Is Scotland a separate country?

Technically, neither Scotland nor England is a country.  The kingdoms of Scotland and England became one kingdom in 1707 – through the Act of Union.

But the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 1997, with important devolved powers, eg over education, healthcare and housing, encouraged a taste for political independence.  Since 2007, the Scottish National Party (SNP) have been the dominant force in the Scottish Parliament.  Their main aspiration is for independence for Scotland.

The 2014 Independence Referendum resulted in a 55% vote for staying in the United Kingdom.  In the 2016 EU Referendum, 62% of Scots voted to stay in the European Union.  Would the decision of the UK Government in London to leave the EU result in a stronger vote for independence if another referendum were held now?  The recent General Election results suggest not.  Many Scots just want the SNP Scottish government to get on with the “day job” of running Scotland, and to stop focusing on Scottish independence.

Wallace Monument - a day trip as part of learning English
The Wallace Monument in Stirling – celebrating military leader William Wallace, who defeated the English in battle. He is a figurehead for supporters of Scottish independence.

Does Scotland feel different from England?

I lived in England until last year, so I feel well qualified to answer this question, but obviously with a degree of subjectivity.

Scotland feels a long way away from England.  There is a lot of almost empty countryside to cross, as you drive or take the train between the built-up north of England and Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Living in central Scotland, it feels spacious, uncongested, unpolluted.  It is also green and wild, and the temperatures are significantly lower.  The Scots are noticeably relaxed and friendly, in my view, compared with “down south” (although some parts of England are known for their friendliness too).  Strangers often strike up a conversation.

There are plenty of differences in terms of how the country is run – for example the education system – and there is a slightly different legal system.

Politically, Scotland is traditionally left-wing, with England tending to be more right-leaning.

Rannoch Moor - a day trip as part of learning English
Rannoch Moor – isolated moorland in Highland Perthshire