Countries of the United Kingdom explained
Countries of the United Kingdom is a term used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: these four together form the sovereign state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While "countries" is the term commonly used to describe them, because of a lack of a formal British constitution, and owing to a convoluted history of the formation of the United Kingdom, a variety of other terms are also used. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales however are not formal subdivisions of the United Kingdom.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland and Scotland and all non-transferred matters for Wales, but not in general on matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. England remains the full responsibility of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which is centralised in London. As the sovereign state, the United Kingdom as a whole is the entity which is used in intergovernmental organisations, and as the representative member state within the European Union and United Nations, as well as under international law; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are British Islands, but are not under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. Ireland is a separate republic; although part of the geographical British Isles, it is not a part of the British Islands or the UK. English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationals are all British citizens without distinction. (The nationality laws of the Republic of Ireland entitle those born in Northern Ireland also to citizenship of the Republic.)
Historically, all of Ireland (between 1801 and 1921) and Southern Ireland (between 1921 and 1922) were what could be regarded today as Countries of the United Kingdom.
Table of the countries of the United Kingdom
Identity within the UK
Many citizens of the United Kingdom cite "Britain" or "United Kingdom" as their country and "British" as their nationality, while others identify primarily with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. A large minority in Northern Ireland cite their sole nationality as "Irish" while others identify primarily with Northern Ireland, but hold a sense of 'Britishness' in equal or high esteem. People from a mixed background sometimes ally with more than one of the constituent countries. The propensity for nationalistic feeling varies greatly across the UK, and can rise and fall over time. Generally the UK countries are considered to be a close union, with shared values, language, currency and culture, and with people moving and working freely throughout. Following devolution, the significant broadening of autonomous governance, throughout the UK in the late 1990s, debate has taken place across the United Kingdom on the relative value of full independence.
Various terms have been used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This fact is illustrated by the following two tables.
There is no term in UK law for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as a group of individual parts. Terminology has evolved out of usage and preference. The distinct continuance of the former states was not contemplated in these statutes; each one was a complete incorporating union. Nevertheless for various purposes they do refer to the areas of the former states. These are listed below:
Terminology in the Acts of Union
- The Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 annexed the legal system of Wales to England to create the single entity commonly known today as England and Wales. Wales was described as the "Country, Principality and Dominion", "Dominion of Wales" or the "Dominion, Principality and Country" or "Dominion and Principality" of Wales . Outside of Wales, England was not given a specific name or term.
- The Acts of Union 1707 refer to both England and Scotland as a "Part of the united Kingdom"
- The Acts of Union 1800 use "Part" in the same way. They also use "Country" to describe Great Britain and Ireland respectively, when describing trade between them
- The Government of Ireland Act 1920 does not use any term or description to classify Northern Ireland nor indeed Great Britain.
Current legal terminology
The Interpretation Act 1978 provides some definitions for terms relating the countries of the United Kingdom. Use of these terms in other legislation is interpreted following the definitions in the 1978 Act. The definitions are listed below
- "England" means, subject to any alteration of boundaries under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1972, the area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of that Act, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly." This definition applies from 1 April 1974.
- "United Kingdom" means "Great Britain and Northern Ireland." This definition applies from 12 April 1927.
- "Wales" means the combined area of 13 historic counties, including Monmouthshire, re-formulated into 8 new counties under section 20 of the Local Government Act 1972, as originally enacted, but subject to any alteration made under section 73 of that Act (consequential alteration of boundary following alteration of watercourse). In 1996 these 8 new counties were redistributed into the current 22 unitary authorities.
Note that there is no definition of Scotland or Northern Ireland. Even in the Scotland Act 1998 there is no delineation of the country, with the definition in section 126 simply providing that Scotland includes "so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to Scotland". See also Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 and Anglo-Scottish border.
"Countries of the United Kingdom"
The following table presents references that use the term "Countries of the United Kingdom". For examples of "country", "consituent country" and other terms in use, please refer to the further tables below.
Other terms in use
The following table presents references for the terms most commonly-used to describe the countries of the United Kingdom. The references are listed per country, and in some instances are used more than once, when more than one country is referred to in the source. To avoid duplication, individual examples have been found wherever possible. Some of the table is still under completion.
Notes and References
- Web site: Your Scotland questions; Is Scotland a country?. scottish.parliament.uk. Scottish Parliament. 2008-08-01. As the UK has no written constitution in the usual sense, constitutional terminology is fraught with difficulties of interpretation and it is common usage nowadays to describe the four constituent parts of the UK (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) as “countries”..
- Web site: Ninth United Nations Conference on the standardization of Geographical Names. August. 2007. United Nations Economic and Social Council. unstats.un.org. 2008-10-21. PDF. There is [...] no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom at this very high level, and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should not be considered first-order administrative divisions in the conventional sense..
- Web site: Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government Of Ireland. British-Irish Council.
- Web site: Why is England or the UK sometimes called Britain?. British Life and Culture. Woodlands Junior School.
- Web site: Devolution, Public Attitudes and National Identity. www.devolution.ac.uk. Web site: The rise of the Little Englanders. The Guardian, John Carvel, social affairs editor.
- Web site: The English question. by Michael Kenny and Richard Hayton, The Institute for Public Policy Research.
- Web site: Devolution and Britishness. Devolution and Constitutional Change. UK's Economic and Social Research Council.
- Laws in Wales Act 1535, Clause I
- Laws in Wales Act 1542
- e.g. "... to be raised in that Part of the united Kingdom now called England", "...that Part of the united Kingdom now called Scotland, shall be charged by the same Act..." Article IX
- e.g. "That, from the first Day of January one thousand eight hundred and one, all Prohibitions and Bounties on the Export of Articles, the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of either Country, to the other, shall cease and determine; and that the said Articles shall thenceforth be exported from one Country to the other, without Duty or Bounty on such Export"; Union with Ireland Act 1800, Article Sixth.
- Web site: DCA. 2008-06-30. "nationally in this context will be taken to mean within the United Kingdom as a whole or within the constituent country (England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), or both", at www.dca.gov.uk
- Creating the UK National Statistics 2001 output area classification.. Vickers, Dan; Rees, Phil. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society). 170. 379(25). 2.
- The Sudden Rediscovery of Housing Supply as a Key Policy Challenge.. Bramley, Glen. Housing Studies. 22. 221(21). 2.
- EVALUATING THE PERFORMANCE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT.. Haubrich, Dirk; McLean, Iain. Policy Studies. 27. 271(23). 4.
- Integrating Sustainability into Brownfield Regeneration: Rhetoric or Reality? – An Analysis of the UK Development Industry.. Dixon, Tim. Journal of Property Research. 23. 237(31). 3.
- Additional precision provided by region-specific data: The identification of fuel-use and pollution-generation coefficients in the Jersey economy.. Turner, Karen. Regional Studies. 40. 347(18). 4.
- Devolved Government and Transport—Relationships, Process and Policy.. Cole, Stuart. Public Money & Management. 25. 179(7). 3.
- United Kingdom.. Wells, Alan. European Environmental Law Review. 14. 150(7). 6.
- Innovation in Governance and Public Services: Past and Present.. Hartley, Jean. Public Money & Management. 25. 27(8). 1.
- Annual General Meetings of NHS Trusts: Devolving Power or Ritualising Accountability?. Hodges, Ron; Macniven, Louise; Mellett, Howard. Financial Accountability & Management. 20. 377(23). 4.
- Web site: Countries within a country. 10 Downing Street. 2009-01-04.
- Web site: England. Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2008-04-27.
- Web site: ISO 3166-2. ISO. 2008-06-30. BS ISO 3166-2:2007 (second edition released 2007-12-13) consolidates changes detailed in ISO 3166-2 Newsletter I-9 (pg 11) which uses the terms "country" to describe England and Scotland, "principality" to describe Wales, and "province" to describe Northern Ireland, at www.iso.org
- Web site: England. britishembassy.gov.uk. British Embassy. 2008-05-11.
- England Rural Development Programme 2000 - 2006: 5.1 Description of the Current Situation - "5.1.2 England is a country of some 50,351 square miles". Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at www.defra.gov.uk
- British Embassy - What are Britain's national costumes?England: "Although England is a country rich in folklore and traditions, it has no definitive 'national' costume". British Embassy, Vilnius - Special features at www.britishembassy.gov.uk
- The Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 2003 - "England is a country of mostly low hills and plains. ". 2003 Yearbook at www.statistics.gov.uk
- Civil Service Policy Hub - Performance pay for teachers (Last Updated: 12/2/2008) - "Many more schemes have appeared in recent years in other countries such as England, Sweden and Singapore". News item at www.nationalschool.gov.uk
- Results for England from the UK 2007 Survey of Public Opinion of Forestry, carried out on behalf of the Forestry Commission, November 2007 - "The same principle is of course also valid for individual countries such as England, where an impractical level of afforestation would be required" PUBLIC OPINION OF FORESTRY 2007 - ENGLAND at www.forestry.gov.uk
- The Oxford English Dictionary, in its 1893 edition, includes under "country" the meaning "3. The territory or land of a nation ; usually an independent state, or a region once independent and still distinct in race, language, institutions, or historical memories, as England, Scotland, and Ireland, in the United Kingdom, etc."
- Web site: Foreign and International Law. Library of Congress. "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the collective name of four countries, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland."
- "It must be remembered that the UK is actually four countries and that there are some differences in the education system across these four countries.
- "The NHS is broadly similar in each of the four countries, but it is funded at different levels."
- "Estimates of these weights are then provided for the four countries comprising the UK."
- "the health service across all four countries."
- "Why school food policies don't make the grade: four countries, four sets of policies."
- A study on “two different countries, the United States and England.”
- “Up until this time the NHS policy differences between the four countries had been marginal,”
- “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of four countries forming three distinct jurisdictions each having its own court system and legal profession: England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.”
- “The UK may be relatively small, but it is extremely diverse. It is home to 60 million people and comprises four countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – each with a distinct history and culture. “
- “Northern Ireland is one of four countries that make up what is known as the United Kingdom, or U.K.”
- "..in all four countries of the UK: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland."
- “The Northern Ireland economy is the smallest of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom.”
- “Methods of joint working between health and social care agencies vary across the 4 countries of the United Kingdom.”
- “The workshop was designed to be an initial opportunity to bring together leading information specialists and policy makers from the four countries of the UK“
- "The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales."
- "The UK consists of four countries England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
- http://www.unicri.it/wwk/publications/books/reports/r9.php Issues & Reports No 9.
- the Office for National Statistics states in its glossary that "In the context of the UK, each of the four main subdivisions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is referred to as a country". see statistics.gov.uk
- http://www.britainusa.com/sections/index_nt1.asp?i=41131&L1=41127&L2=41131&L3=41011&d=4 British Embassy in the United States of America
- A publication submitted by the UK to the United Nations Economic and Social Council states Scotland is a "constituent part" and "country", but "should not be considered as a first-order administrative division".Web site: Ninth United Nations Conference on the standardization of Geographical Names. August 2007. United Nations Economic and Social Council. unstats.un.org. 2008-04-14. PDF.
- http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/en/ukpgaen_20030033_en_1 Explanatory Notes to Waste And Emissions Trading Act 2003
- http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/commentaries/ethnicity.asp Census 2001 - Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales
- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo000228/text/00228w35.htm House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 28 Feb 2000 (pt 35)
- [Alex Salmond]
- Joint statement released on behalf of Helen Liddell MP, (unionist) Secretary of State for Scotland, and Jack McConnell MSP, (unionist) First Minister for Scotland, which states "Scotland is a country with a proud history, with strong traditions and customs". Scotland Office Press Release 2002-11-21 at www.scotlandoffice.gov.uk
- [Patricia Ferguson]
- RURAL DEVELOPMENT REGULATION (EC) NO 1257/1999: PLAN FOR SCOTLAND. "5.2 Scotland is a country of some 30,414 square miles" Chapter 5 at www.scotland.gov.uk
- [Jack McConnell]
- [Helen Liddell]
- [Wendy Alexander]
- Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland, Report Number E97002, November 1997 - 14. However, since Scotland is a country of great diversity Third Statutory Review of Electoral Arrangements at www.lgbc-scotland.gov.uk
- World Offshore Renewable Energy Report 2004-2008 - 5.3.3 Scotland is a country with potential to be at the centre of the worldwide tidal industry. Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform at www.berr.gov.uk
- [David Blunkett]
- SECOND DIVISION, INNER HOUSE, COURT OF SESSION, XA39/03 - 9 "within Scotland" meant within the geographical limits of the country of Scotland OPINION OF THE COURT delivered by LORD JOHNSTON, 2003-12-02 at www.scotcourts.gov.uk
- RENEWABLE ENERGY INQUIRY by ENTERPRISE AND CULTURE COMMITTEE, 2004-01-22. 3.5:"Scotland is a country which sells its scenery, as the basis for its largest single industry, tourism". Evidence from SCOTTISH NATURAL HERITAGE
- [Bertie Ahern]
- [Andrew Hardie, Baron Hardie]
- Scottish Aggregates Survey 2005 - 6. These areas recognise the difficulties of defining market areas in a country like Scotland The Scottish Government Publications at http://openscotland.gov.uk
- Response from the Welsh Assembly Government to HM Treasury’s consultation on a merged fund to support UK health related research - "6.1 In 2003 Ernst and Young recommended (on the basis of experience in other countries, including Scotland)" Response at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk
- Births and Deaths June 2004 quarter - This pattern has also been observed in other countries, including Scotland. Statistics New Zealand at www2.stats.govt.nz
- Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vo1, No.1 - January-March 1995: An Outbreak of Shigella sommei infection... - "together with reports from other European countries, including Scotland, Sweden and Norway" [ftp://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/EID/vol1no1/adobe/frost.vol1no1.pdf Dispatches] at www.cdc.gov
- Parliament of Ireland - "This is not just evident in Ireland but in other countries, including Scotland". Parliamentary Debates (Dáil and Seanad) 2000 at www.irlgov.ie
- Estate agency market in England and Wales - "Comparisons with markets in other countries, including Scotland" 2004 Market Study at www.oft.gov.uk
- HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND. Neutral Citation no.  NIQB 5826, Ref:GILC5850, Delivered:5/9/07 - The law in other jurisdictions  - "I delayed the giving of judgment in this case to afford the parties an opportunity to consider certain research which I had caused to be carried out into similar provisions in other countries including Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and Australia". Judgment: approved by the Court for handing down at www.courtsni.gov.uk
- The Nicholson Committee: Review of Liquor Licensing Law in Scotland, 2003 - Chapter 5, 5.5 - "we are firmly of the view that in a country such as Scotland the desirability of promoting the licensing principles" CHAPTER 5 LICENSING HOURS at www.scotland.gov.uk
- World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Is housing improvement a potential health improvement strategy? (Updated 23 February 2005) - "In countries such as Scotland, Portugal and Spain, the levels of excess winter deaths are higher than in Scandinavia" Health Evidence Network (HEN) at www.euro.who.int
- Office of the First Minister & Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland. Policylink Bulletin 12 (June 2006): Migration Trends - "Countries such as Scotland faced with rapid demographic ageing welcome the flow of migrant workers". Policylink 12 at www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk
- UNESCO-1994. The impact of examination systems on curriculum development: an international study. Chapter 1. SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION - Geographical Scope: "To give a suitably international context to the study, seven countries were selected and agreed with UNESCO. The seven, namely Colombia, Egypt, France, Japan. Scotland. the United States of America (US) and Zimbabwe were chosen" UNESCO Report at www.unesco.org
- http://www.unicri.it/wwk/publications/books/reports/r9.php Issues & Reports No 9.
- [Wynford Vaughan-Thomas]
- [Gwynfor Evans]
- [Peter Berresford Ellis]
- Wales - The Rough Guide, Mike Parker and Paul Whitfield, The Rough Guides 1997, ISBN 1-85828-245-4, p. viii/ Introduction, Para 2: "As you cross the border from England, you are, in fact, immediately aware of the different attitudes and cultures of the two countries. ..." ... "WALES AND ITS SHIFTING COUNTY BOUNDARIES. Wales is a small and thinly populated country ..."
- [Prys Morgan]
- Wales: History of a Nation, David Ross, Gedded & Grosset 2005, ISBN 1 84205 018 4, p15 Introduction: "... At its head [a Welsh national army] was the Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr. For five years he had resisted the might of England, ranging the strength of all Wales behind him, making treaties with the Kingdoms of France and Scotland, acting as a sovereign in his own country."
- Wales: History of a Nation, David Ross, Gedded & Grosset 2005, ISBN 1 84205 018 4, p256: "'A vineyard placed in my care is Wales, my country, To deliver unto my children, And my children's children, Intact: an eternal heritage' Saunders Lewis, Buchedd Garmon, translated by D.M. Lloyd"
- The Wikipedia article Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau says: ""Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" (, usually translated as "Land of My Fathers", (but literally old country of my fathers) is, by tradition, the national anthem of Wales."
- http://geography.about.com/od/politicalgeography/a/scotlandnot.htm Scotland is Not a Country
- "different approaches to health policy that have been adopted by each home country since devolution."
- The Scottish Parliament. FAQ's - "Is Scotland a country? - The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the full name of the country. Scotland is a kingdom within the United Kingdom (UK)" Your Scotland Questions at www.scottish.parliament.uk
- [G. K. Chesterton]
- David McCrone, Scotland, Small? -- Scotland is a nation which has lived quite happily within a loose confederation, a union, and now finds itself within a bigger union - of Europe.
- Heald, Geaughan & Robb, "Financial Arrangements for UK Devolution" in Elcock & Keating Remaking the Union -- ... from the recognition that Scotland is a nation within the United Kingdom.
- Davidson, The Origins of Scottish Nationhood -- Because Scotland is a nation, and not a region or an urban district, opposition took a form which was impossible in most other parts of Britain.
- Anderson, "Fernand Braudel & National Identity" in Clark, The Annales School -- ... Scotland is a nation that is something like a quasi-state, Britain a state that is at least a quasi-nation.
- Von Beyme, "Fischer's move towards a European Constitution" in Joerges, Mény & Weiler, What kind of Constitution for what kind of Polity -- In this age of football, one whimsical definition defines the nation by the very existence of a national football team. On this definition Scotland is a nation and Bavaria not.
- Haesly, "Identifying Scotland and Wales" in Nations and Nationalism, vol. 11, no. 2 -- As they argue, 'Scotland is a nation; therefore, Scotland should become an independent nation state' ...
- Bultmann, Scottish Rights Vindicated: Identity and Nationalism in Mid-Nineteenth Century Scotland (unpub PhD [?] thesis), quotes one of William Burns' NAVSR tracts of 1854 -- so long as Scotland is a nation - by contract merely forming part of the united Empire - so long the Scottish people have a basis upon which, with consistency, they may rest such things as national demands.
- [Prince Andrew, Duke of York|Prince Andrew]
- http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prgpdfs/fcpu50.pdf Home Office Police Research Group Crime Prevention Unit Series
- http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/financial_products/oft771b.pdf OFT Consultation on a market investigation reference on personal current account banking in Northern Ireland