In oceanography and earth sciences, a shoal is a natural submerged ridge, bank, or bar that consists of, or is covered by, sand or other unconsolidated material, rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface. It refers to those submerged ridges, banks, or bars that rise near enough to the surface of a body of water as to constitute a danger to navigation. Shoals are known as sandbanks, sandbars, or gravelbars. Two or more shoals that are either separated by shared troughs or interconnected by past or present sedimentary and hydrographic processes are referred to as a shoal complex; the term shoal is used in a number of ways that can be either similar or quite different from how it is used in the geologic and oceanographic literature. Sometimes, this terms refers to either any shallow place in a stream, sea, or other body of water. Shoals are characteristically narrow ridges, they can develop where a stream, river, or ocean current promotes deposition of sediment and granular material, resulting in localized shallowing of the water.
Marine shoals develop either by the in place drowning of barrier islands as the result of episodic sea level rise or by the erosion and submergence of inactive delta lobes. Shoals can appear as a coastal landform in the sea, where they are classified as a type of ocean bank, or as fluvial landforms in rivers and lakes. A shoal–sandbar may seasonally separate a smaller body of water from the sea, such as: Marine lagoons Brackish water estuaries Freshwater seasonal stream and river mouths and deltas; the term bar can apply to landform features spanning a considerable range in size, from a length of a few metres in a small stream to marine depositions stretching for hundreds of kilometers along a coastline called barrier islands. They are composed of sand, although they could be of any granular matter that the moving water has access to and is capable of shifting around; the grain size of the material comprising a bar is related to the size of the waves or the strength of the currents moving the material, but the availability of material to be worked by waves and currents is important.
Wave shoaling is the process when surface waves move towards shallow water, such as a beach, they slow down, their wave height increases and the distance between waves decreases. This behavior is called shoaling, the waves are said to shoal; the waves may or may not build to the point where they break, depending on how large they were to begin with, how steep the slope of the beach is. In particular, waves shoal as they pass over submerged reefs; this can be treacherous for ships. Shoaling can diffract waves, so the waves change direction. For example, if waves pass over a sloping bank, shallower at one end than the other the shoaling effect will result in the waves slowing more at the shallow end, thus the wave fronts will refract. Refraction occurs as waves move towards a beach if the waves come in at an angle to the beach, or if the beach slopes more at one end than the other. Sandbars known as a trough bars, form where the waves are breaking, because the breaking waves set up a shoreward current with a compensating counter-current along the bottom.
Sometimes this occurs seaward of a trough. Sand carried by the offshore moving bottom current is deposited where the current reaches the wave break. Other longshore bars may lie further offshore, representing the break point of larger waves, or the break point at low tide. A harbor or river bar is a sedimentary deposit formed at a harbor entrance or river mouth by: the deposition of freshwater sediment, or the action of waves on the sea floor or up—current beaches. Where beaches are suitably mobile, or the river's suspended or bed loads are large enough, deposition can build up a sandbar that blocks a river mouth and damming the river, it can be a seasonally natural process of aquatic ecology, causing the formation of estuaries and wetlands in the lower course of the river. This situation will persist until the bar is eroded by the sea, or the dammed river develops sufficient head to break through the bar; the formation of harbor bars can prevent access for boats and shipping, can be the result of: construction up-coast or at the harbor — e.g.: breakwaters, dune habitat destruction.
Upriver development — e.g.: dams and reservoirs, riparian zone destruction, river bank alterations, river adjacent agricultural land practices, water diversions. Watershed erosion from habitat alterations — e.g.: deforestation, grading for development. Artificially created/deepened harbors. In a nautical sense, a bar is a shoal, similar to a reef: a shallow formation of sand, a navigation or grounding hazard, with a depth of water of 6 fathoms or less, it therefore applies to a silt accumulation that shallows the entrance to or course of a river, or creek. A bar can form a dangerous obstacle to shipping, preventing access to the river or harbour in unfavourable weather conditions or at some states of the tide. In addition to longshore bars discussed above that are small features of a beach, the term shoal can be applied to larger geological units that form off a coastline as part of the process of coastal erosion; these include spits and baymouth bars that
The Holy Loch is a sea loch, a part of the Cowal peninsula coast of the Firth of Clyde, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The "Holy Loch" name is believed to date from the 6th century, when Saint Munn landed there after leaving Ireland. Kilmun Parish Church and Argyll Mausoleum is said to stand where Saint Munn's church was once located. Robertson's Yard at Sandbank, a village on the loch, was a major wooden boat building company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During World War II, the loch was used as a British Royal Navy submarine base. From 1961 to 1992, it was used as a United States Navy Ballistic missile submarine base. In 1992, the Holy Loch base was deemed unnecessary following the demise of the Soviet Union and subsequently closed. Open on the Firth of Clyde at its eastern end, the Sea Loch is 1 mile wide and between 2 and 3 miles long, varying with the tide; the town of Dunoon on the Cowal peninsula lies on the shores of the Clyde just to the south of the loch, houses continue round the villages of Kirn, Hunters Quay at the point with the landing slip for Western Ferries and past Lazaretto Point, the village of Sandbank, with open countryside at the end of the Sea Loch on the northern shore Kilmun, at Strone Point the village of Strone continues on the western shore of the Firth of Clyde joining Blairmore on Loch Long.
All the villages used to have piers served by Clyde steamers, now Western Ferries runs between Hunters Quay and McInroy's Point on the outskirts of Gourock, while the Argyll Ferries service runs from Dunoon to Gourock pierhead. At the end of the loch a road runs past the Benmore Botanic Garden and Arboretum to Loch Eck and on towards Inveraray. On the shore of the Holy Loch at Kilmun stands a nineteenth-century church, it stands on the site of a sequence of earlier churches, an early carved stone on the site suggests that there was a church here as early as the sixth or seventh century. The dedication to St Munnu, otherwise known as Fintan, St Munn, reflects devotion to an Irish saint who founded a church at Taghmon in Leinster; the remains of a 12th-century church are still visible at Kilmun. At the present site of Kilmun Church, a church building is recorded in the 13th century. By the 15th century, the significance of Kilmun as a local centre of Christianity was so great that the adjacent loch became known as the Holy Loch, the powerful Clan Campbell adopted it as their spiritual home.
From the 14th century, Dunoon Castle, a short distance away, was held by the Campbell family and in the 1440s Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe, the chief of the clan, lived near Kilmun in a private residence named Strathechaig. Alexander Robertson started repairing boats in a small workshop at Sandbank in 1876, Alexander Robertson and Sons Ltd went on to become one of the foremost wooden boat builders on the Clyde. Their'golden years' were in the early 20th century when they started building classic 12 & 15 metre racing yachts. Robertsons was chosen to build the first 15-metre yacht designed by William Fife. More than 55 boats were built by Robertsons in preparation for the First World War and the yard remained busy during the Great Depression in the 1930s, as many wealthy businessmen developed a passion for yacht racing. During World War II the yard was devoted to Admiralty work, producing a wide range of large high speed Fairmile Marine Motor Boats. After the war the yard built the successful one-class Loch Longs and two 12-metre challengers for the America's Cup: Sceptre and Sovereign.
The Robertson family sold the yard in 1965, it was turned over to GRP production work. During its 104-year history, Robertson's Yard built 500 boats; the yard ceased trading in the site was levelled soon after. The site has since been consumed by the new Holy Loch Marina development. During World War II the loch was used by the Royal Navy as a submarine base, served by the depot ship HMS Forth; the loch was used extensively for trials and exercises by Royal Navy submarines during the war, the submarines HMS Vandal and HMS Untamed were lost in the Clyde after being sunk by accidents during exercises. Untamed was salvaged. Near the Holy Loch an anti-submarine boom was constructed between Dunoon and the Cloch Point Lighthouse to defend waters from German U-boats. Between 1961 and 1992, Holy Loch was the site of the United States Navy's Fleet Ballistic Missile Refit Site One, it was the home base of Submarine Squadron 14, part of Submarine Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet. To make maximum usage of its submarine-launched ballistic missile deterrent force, American military had determined that it required an overseas base for refit and crew turnover.
Negotiations with the British Government began as early as March 1959 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower mentioned the need to British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at a meeting at Camp David. Holy Loch was one of several locations near the Firth of Clyde considered for the refit site. Others were Faslane, the channel between Largs and Cumbrae, Rosneath Bay, Rothesay Bay. Site selection criteria included the requirements for a sheltered anchorage, relative proximity to an international airport, sufficient shore facilities to provide housing for military personnel and their families. Agreement for the use of Holy Loch was reached near the end of 1960 and the arrival of the first tender, USS Proteus scheduled for December. Divis
The Moray Firth is a triangular inlet of the North Sea and east of Inverness, in the Highland council area of north of Scotland. It is the largest firth in Scotland, stretching from Duncansby Head in the north, in the Highland council area, Fraserburgh in the east, in the Aberdeenshire council area, to Inverness and the Beauly Firth in the west. Therefore, three council areas have Moray Firth coastline: Highland to the west and north of the Moray Firth and Highland and Aberdeenshire to the south; the firth has more than 800 kilometres of coastline, much of, cliff. A number of rivers flow into the Moray Firth, including the River Ness, the River Findhorn and the River Spey. Various smaller firths and bays are inlets of the firth, including the Cromarty Firth and the Dornoch Firth; the Pentland Firth has its eastern mouth at the Moray Firth's northern boundary. The Moray Firth is two firths, the Inner Moray Firth 57°33′N 04°09′W, traditionally known as the Firth of Inverness, the Outer Moray Firth, more open North Sea water.
The name "Firth of Inverness" is found on modern maps, but extended from the Beauly Firth in the west, to Chanonry Point in the east. The Moray Firth is visible for considerable distances, including a long range view from as far to the east as Longman Hill. From Buckie, on a clear day it is possible to see Wick in the far north of Scotland more than 80 km away. From Lossiemouth it is possible to see the hills of Caithness and the hills are identified, one being Morven and the other being Scaraben. From Burghead, the white mass of Dunrobin Castle can just be made out in the distance on a clear day; the Great Channel in the Inner Moray Firth, was dredged by engineers in 1917 for the safe passage of ships that wanted to avoid the long and dangerous passage around the north of Scotland, by transiting the Caledonian Canal. The Channel went from the entrance of Munlochy Bay to the Meikle Mee Starboard Hand Mark, but was not maintained and filled in quickly; the Moray Firth is of tectonic origin, related to the Great Glen Fault.
For some time during the glaciation, the whole of nowaday's Moray firth was a huge glacier. The inner Part and its side-inlets, Cromarty Firth and Dornoch Firth, are true fjords themselves. Though there is a reasonable tide with mean tide ranges of about three metres, only part of the rivers draining into the bay have estuaries. Masses of sediment from the adjacent mountains have formed spits around several mouths; those of River Ness and River Carron have narrowed the fjords they enter. The Moray Firth is one of the most important places on the British coast for observing dolphins and whales; the most common species are the harbour porpoise. With occasional sightings of Common dolphin and Minke Whale; the popular wildlife viewing area located at Chanonry Point host some spectacular displays of dolphins within the inner Moray Firth. There are visitor centres at Spey Bay and North Kessock run by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society where dolphins and other wildlife can be seen; the old jetty at the Fort George Point is the location of the Dolphin Research Centre, with leading marine biologist Prof. Greame Taylor working part-time studying hunting and breeding habits and part-time working with the Community Council giving tours and teaching the ways of the dolphin.
It is an important oil field and fishing grounds. The Beatrice oil field in the Outer Moray Firth is the closest of the North Sea oil fields. Much of the fishing industry focuses on Norway lobsters; the Inner Moray Firth is designated as a Special Protection Area for wildlife conservation purposes. The Moray Firth contains a Special Area of Conservation designated under the EU Habitats Directive, one of the largest Marine Protection Areas in Europe; the SAC protects the inner waters of the Moray Firth, from a line between Lossiemouth and Helmsdale westwards. C. Michael Hogan Longman Hill, Modern Antiquarian WDCS The Moray Firth Wildlife Centre Media related to Moray Firth at Wikimedia Commons UK government website re its status as a protected site Scottish government press release about seal management in the firth The Moray Firth Partnership Whale and Dolphin Conservation
Mull or the Isle of Mull — is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, lies off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute. With an area of 875.35 square kilometres, Mull is the fourth largest Scottish island and the fourth largest island surrounding Great Britain. In the 2011 census the usual resident population of Mull was 2,800, a slight increase on the 2001 figure of 2,667. In the summer the population is supplemented by many tourists. Much of the population lives in Tobermory, the only burgh on the island until 1973, its capital. Tobermory is home to Mull's only single malt Scotch whisky distillery: Tobermory distillery. Mull has a coastline of 480 kilometres and its climate is moderated by the Gulf Stream; the island has a mountainous core. Various peninsulas, which are predominantly moorland, radiate from the centre; the Aros peninsula to the north includes the main town of Tobermory, a burgh until 1973 when burghs were abolished. Other settlements include Salen and Calgary.
The Ross of Mull lies to the south west and includes the villages of Bunessan, Pennyghael and Fionnphort. Lochbuie and Craignure lie to the east. Numerous islands lie off the west coast of Mull, including Erraid, Inch Kenneth, Iona and Ulva. Smaller uninhabited islands include Little Colonsay, the Treshnish Isles and Staffa. Calve Island is an uninhabited island in Tobermory Bay. Two outlying rock lighthouses are visible from the south west of Mull, Dubh Artach and Skerryvore; the Torran Rocks are a large shoal of reefs and skerries 15 square miles in extent, located two miles to the south west, between the Ross of Mull peninsula and Dubh Artach. Frank Lockwood's Island near Lochbuie is named after the brother-in-law of the 21st MacLean of Lochbuie, Solicitor General from 1894-5. Part of the indented west coast of Mull and some of the offshore islands there are part of the Loch Na Keal National Scenic Area, one of 40 in Scotland, it is believed that Mull was inhabited from shortly after the end of the last Ice Age, around 6000 BC.
Bronze Age inhabitants built menhirs, brochs and a stone circle with examples of burial cairns, standing stones and knife blades provide compelling evidence. Between 600 BC and AD 400, Iron Age inhabitants were building protective forts and crannogs. Whether or not they were Picts is unclear. In the 6th century, Irish migrants invaded Mull and the surrounding coast, establishing the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata; the kingdom was divided into a number of regions, each controlled by a kin group, of which the Cenél Loairn controlled Mull and the adjacent mainland to the east. Dál Riata was a springboard for the Christianisation of the mainland. In the 9th century, Viking invasions led to the destruction of Dál Riata, its replacement by the Norse Kingdom of the Isles, which became part of the kingdom of Norway following Norwegian unification; the Kingdom of the Isles was much more extensive than Dál Riata, encompassing the Outer Hebrides and Skye. In Old Norse, the island kingdom became meaning southern isles.
The former lands of Dál Riata acquired the geographic description "Argyle": the Gaelic coast. In the late 11th century, Magnus Barefoot, the Norwegian king, launched a military campaign which, in 1098, led the king of Scotland to quitclaim to Magnus all claim of sovereign authority over the territory of the Kingdom of the Isles. However, a coup some 60 years led by a Norse-Gael named Somerled, detached the whole of the Suðreyjar from Norway, transformed it into an independent kingdom. After Somerled's death in 1164, nominal Norwegian authority was established, but practical control of the realm was divided between Somerled's sons and the heirs of Somerled's brother-in-law, the Crovan Dynasty, his son Dougall received the former territory of the Cenél Loairn, now known as Lorn, of which Mull formed part. Meanwhile, the Crovan dynasty had retained the title "king of the Isles", control of Lewis/Harris, the Isle of Man. After a few decades, they acknowledged the English kings as their overlords, so Dougall's heirs complained to Haakon, the Norwegian king, in 1237 were rewarded by the kingship being split.
They established the twin castles of Aros and Ardtornish, which together controlled the Sound of Mull. Throughout the early 13th century, the king of Scots, Alexander II, had aggressively tried to expand his realm into the Suðreyjar, despite Edgar's earlier quitclaim; this led to hostility between Norway and Scotland, which continued under Alexander III, Alexander II's successor. The Norwegian king died shortly after the indecisive Battle of Largs. In 1266, his more peaceable successor ceded his nominal authority over the Suðreyjar to Alexander III by the Treaty of Perth, in return for a large sum of money. Alexander acknowledged the semi-independent authority of Somerled's heirs. At the end of the 13th century, a violent dispute arose over the
The Cromarty Firth is an arm of the Moray Firth in Scotland. The entrance to the Cromarty Firth is guarded by two precipitous headlands. From the Sutors the Firth extends inland in a westerly and south-westerly direction for a distance of 19 miles. Excepting between Nigg Bay and Cromarty Bay where it is about 5 miles wide, Alness Bay where it is 2 miles wide, it has an average width of 1 mile; the southern shore of the Firth is formed by a peninsula known as the Black Isle. Good views of the Cromarty Firth are to be had from the Sutors or Cnoc Fyrish. At its head the Firth receives its principal river, the River Conon, other rivers include the Allt Graad, Sgitheach and Balnagown; the Dingwall Canal remains connected to the Firth. The principal settlements on its shores are Dingwall near the head, Cromarty near the mouth, Invergordon on the north shore; the villages of Evanton and Culbokie are nearby. There is the A9 road crossing between Ardullie and Findon. In the past there were several ferries across the firth but now there is only one, a four-car ferry that runs between Cromarty and Nigg during the summer.
The firth is designated as a Special Protection Area for wildlife conservation purposes. Many bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, grey seals and harbour seals live here, while minke whales seasonally migrate. Larger animals such as humpback whales, northern bottlenose whales, long-finned pilot whales, common dolphins, large fish such as the sunfish and basking sharks are seasonal or occasional visitors to the firth; the Firth forms one of the safest and most commodious anchorages in the north of Scotland and Invergordon was at one time a major base for the Royal Navy's Home Fleet. The Firth was the scene of the Invergordon Mutiny in 1931. Remnants of the Navy remain, such as the disused airfield near Evanton, built to take aircraft from the fleet carriers while they were at anchor. During World War II, there was a large training and operational base for Catalina amphibious aircraft and Sunderland seaplanes, which extended from Invergordon to Alness point - now an industrial estate. A memorial to the men who were killed on operational missions was placed at this industrial estate in 2001.
A propeller from a Catalina was found and restored by RAF apprentices and now resides in the town of Alness. The tennis courts on the industrial estate are the only remaining parts of the estate which date from World War II. At Nigg there is an important North Sea oil and renewable energy centre owned by Global Energy Group since 2011; the yard with a dry dock for repairing and fabricating oil platforms, was opened in 1972 as a joint venture between Brown & Root and construction giant George Wimpey. Today the yard is known as Nigg Energy Park. Elsewhere along the firth are facilities for cruise ships, oil processing, bulk cargo handling. Cromarty Firth Port Authority is the body responsible for regulating and managing the commercial and industrial resources of the firth. Ash, This Noble Harbour; this article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed.. "Cromarty Firth". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7. Cambridge University Press. P. 483. Media related to Cromarty Firth at Wikimedia Commons Cromarty Firth Port Authority
The Highlands is a historic region of Scotland. Culturally, the Highlands and the Lowlands diverged from the Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands; the term is used for the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact boundaries are not defined to the east. The Great Glen divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands; the Scottish Gaelic name of A' Ghàidhealtachd means "the place of the Gaels" and traditionally, from a Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the Western Isles and the Highlands. The area is sparsely populated, with many mountain ranges dominating the region, includes the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis. Before the 19th century the Highlands was home to a much larger population, but from circa 1841 and for the next 160 years, the natural increase in population was exceeded by emigration and migration to the industrial cities of Scotland and England.
The area is now one of the most sparsely populated in Europe. At 9.1 per km2 in 2012, the population density in the Highlands and Islands is less than one seventh of Scotland's as a whole, comparable with that of Bolivia and Russia. The Highland Council is the administrative body for much of the Highlands, with its administrative centre at Inverness. However, the Highlands includes parts of the council areas of Aberdeenshire, Angus and Bute, North Ayrshire and Kinross, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire; the Scottish highlands is the only area in the British Isles to have the taiga biome as it features concentrated populations of Scots pine forest: see Caledonian Forest. Between the 15th century and the 20th century, the area differed from most of the Lowlands in terms of language. In Scottish Gaelic, the region is known as the Gàidhealtachd, because it was traditionally the Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland, although the language is now confined to The Hebrides; the terms are sometimes used interchangeably but have different meanings in their respective languages.
Scottish English is the predominant language of the area today, though Highland English has been influenced by Gaelic speech to a significant extent. The "Highland line" distinguished the two Scottish cultures. While the Highland line broadly followed the geography of the Grampians in the south, it continued in the north, cutting off the north-eastern areas, Eastern Caithness and Shetland, from the more Gaelic Highlands and Hebrides; the major social unit of the Highlands was the clan. Scottish kings James VI, saw clans as a challenge to their authority. Following the Union of the Crowns, James VI had the military strength to back up any attempts to impose some control; the result was, in 1609, the Statutes of Iona which started the process of integrating clan leaders into Scottish society. The gradual changes continued into the 19th century, as clan chiefs thought of themselves less as patriarchal leaders of their people and more as commercial landlords; the first effect on the clansmen who were their tenants was the change to rents being payable in money rather than in kind.
Rents were increased as Highland landowners sought to increase their income. This was followed in the period 1760-1850, by agricultural improvement that involved clearance of the population to make way for large scale sheep farms. Displaced tenants were set up in crofting communities in the process; the crofts were intended not to provide all the needs of their occupiers. Crofters came to rely on seasonal migrant work in the Lowlands; this gave impetus to the learning of English, seen by many rural Gaelic speakers to be the essential "language of work". Older historiography attributes the collapse of the clan system to the aftermath of the Jacobite risings; this is now thought less influential by historians. Following the Jacobite rising of 1745 the British government enacted a series of laws to try to suppress the clan system, including bans on the bearing of arms and the wearing of tartan, limitations on the activities of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Most of this legislation was repealed by the end of the 18th century as the Jacobite threat subsided.
There was soon a rehabilitation of Highland culture. Tartan was adopted for Highland regiments in the British Army, which poor Highlanders joined in large numbers in the era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Tartan had been abandoned by the ordinary people of the region, but in the 1820s, tartan and the kilt were adopted by members of the social elite, not just in Scotland, but across Europe; the international craze for tartan, for idealising a romanticised Highlands, was set off by the Ossian cycle, further popularised by the works of Walter Scott. His "staging" of the visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822 and the king's wearing of tartan resulted in a massive upsurge in demand for kilts and tartans that could not be met by the Scottish woollen industry. Individual clan tartans were designated in this period and they became a major symbol of Scottish identity; this "Highlandism", by which all of Scotland was identified with the culture of the Highlands, was cemented by Queen Victoria's interest in the country, her adoption of Balmoral as a major royal retreat, her interes
Scotland is a country, part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides; the Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain; the union created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland enacted a political union to create a United Kingdom.
The majority of Ireland subsequently seceded from the UK in 1922. Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland; the legal system within Scotland has remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland. The continued existence of legal, educational and other 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 with England; the Scottish Parliament, a unicameral legislature comprising 129 members, was established in 1999 and has authority over those areas of domestic policy which have been devolved by the United Kingdom Parliament. The head of the Scottish Government, the executive of the devolved legislature, is the First Minister of Scotland. Scotland is represented in the UK House of Commons by 59 MPs and in the European Parliament by 6 MEPs.
Scotland is a member of the British–Irish Council, sends five members of the Scottish Parliament to the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Scotland is divided into councils. Glasgow City is the largest subdivision in Scotland in terms of population, with Highland being the largest in terms of area. "Scotland" comes from the Latin name for the Gaels. From the ninth century, the meaning of Scotia shifted to designate Gaelic Scotland and by the eleventh century the name was being used to refer to the core territory of the Kingdom of Alba in what is now east-central Scotland; the use of the words Scots and Scotland to encompass most of what is now Scotland became common in the Late Middle Ages, as the Kingdom of Alba expanded and came to encompass various peoples of diverse origins. Repeated glaciations, which covered the entire land mass of modern Scotland, destroyed any traces of human habitation that may have existed before the Mesolithic period, it is believed the first post-glacial groups of hunter-gatherers arrived in Scotland around 12,800 years ago, as the ice sheet retreated after the last glaciation.
At the time, Scotland was covered in forests, had more bog-land, the main form of transport was by water. These settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9,500 years ago, the first villages around 6,000 years ago; the well-preserved village of Skara Brae on the mainland of Orkney dates from this period. Neolithic habitation and ritual sites are common and well preserved in the Northern Isles and Western Isles, where a lack of trees led to most structures being built of local stone. Evidence of sophisticated pre-Christian belief systems is demonstrated by sites such as the Callanish Stones on Lewis and the Maes Howe on Orkney, which were built in the third millennium BCE; the first written reference to Scotland was in 320 BC by Greek sailor Pytheas, who called the northern tip of Britain "Orcas", the source of the name of the Orkney islands. During the first millennium BCE, the society changed to a chiefdom model, as consolidation of settlement led to the concentration of wealth and underground stores of surplus food.
The first Roman incursion into Scotland occurred in 79 AD. After the Roman victory, Roman forts were set along the Gask Ridge close to the Highland line, but by three years after the battle, the Roman armies had withdrawn to the Southern Uplands; the Romans erected Hadrian's Wall in northern England and the Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the Roman Empire. The Roman influence on the southern part of the country was considerable, they introduced Christianity to Scotland. Beginning in the sixth century, the area, now Scotland was divided into three areas: Pictland, a patchwork of small lordships in central Scotland; these societies were based on the family unit and had sharp divisions in wealth, although the vast majority were poor and worked full-time in subsistence agriculture. The Picts kept slaves through the ninth century. Gaelic influence over Pictland and Northumbria was facilitated by the large number of Gaelic-speaking clerics working as missionaries. Operating in the sixth ce