Is Scotland an Independent Country?

Scottish flags wave over a crowd of Scots and tartan

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There are eight accepted criteria that determine whether an entity is an independent country or state. An entity need only fail on one of the eight criteria to fall short of the definition of an independent country. Scotland does not meet six of the eight criteria.

Criteria Defining an Independent Country

Here's how Scotland measures upon the criteria that define an independent country or state.

Space or Territory With Internationally Recognized Boundaries

Boundary disputes are OK. Scotland does have internationally recognized boundaries and an area of 78,133 square kilometers.

People Live There on an Ongoing Basis

According to the 2001 census, Scotland's population is 5,062,011.

Economic Activity and an Organized Economy

This also means a country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money. Scotland certainly has economic activity and an organized economy; Scotland even has its own GDP (over 62 billion pounds sterling as of 1998). However, Scotland does not regulate foreign or domestic trade, and the Scottish Parliament is not authorized to do so.

Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament is able to pass laws on a range of issues known as devolved issues. The United Kingdom Parliament is able to act on "reserved issues." Reserved issues include a variety of economic issues: the fiscal, economic and monetary system; energy; common markets; and traditions.

The Bank of Scotland does issue money, but it prints the British pound on behalf of the central government.

The Power of Social Engineering, Such As Education

The Scottish Parliament is able to control education, training, and social work (but not social security). However, this power was granted to Scotland by U.K. Parliament.

Transportation System for Moving Goods and People

Scotland itself has a transportation system, but the system is not fully under Scottish control. The Scottish Parliament controls some aspects of transportation, including the Scottish road network, bus policy, and ports and harbors, while the U.K. Parliament controls railways, transport safety, and regulation. Again, Scotland's power was granted by the U.K. Parliament.

Government That Provides Public Services and Police Power

The Scottish Parliament has the ability to control law and home affairs (including most aspects of criminal and civil law, the prosecution system, and the courts) as well as the police and fire services. The U.K. Parliament controls defense and national security across the United Kingdom. Again, Scotland's power was granted to Scotland by the U.K. Parliament.

Sovereignty: No Other State Has Power Over the Country's Territory

Scotland does not have sovereignty. The U.K. Parliament definitely has power over Scotland's territory.

External Recognition, "Voted Into the Club" by Other Countries

Scotland does not have external recognition, nor does Scotland have its own embassies in other independent countries.

The Verdict

As you can see, Scotland is not an independent country or state, and neither are Wales, Northern Ireland, or England itself. However, Scotland is most certainly a nation of people living in an internal division of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

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Rosenberg, Matt. "Is Scotland an Independent Country?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 29). Is Scotland an Independent Country? Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "Is Scotland an Independent Country?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).