Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland shares a border with England to the south, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean; with the North Sea to the east, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the south-west. In addition to the mainland, the country is made up of more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Edinburgh, the country's capital and second-largest city, is one of Europe's largest financial centres. Edinburgh was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which transformed Scotland into one of the commercial, intellectual, and industrial powerhouses of Europe. Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, was once one of the world's leading industrial cities and now lies at the centre of the Greater Glasgow conurbation. Scottish waters consist of a large sector of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union. This has given Aberdeen, the third-largest city in Scotland, the title of Europe's oil capital.
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. Having entered into a personal union with the kingdoms of England and Ireland following James VI, King of Scots, succeeding to the English and Irish thrones in 1603, the Kingdom of Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. This union resulted from the Treaty of Union agreed in 1706 and enacted by the twin Acts of Union passed by the Parliaments of both countries, despite popular opposition and anti-union riots in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere. The Kingdom of Great Britain itself subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Scotland's legal system has remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational and religious institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 Union. In 1999, a devolved legislature, the Scottish Parliament, was reconvened with authority over many areas of home affairs following a referendum in 1997. In May 2011, the Scottish National Party won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. As a result, a referendum on independence will take place on 18 September 2014.
Scotland is a member nation of the British–Irish Council, and the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly and also participates within the Common Travel Area agreement. Scotland is represented in the European Union and the European Parliament with six MEPs.