Real simple, is Scotland a country and why/why not?

There seem to be conflicting views all over the internet. Most of it seems to be personal views and opinions, I'm interested in facts. Most of them seem to disagree on what a country is as well which I find strange, is it that much of a grey line?


6 Answers 6


Scotland is a country, but not an independent country. In other words, it's not a Sovereign state.

Wikipedia defines a country as:

A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated peoples with distinct political characteristics.

It's quite possible to draw an analogy between the sub-divisions of the United Kingdom and American states - they're both sub-entities of a larger country which have the ability to run themselves within certain limits. However, because Scotland has a long history of being an independent country and the states don't, the terminology is different.

Further reading:

  • 1
    That's the problem I'm having, that "country" seems to be such a flexible definition. That Wikipedia entry seems to suggest that anything that used to be a sovereign political division is a country but does that still apply if the country has become another country (Abyssinia, Ceylon) or the political boundaries have changed (Bengal, Catalonia) or indeed in Scotlands case, if it doesn't change but merges with another country.
    – Ross Drew
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:38
  • 1
    I would say anything that used to be a country is still considered a country if it retains some self-governance separate from the parent country. If it doesn't, then it's ceased to exist.
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:42
  • 3
    But as the first "further reading" link says, there really isn't any universal definition, so all you have is convention. Since people call it a separate country, it is one.
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:43
  • 2
    @RossDrew - Even during that time, it had it's own laws. I haven't found anything either way, but I suspect that the Parliament of Great Britain could have (and probably did) pass Scotland-specific legislation. So it remained a separate entity, even if it wasn't self governing. Whether it would be a country or not during that time really boils down to what people thought of it as.
    – Bobson
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 19:05
  • 4
    The Scottish legal system is distinct from the English/Welsh one, and many Scottish specific laws have been passed. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 20:31

Yes it is a country, as is England, both of which are members of the United Kingdom due to a shared Sovereign. Indeed, the sovereign sits on the Stone of Scone, the throne of the ruler of Scotland, during the coronation. They also have their own house of parliament, have issued their own bank notes, and this past year - as a country - voted on whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom or whether to become an autonomous nation. As a nation, they decided to remain part of the UK - and that vote WAS made as a nation with an inherent right to determine that choice.


I wouldn't say Scotland is a country per se. I would consider it a constituent nation of a country: the UK. It is nation becouse the Scottish people remain some cultural background from the time they were independent before the union of crowns that's very different from the culture of people in England, Wales and NI.

However, in practical terms Scotland serves more as a sort of "state" (making an analogy with the US), since it is able to make some laws to its citizens, without overpowering the law of the Sovereing State (UK), and yet not having a seat in any international entity, whereas the UK has a precense. Also, Scottish people have the official status of British citizens, meaning their country is Britain.

In other words, the UK can be classified in practical terms and internationally as a country, while judging by its history Scotland could be consider a constituent nation of the UK, not an actual country.


Article 1 of the act of union 1706

I. That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN: And that the Ensigns Armorial of the said United Kingdom be such as Her Majesty shall think fit, and used in all Flags, Banners, Standards and Ensigns both at Sea and Land.

Therefore neither a nation of Scotland OR England (sorry Americans) exists- there is only the United Kingdon of Great Britain

  • That same document then goes on to provide for several differences between Scotland and England, so it's clear that it contemplates Scotland's continued distinct existence, and it's not at all clear that it excludes the possibility of "country" describing that existence.
    – phoog
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 22:51
  • Consider all of the various large empires throughout history. They spanned several countries but were ruled by the same person/group. Scotland may be a part of the UK, but it was never not Scotland. Just as England at one point was ruled by Rome.
    – ewanc
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 10:32

I would try to draw parallels from Russian language.

In Russian the word for country is strana.

It has different meanings:

  • A sovereign state.
  • An area with distinguishing features such as landscape, flora, fauna, people etc.

As you may know, Russia and the former USSR had some sub-national entities called "republics". But we do not call them "countries" because they are not independent. But if they become independent, we start to call them by the word for country. For instance, Ukraine was not a country when it was part of the USSR, but now we call it a country.

This reflects the first meaning.

The second meaning of the word one can observe when we can say that "Antarctica is the country of eternal ice", "Tibet is a country of the high mountains". In these sentences we do not mean that these are independent states but merely areas with distinguished features. We also could use the word for kingdom here, figuratively, without implying they were monarchies.

Thus Scotland may be viewed as an area with distinguished features, such as landscape, mountains, folklore etc.

  • 1
    I am pretty sure Ukraine and the other soviet republics were considered countries when they were part of USSR. Ukraine even had a seat at the United Nations. They were of course not independent countries. (I do not know if there is more specific vocabulary in regard to this is Russian, especially considering totalitarian regimes likes to invent vocabulary for this kind of stuff)
    – Bregalad
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 18:00
  • @Bregalad they werent considered countried in Russian language.
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 18:43
  • Ok, that's surprising. Thanks for your information (I'll also delete my other comment since it's wrong)
    – Bregalad
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 19:12

Short Answer: is not country. Its a región of the United Kingdom. Like the Baltic countries, were countries then they cease to exist and became part of the soviet Union, then separated from the soviet Union and became countries again. Or like Puerto Rico, that's not a country, not even a US state. It's a U.S. territory en of the story,.

  • 2
    From Wikipedia: "Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom..." As Bobson points out, there's no concrete definition of what a country is. If a country considers itself a country, it is. Puerto Rico isn't a great comparison, as it's unincorporated.
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 19:17
  • Well the short answer is wrong Scotland is a country within the United kingdom under law it is a country. Wales use to be a province, but was declared a country by the EU a number of years ago, both have flags and have parliaments, the defining issue is the head of state, which of course is the queen. Scotland under law is defined as is Wales but not NI as countries in their own rights.
    – user5470
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 10:10

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