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The history of Scotland

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The history of Scotland

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Act of Union

Scotland and England are united to form Great Britain, a relationship that continues to this day. This is known as the Act of Union.

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Adam Smith

The fundamental work of classical economics, The Wealth of Nations, is penned by Scots economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith.


Age of the Earth

Dr James Hutton published papers at Edinburgh University which was a turning point for geology and challenged the belief that the Earth was about 6,000 years old.

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Andy Murray

Andy Murray, who grew up in Dunblane, defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2012 US Open final, becoming the first British player since 1977, and the first British man since 1936, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. Murray is also the first British man to win more than one Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1935.

124 AD

Antonine Wall

Scotland’s recorded history began with the arrival of the Roman Empire. Despite building two impressive fortifications – Hadrian’s Wall to defend the northern border, and the Antonine Wall across Central Scotland to advance it forward – the Romans never truly conquered Caledonia. Unable to defeat the Caledonians and Picts, the Romans eventually withdrew and over time retreated from Britain entirely. Much of the 60km Antonine Wall survives and it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2004.

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Arrival of the Vikings

Around 800 AD, Vikings began migrating from Norway and Denmark, crossing the treacherous North Sea to trade and settle in Scotland. At the same time, natives known as the Picts were forging a new kingdom: the Kingdom of Alba.

22 May, 1859

Arthur Conan Doyle

The author who created 'The World's Greatest Detective' and Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, was born in Edinburgh.

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Bank of England

The Bank of England – the second oldest bank in the world – has Scottish trader, Sir William Paterson to thank for its existence. In 1694, Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax, adopted Patterson's idea and founded the bank before being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Bank of Scotland

The Bank of Scotland is founded in 1695. It was also the first bank in Europe to print its own banknotes, a function it still performs today.


Battle of Culloden

Shortly after the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden, a huge effort was made to repress many symbols of Scottish identity. The 1746 Act of Proscription prohibited the traditional wearing of clan tartans and kilts and played a massive role in the eventual destruction of the clan system.

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The first Baxters shop opens. Baxters has been making jams for over a century, but it's the soups that have really defined the company. One of Scotland's truly iconic brands.


Best of LGBT equality

Scotland is rated the best country in Europe for LGBT equality and human rights for the second year running. (The Rainbow Europe Index 2016).


Birth of Edinburgh Festivals

Birth of the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world's largest arts festival – and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. All still going strong over 70 years later!

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September, 2015

Borders Railway

The Borders Railway is opened by Her Majesty The Queen, connecting Edinburgh with Tweedbank. It's the longest new domestic railway to be built in the UK for over 100 years.

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1 September, 1832

Braemar Gathering

Although gatherings of one form or another took place in Braemar up to 900 years ago, this year marked the first official Braemar Gathering. A traditional Highland Games to this day, the event is particularly famous for its patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who regularly attends the event with members of the Royal Family.

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Mel Gibson was too busy directing and starring in the epic account of William Wallace's battle against King Edward of England in Braveheart that he seemingly didn't have time to perfect a Scottish accent... The film took more than $200m at the box office.


Carnegie Library

The world's first Carnegie Library opens in Dunfermline, Fife, where Andrew Carnegie hails from. He went on to became the richest man in the world and was known as the father of modern philanthropy. In 2017 the library re-opened as Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, including an adjoining £12.4million new building.

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Sir James Y Simpson, a professor of midwifery, was his own guinea pig, experimenting with chloroform on himself and later on his friends in 1847. He went on to use it as an anaesthetic to ease the pain of childbirth, leading to its acceptance in modern medicine.

1 December, 2014

City of Design

Dundee wins UK's first UNESCO City of Design status.

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City of Literature

Edinburgh becomes UNESCO's first City of Literature.


Colour Photography

Colour photography as we know it was made possible thanks to 19th-century Scottish scientist James Maxwell, who invented the "three-colour method". His theory, based on mixing red, green and blue colours of light, led him to present the world's first colour photograph – of a tartan ribbon – in 1861.


Commonwealth Games

Edinburgh hosts the Commonwealth Games and Scotland wins 25 medals, including four Golds in athletics. Scotland goes on to host the Games twice more, in Edinburgh in 1986, and in Glasgow in 2014.

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Curling Champions

Scotland became champions of the women’s World Curling Championships for the first time. In the same year, the all-Scottish Great Britain team also won Gold in women’s curling at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2017, Scotland became the World Mixed Curling Champions.

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18 September, 2017

Cycling World Record

Scottish cyclist, Mark Beaumont, set the world record for cycling around the globe. Mark completed his incredible 18,000-mile route in just 79 days, working out at approximately 240 miles a day!


Deep Fried Mars Bar

First instance of deep-fried Mars bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.


Dolly the Sheep

Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian successfully cloned the first mammal from an adult cell, Dolly the Sheep.

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Driving on the Left

It was Scotland, not England, that pioneered driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Driving on the left entered Scottish law in 1772, more than 60 years before England and Wales adopted it in 1835.


Edinburgh Old & New

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

12 September, 1914

Elsie Inglis

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, physician and suffragist Elsie Inglis launched an appeal to fund the first Scottish Women’s Hospital for the Foreign Service Committee with the aim of providing all female-staffed relief hospitals for the Allied war effort. The first left for France in November 1914.


Encyclopedia Britannica

The Encyclopedia Britannica, the world's oldest surviving encyclopedia and one of the most scholarly of encyclopedias, was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh. The first nine editions (out of fifteen so far) were all edited in Scotland.


European Championships

Scotland co-hosts the European Championships in Glasgow. This new multisport event brings together the European Championships of seven individual sports into one massive celebration of sport.


European Cup

Celtic become the first British team, and first from northern Europe to win football's European Cup, with a team of 11 Scotsmen.


Falkirk Wheel

Opened in 2002, the Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and is regarded as an engineering landmark for Scotland.

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Finger Printing

It wasn't until 1880 that Dr Henry Faulds, a Scottish surgeon working in Japan, realised he had the secret to catching criminals. He published his idea of recording fingerprints with ink and was the first to identify fingerprints left on a glass bottle.


First Bicycle

In 1839, Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith from Dumfries & Galloway, invented the first-ever mechanically-propelled bicycle. Unfortunately, he also has the dubious honour of having committed the first bicycle-related traffic offence, when he was fined five shillings for hitting a little girl with his bike in 1842.

30 November, 1872

First International Football Match

On 30 November 1872, Scotland and England played in the world's first international football match at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, ending 0-0.

27 March, 1871

First International Rugby Match

Raeburn Place in Edinburgh, was host to the world's first international rugby match on 27 March 1871, between Scotland and England, with Scotland emerging as winners.


First Open Championship

The Open Championship, the oldest of the four major golf championships, was first played in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club, in Ayrshire, and was staged there annually for the first 12 years of its existence.


First Prime Ministers of Canada

Canada's confederation took place on 1 July 1867. The first two Prime Ministers of Canada, John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie, were Scottish.


First Refrigerator

William Cullen invented the basis for the modern refrigerator when he designed a small refrigerating machine in Glasgow.


First Scottish Female MP

Women won the right to vote and stand in parliamentary elections. The first Scottish woman to be elected as an MP was Katherine Murray, Duchess of Atholl, who won the seat of Kinross and Western Perthshire in 1923.


First World Cup

Scotland managed to qualify for the first World Cup – by organising it themselves. In 1909, 20 years before the official Fifa tournament, Scotsman Sir Thomas Lipton, of Lipton's Tea, organised the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy in Turin, where international club teams represented their countries.


Flushing Toilet

Scottish watchmaker Alexander Cummings was the first to patent a design of the flushing toilet. In 1775 he invented the, S-trap – still in use today – which uses standing water to prevent nasty smells backing up out of the sewer.


Gin and Tonic

Gin and tonic is the drink of choice of millions worldwide, but it would not exist had it not been for Edinburgh-born George Cleghorn. The 18th-century doctor discovered that quinine could cure malaria. The quinine was drunk in tonic water, but it was so bitter that gin was added to make it more palatable.


Glasgow School of Art

Since 2006, the Glasgow School of Art has produced 5 Turner Prize winners and 30% of all nominees.

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Grand Theft Auto

Scottish Game developer Rockstar North (then known as DMA Design) release the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series. The series has gone on to be one of the most popular titles in gaming history, selling more than 250 million units.


Gretna Green

In 1753 a law was passed in England stating that under-21s needed parental permission to marry. This law didn't apply in Scotland, leading many young lovers to elope north of the border. The first village they came across was Gretna Green and so the legendary status of the town was born.

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Hampden Park

From the time of its completion in 1903 until 1950, Hampden Park in Glasgow was the biggest stadium in the world with a capacity in excess of 100,000. In 1937, a Scotland v England match beat the all-time record attendance (149,415 spectators) for an international football match in Europe. The record still stands to this day.


Harris Tweed

The Orb Trade Mark was registered by the Harris Tweed Association and is Britain’s oldest surviving Certification Mark. To this day, it ensures that all tweed bearing the trade mark is hand-woven by the islanders at their home in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and finished in the Outer Hebrides.

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Harry Potter

The first book in the Harry Potter series was released in 1997. Scotland was the inspiration behind many of the incredible locations in the magical series and J.K Rowling wrote much of the first instalment while frequenting Edinburgh's coffee shops.


Heart of Neolithic Orkney

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney – the area of the West Mainland surrounding the Ring of Brodgar – had been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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Heritage Brewing

Tennent Caledonian in Glasgow is one of the UK’s oldest brewers, with a heritage that stretches back centuries to the days of beer making in its very earliest forms.


Highland Clearances

The first phase of the infamous Highland Clearances took place in 1760. The entire process lasted more than 100 years as a number of laws were steadily introduced to forcibly remove highland families from their homes.


HPV Vaccine

HPV vaccine, created by Scot Ian Frazer, becomes widely available to protect women against cervical cancer.



Livingston-based Touch Bionics was spun-out from the National Health Service in 2003, and in 2007 launched its revolutionary i-Limb, the first powered prosthetic hand to incorporate articulating fingers.

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Invention of the Cash Machine

The modern ATM, or Cash Machine, and accompanying PIN number system was invented by Scotsman James Goodfellow in 1966.


Invention of the Telephone

On 7 March 1876, Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the US patent for inventing the telephone. The first-ever successful telephone call was made just three days later when Bell called his assistant Thomas Watson and said "Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you."

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Invention of the TV

John Logie Baird invented the first-ever working television set.



IRN-BRU is launched in Scotland. Many believe that Scotland's national soft drink was originated in Scotland, but it was, in fact, created in the USA.

13 June, 1831

James Clerk Maxwell

Birth of James Clerk Maxwell in Edinburgh. Known as the Father of Modern Physics, Maxwell's discoveries influenced many of the world's greatest thinkers, including Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

1 February, 1550

John Napier

John Napier, the inventor of logarithms, was born in Edinburgh.


King George IV

The 1822 visit of King George IV to Scotland, which was organised by Sir Walter Scott, was the first visit of a reigning monarch to Scotland in almost 200 years. Scott's organising of the event, which took place in Edinburgh, was steeped in tartan pageantry and helped reassert tartan and the kilt at the forefront of Scottish identity.

January, 2008

Largest Wind Farm in Europe

First phase of Whitelee Wind Farm begins feeding electricity to the grid. In May 2009, the wind farm, the largest in Europe, officially opens.

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Loch Ness Monster

Mr Robert Wilson takes a photo of 'an object moving in Loch Ness', and it becomes the most famous hoax sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. The first reported sighting of a monster in the loch was during a visit by St Columba in 565AD, making Nessie a ripe old age. She was officially spotted eight times in 2017.

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8 December, 1542

Mary Queen of Scots

Perhaps Scotland's most famous queen, Mary Queen of Scots was just six days old when her father died and she was crowned. Although born at Linlithgow Palace, Mary spent much of her youth in France, returning to Scotland in 1561 at the age of 19. After being removed from the Scottish throne, Mary fled south to England seeking protection from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Instead, Mary spent almost 19 years imprisoned before being executed in 1587.

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Munro bagging

Hugh Thomas Munro drew up a list of Scottish Mountains over 3000 feet (914 metres). These mountains became known as Munros and there are now 282 listed. 'Munro bagging' has now become a popular term for reaching their peaks, with many walkers attempting to scale them all.

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Neolithic Scotland

The earliest prehistoric tools found in Scotland date from 3000 BC. During the Neolithic age, Scotland was home to nomadic hunter-gatherers as well as the first farmers who built permanent dwellings. The remains of these buildings make up The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

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New Lanark

UNESCO inscribed New Lanark as a World Heritage Site.

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North Sea Oil

The drilling of the first North Sea oil well was considered a major industrial achievement of the time, creating a huge industry in Scotland and giving the UK access to oil made at home for the first time.


Oldest Distillery

Strathisla Distillery in Aberdeenshire is the oldest continuously operating whisky distillery in Scotland. It was founded as the Milltown Distillery by George Taylor in 1789.

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Oldest University in Scotland

St Andrews University was granted its charter in 1411 by the Bishop of St Andrews. In 1413, it gained full university status after a blessing by the Pope, making it the oldest university in Scotland, and one of the oldest in the world.

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Origin of Golf

The modern game of golf originated in Scotland in the 15th century. First mentioned as 'gowf' in 1457, golf was originally played on a course of 22 holes. It was first reduced to 18 holes at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1764, with other courses following suit. This earned St Andrews the title of "The Home of Golf".

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Origins of a Scottish Parliament

The earliest written mention of a Scottish Parliament. It refers to an assembly held at Kirkliston, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The Parliament developed from meetings of the 'King's great council', which were gatherings of nobles and churchmen who advised the King on policy and justice issues. 

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Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming, rediscovered Penicillin, working at St. Mary's Hospital in London in 1928.

9 May, 1860

Peter Pan

J.M. Barrie, creator of 'The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up', Peter Pan, was born in Kirriemuir, Angus.

7 June, 1811

Pioneer of Anaesthetic

James Young Simpson, pioneer of general anaesthetic, born in Bathgate, West Lothian.


Pure LiFi

Pure LiFi founded as a spin-out from the University of Edinburgh.


Quality Scottish Salmon

Scottish Salmon was the first foreign product to gain France’s prestigious ‘Label Rouge’ quality mark.

4 September, 2017

Queensferry Crossing

Opening of the Queensferry Crossing alongside its brothers, the Forth Road Bridge and the Forth Rail Bridge. The Queensferry Crossing is the longest triple tower cable stayed bridge in the world and is also the tallest bridge in the UK.

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25 January, 1759

Robert Burns

Birth of Scotland's National Poet, Robert Burns in Alloway, Ayrshire.

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Robert Louis Stevenson

The novelist behind Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, was born in Edinburgh.

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23 June, 1314

Robert the Bruce

Unrest continued into the 14th century when Robert the Bruce took the throne and was crowned king. Fighting continued until 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce and his army defeated Edward II, a major turning point in his rule.

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Roman Empire World Heritage Site

The Antonine Wall was inscribed by UNESCO to become part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

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Same-sex Marriage

In 2014 Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. The first same-sex marriage in Scotland took place later that same year, on the 16th December.


Scotland’s F1 Champion

Scot Jim Clark becomes Formula 1 World Champion for the first time, later winning the accolade again in 1965.

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Scotland’s First Ski Centre

Scotland's first ski centre opens to the public at Glencoe. Since then, Cairngorm, Glenshee, The Lecht and Nevis Range have opened in Scotland, plus Europe's largest outdoor dry slope just outside Edinburgh and the UK's longest real snow indoor slope at Braehead.

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Scottish Dr Who

Sylvester McCoy becomes the first Scot to play Dr Who in the long-running TV series. He plays The Doctor until 1989, and two incarnations of The Doctor have been played by Scots since – David Tennant and Peter Capaldi.

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18 September, 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum

In 2012, the Edinburgh Agreement was signed by Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. It paved the way for a once in a generation referendum on Scottish independence by confirming the Scottish Parliament’s power to hold a vote that will be respected by both governments. On the 18 September 2014, the people of Scotland voted. In response to the question, 'Should Scotland be an independent country', 1,617,989 (45%) voted 'Yes' and 2,001,926 (55%) voted 'No'.

9 October, 2004

Scottish Parliament Building

Designed by Barcelona architects EMBT and partners RMJM Scotland, the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood was officially opened in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.


Scottish Parliament Reconvened

The calls for more devolved powers had been growing for decades and resulted in a referendum in 1979. A second referendum was held in September 1997, with the vote delivering greater powers. In 1999 the Scottish Parliament reconvened for the first time in nearly 300 years, ushering in a new era for the Scottish people.

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Scottish Samurai

Thomas Blake Glover, the 'Scottish Samurai', was born in Fraserburgh. Glover was the visionary industrialist who founded the giant Mitsubishi company. He was so revered in Japan that he became the first foreigner to be awarded one of Japan’s highest honours.

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25 August, 1930

Sean Connery

Birth of actor Sean Connery in Edinburgh, who starred as James Bond in 7 films.

1940 - 1945

Shetland Bus

During the Second World War a secret operation known as the 'Shetland Bus' made use of Shetland's close proximity to Norway to ensure safe passage for thousands of Norwegians who escaped Nazi occupation and arrived in Shetland by fishing boat.

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17 October, 1995

Skye Bridge

The Skye Bridge opens, connecting the Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye to Kyle of Lochalsh on the Scottish Mainland. Initially a toll bridge, it was later purchased by the Scottish Government and made free to cross.

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Smallest Distillery

Loch Ewe distillery opens, Scotland's smallest distillery.

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The Declaration of Arbroath proclaimed Scotland’s status as an independent sovereign state. The declaration was written in Latin, signed by Scottish Barons and Nobles and sent to Pope John XXII. Though its effect was largely symbolic, the powerful declaration remains an important document in Scottish history – many historians believe it inspired America’s founding fathers to write the United States Declaration of Independence.


SSE Hydro

The SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow staged its first concert, since becoming the world's 2nd most popular entertainment venue.

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St Columba – Christianity

St Columba and his followers landed on the Isle of Iona in Argyll to establish a monastery, from where they would send missions across north Britain to convert people to Christianity.

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St Kilda

UNESCO originally inscribed St Kilda as a World Heritage site, for its natural heritage. This was extended in 2005 to recognise its cultural importance.

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Steam Power

James Watt, inventor and pioneer of Steam power was born in Greenock.


V&A Dundee

V&A Dundee, Scotland's first design museum due to open to the public. The only V&A museum in the world outside London, it will become the global home for Scotland’s design heritage.

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Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny, which has been used in coronations for hundreds of years, was returned to Scotland and resides in Edinburgh Castle.

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Tay Road Bridge

The Tay Road Bridge is opened connecting Dundee and Newport-on-Tay. At 1250 metres in length, it remains one of the longest road bridges in Europe.

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The Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This magnificent railway bridge was built between 1883 and 1890 by Sir John Fowler, Benjamin Baker and over 4,500 men. In 2015, UNESCO inscribed the Forth Bridge as a World Heritage Site.

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27 November, 2013

The Kelpies

The Kelpies, 30 metre high sculptures designed by Andy Scott, rose from the ground in just 90 days at The Helix park in Falkirk.

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The Lewis Chess Men

The Lewis Chess Men were discovered on a beach on the Isle of Lewis. Dating from 1150 AD, these artefacts demonstrate the cultural and political links between Scotland and Scandinavia during the middle ages.

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The Real Macbeth

Immortalised forever in Shakespeare’s fictitious retelling, Macbeth is perhaps one of the best-known early Scottish kings. Macbeth ruled as King of Alba from 1040 until his death in battle in 1057.

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The Reformation of Scotland

Led by John Knox. The Scottish Parliament passed an act abolishing the authority of the Pope over the National church, which became officially Protestant. This is known as the Reformation of Scotland.

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The Scottish Enlightenment

The Scottish Enlightenment begins around the middle of the 18th Century in Edinburgh and Glasgow with famous philosophers like David Hume, scientists like James Hutton who is credited as the father of geology, architects like the Adam Brothers and artists like Sir Henry Raeburn coming to the fore during this Scottish renaissance period.


Tunnocks Teacakes

The first Tunnock's Teacakes began to appear on shelves, joining other Tunnock's treats, including the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer and the Snowball.

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Uisge Beatha

The first recorded reference to whisky appears in the Exchequer Roll, which notes that John Corr, a monk at Lindores Abbey in Fife, was allowed 8 bolls of grain to make 'aqua vitae' (or 'water of life') for the King.

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Union of the Crowns

James VI of Scotland, who became king in 1567 at just 13 months old after Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate, becomes King of England after Elizabeth I dies with no children. James VI becomes James VI & I – a historic move that’s now known as the Union of the Crowns.

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Unofficial Football World Champions

A crowd of nearly 100,000 packed into Wembley Stadium to watch Scotland become 'unofficial world champions' as the national football team defeated England, who had won the World Cup the year before.

-290000000 to -360000000 years ago

Volcanic Activity

During the Carboniferous period (290 to 360 million years ago), Scotland sat astride the equator and was home to many active volcanos, including Edinburgh's iconic Arthur's Seat and North Berwick Law in East Lothian.

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Wet Wet Wet

Scottish band Wet Wet Wet's single 'Love is all around' spends 15 weeks atop the British charts – the 2nd longest-standing UK number one single. Lead Singer Marty Pellow insisted on it being removed just days before it was scheduled to match the record.

11 September, 1297

William Wallace

A succession crisis brought unrest to Scotland after the death of Alexander III. England’s monarch, Edward I, believed he should be recognised as overlord of Scotland and his troops marched north in a series of bloody sieges. In 1297, Edward’s army planned to cross the River Forth at Stirling Bridge; the Scots seized the opportunity to attack, forcing the English army to retreat in this Battle of Stirling Bridge. It was here that one of Scotland’s most famous figures, William Wallace, earned his place in the history books forever.


World’s First Infant School

The world's first infant school was opened by philosopher and pedagogue Robert Owen in New Lanark in 1816.

18 June, 2015

Youth Votes

16 and 17 year olds get the right to vote in all Scottish elections.


Baby Box

Scotland commits to provide every baby born on or after 15 August 2017 and living in Scotland with a brand new ‘Baby Box’. The Baby Box is jam-packed full of all the essentials needed to help new parents welcome their bundle of joy into the world.


Period Equality

Scotland introduces a pioneering, world-first policy to offer free period products to students at all levels of education. In 2019 this was extended to put in place wider access through public places.  The passage of the Period Products Act in 2020 means that, when the Act comes into force,  free period products will be available to "anyone who needs them".



The Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted at the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021, to help tackle the global climate emergency. COP26 was attended by world leaders, climate experts and public figures from nearly 200 countries.