal Democrats. Their 16 seats, combined with the 56 for Labour, give a comfortable majority in the 128-seat assembly. Thus the Scottish parliament resumes business in Edinburgh (though with powers limited to internal affairs) after an Interval of 292 years. The assembly is formally opened by the Queen on 1 July 1999.

In a tragic development for the new institution, Donald Dewar dies suddenly within little more than a year (in October 2000). He is succeeded as first minister by Henry McLeish, who resigns in November 2001, and then by Jack McConnell.

The strength of the Plaid Cymru vote surprises and impresses many, though it is also argued that Labour may have lost support by the centralizing manner in which Alun Michael has been virtually imposed by Tony Blair upon the Welsh Labour party as their leader in the run-up to the election.

With 28 seats in the 60-seat assembly, Alun Michael forms a minority government. The assembly is officially opened on 26 May 1999 in Crickhowell House in Cardiff. A new building for the assembly in Cardiff is meanwhile under construction.

However, within nine months the arrangement stitched up by Tony Blair comes apart. In February 2000 the assembly passes a vote of no confidence in Alun Michael. He is succeeded as leader of the Wales Labour Party, and as First Secretary of the assembly, by Rhodri Morgan - the very man kept out of the job the first time round by the vigorous efforts of Labour party headquarters in London.
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