United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Infobox Country
conventional_long_name = United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
common_name = the United Kingdom

symbol_type = Royal coat of arms

map_caption = map_caption |countryprefix=the |region=on the European continent |subregion = the European Union |location_color=dark green | subregion_color=light green |region_color=dark grey
national_motto = _fr. "Dieu et mon droit"(French)
"God and my right"
[This is the royal motto. In Scotland, the royal motto is the Scots phrase In My Defens God Me Defend (Shown in the abbreviated form "IN DEFENS"). There is a variant form of the coat-of-arms for use in Scotland; see Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.]
national_anthem = "God Save the Queen" [It serves as the de facto National Anthem as well as being the Royal anthem for several other countries.]
official_languages = English [English is established by de facto usage. In Wales, the Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg is tasked with ensuring that, "in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice, the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality" (cite web |url=http://new.wales.gov.uk/topics/welsh_language/?lang=en |title=Welsh Language |publisher=Welsh Assembly |accessdate=2007-03-09; cite web |url=http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1993/Ukpga_19930038_en_2.htm |title=Welsh Language Act 1993 |publisher=Office of Public Sector Information |accessdate=2007-03-09) Bòrd na Gàidhlig is tasked with "securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language" (cite web |url=http://www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2005/50007--a.htm#1 |title=Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 |publisher=Office of Public Sector Information |accessdate=2007-03-09)]
regional_languages = Welsh, Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish [Under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages the Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Irish, Ulster Scots and Scots languages are officially recognised as Regional or Minority languages by the UK Government (cite web|publisher=Scottish Executive |url=http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/ArtsCulture/gaelic/gaelic-english/17910/europeancharter|title=European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages|accessdate=2007-08-23) See also Languages in the United Kingdom.]
ethnic_groups = 92.1% White,
4.00% South Asian, 2.00% Black, 1.20% Mixed Race, 0.80% East Asian and Other
ethnic_groups_year = 2001
demonym = British, Briton
capital = London
latd = 51
latm = 30
latNS = N
longd = 0
longm = 7
longEW = W
largest_city = London
government_type = Parliamentary system and Constitutional monarchy
leader_title1 = Monarch
leader_name1 = Queen Elizabeth II
leader_title2 = Prime Minister
leader_name2 = Gordon Brown MP
sovereignty_type = Formation
legislature = Parliament
upper_house = House of Lords
lower_house = House of Commons
sovereignty_note =
established_event1 = Acts of Union
established_date1 = 1 May 1707
established_event2 = Act of Union
established_date2 = 1 January 1801
established_event3 = Anglo-Irish Treaty
established_date3 = 12 April 1922
accessionEUdate = 1 January 1973
EUseats = 78
area_rank = 79th
area_magnitude = 1 E11
area_km2 = 244820
area_sq_mi = 94526
percent_water = 1.34
population_estimate_year = 2007
population_estimate = 60,975,000 [http://www.nationalstatistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=6]
population_estimate_rank = 22nd
population_census = 58,789,194 [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pop2001/united_kingdom.asp Population Estimates ] at www.statistics.gov.uk]
population_census_year = 2001
population_density_km2 = 246
population_density_sq_mi = 637
population_density_rank = 48th
GDP_PPP_year = 2007
GDP_PPP = $2,167 trillioncite web|url=http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2008/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2004&ey=2008&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=112&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr.x=48&pr.y=13|title=Report for Selected Countries and Subjects ]
GDP_PPP_rank = 6th
GDP_PPP_per_capita = $35,634 (IMF)
GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 14th
GDP_nominal = $2,804 trillion
GDP_nominal_rank = 5th
GDP_nominal_year = 2007
GDP_nominal_per_capita = $46,098 (IMF)
GDP_nominal_per_capita_rank = 9th
HDI_year = 2005
HDI = increase 0.946
HDI_rank = 16th
HDI_category = high
Gini = 34 [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html CIA World Factbook] [Gini rankings] ]
Gini_year = 2005
Gini_rank =
Gini_category = medium
currency = Pound sterling [The Euro is accepted in many payphones and some larger shops.]
currency_code = GBP
country_code = GBR
time_zone = GMT
utc_offset = +0
time_zone_DST = BST
utc_offset_DST = +1
cctld = .uk [ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 states that this should be GB, but .gb is practically unused. The .eu domain is shared with other European Union member states.]
calling_code = 44

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain, [See Terminology of the British Isles for further explanation of the usage of the term "Britain" in geographical and political contexts.] [In the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous (regional) languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, the UK's official name is as follows:
* _kw. Rywvaneth Unys Breten Veur ha Kledhbarth Iwerdhon;
* _ga. Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire agus Thuaisceart Éireann;
* _sc. Unitit Kinrick o Graet Breetain an Northren Irland;
* _gd. Rìoghachd Aonaichte Bhreatainn Mhòir agus Èireann a Tuath;
* _cy. Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon.
] is a sovereign state located off the northwestern coast of continental Europe.It is an island country, [cite web
url = http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9110750/United-Kingdom
title = Encyclopaedia Britannica
quote = Island country located off the north-western coast of mainland Europe
accessdate = 2007-09-25
] cite web |url=http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page823.asp |title=Countries within a country |author=www.number-10.gov.uk |accessdate=2007-06-13|quote=Countries within a country] spanning the island of Great Britain, the northeast part of the island of Ireland, and many small islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland. [Cite web
url = http://www.eu2005.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1115141709899/
title = Member States: United Kingdom
accessmonthday = May 29
accessyear = 2006
publisher = UK Presidency of the EU 2005
] Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea. The largest island, Great Britain, is linked to France by the Channel Tunnel.

The United Kingdom consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/geography/uk_countries.asp The Countries of the UK] statistics.gov.uk, accessed 10 October, 2008 ] A unitary state with three devolved national legislatures, the UK is governed by a parliamentary system with its seat of government in London, the capital. The UK is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. The Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are Crown Dependencies and not part of the UK, but form a federacy with it. [cite web
url = http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/LivingintheUK/DG_10012517
title = Key facts about the United Kingdom
accessdate = 2008-06-26
work = Government, citizens and rights
publisher = Directgov
quote = The full title of this country is 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. 'The UK' is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 'Great Britain' (or just 'Britain') does not include Northern Ireland. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK.
] The UK has fourteen overseas territories, [cite web
url = http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/fco-in-action/global-network/
title = FCO global network
work = FCO in Action
publisher = Foreign and Commonwealth Office
accessdate = 2008-06-26
] all remnants of the British Empire, which at its height encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface, the largest empire in history. British influence can continue to be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies. Queen Elizabeth II remains the head of the Commonwealth of Nations and head of state of each of the Commonwealth realms.

The UK is a developed country, with the fifth (nominal GDP) or sixth (PPP) largest economy in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country [cite web |url=http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/Global_Warming/Older/Industrial_Revolution.html |title=Industrial Revolution |accessdate=2008-04-27] and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries, [cite book |last=Ferguson|first=Niall |year=2004 |title=Empire, The rise and demise of the British world order and the lessons for global power |publisher=Basic Books|id=ISBN 0465023282] but the economic cost of two world wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half of the 20th century diminished its leading role in global affairs. The UK nevertheless remains a major power with strong economic, cultural, military and political influence and is a nuclear power, with the second or third highest (depending on method of calculation) defence spending in the world. It is a member state of the European Union, holds a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of the G8, NATO, OECD, WTO and the Commonwealth of Nations.


On 1 May 1707, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, [ [http://www.parliament.uk/actofunion/ Welcome] parliament.uk, accessed 7 October, 2008] [ [http://www.scotshistoryonline.co.uk/union.html THE TREATY or Act of the Union] www.scotshistoryonline.co.uk, accessed 27 August 2008] was created by the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included the once independent Principality of Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. This event was the result of the Treaty of Union that was agreed on 22 July 1706, [ [http://www.parliament.uk/about/images/historical/1707union.cfm Articles of Union with Scotland 1707] www.parliament.uk ] and then ratified by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland each passing an Act of Union in 1707. Almost a century later, the Kingdom of Ireland, which had been brought under English control between 1541 and 1691, joined the Kingdom of Great Britain with the passing of the Act of Union 1800. [cite web |url=http://www.actofunion.ac.uk/actofunion.htm#act | title=The Act of Union |publisher=Act of Union Virtual Library |accessdate=2006-05-15] Although England and Scotland had been separate states prior to 1707, they had been in personal union since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when James VI King of Scots had inherited the throne of the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Ireland. King James I, as he was styled outwith Scotland, then moved his court from Edinburgh to London. [cite book|title=Chronology of Scottish History|publisher=Geddes & Grosset|isbn=1-85534-380-0|last=Ross|first=David|date=2002|quote=1603: James VI becomes James I of England in the Union of the Crowns, and leaves Edinburgh for London|page=56] [cite book|title=Claiming Scotland: National Identity and Liberal Culture|publisher=Edinburgh University Press|isbn=1902930169|last=Hearn|first=Jonathan|date=2002|quote=Inevitably, James moved his court to London|page=104]

In its first century, the United Kingdom played an important role in developing Western ideas of the parliamentary system as well as making significant contributions to literature, the arts and science. [cite book |last=Ferguson |first=Niall |authorlink=Niall Ferguson |year=2003 |title=Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order |publisher=Basic Books |id=ISBN 0-465-02328-2] The UK-led Industrial Revolution transformed the country and fuelled the British Empire. During this time, like other great powers, the UK was involved in colonial exploitation, including the Atlantic slave trade, although the passing of the 1807 Slave Trade Act made the UK the first country to prohibit trade in slaves.

After the defeat of Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars, the UK emerged the principal naval power of the 19th century. The United Kingdom remained an eminent power into the mid-20th century, and its empire expanded to its maximum size by 1921, gaining the League of Nations mandate over former German and Ottoman colonies after World War I.

Long simmering tensions in Ireland led to the partition of the island in 1920, followed by independence for the Irish Free State in 1922. Six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster remained within the UK. In 1927, the formal name of the UK changed to its current name, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, by way of the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927.cite web |url=http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/ait1921.htm |title=The Anglo-Irish Treaty, 6 December 1921 |publisher=CAIN |accessdate=2006-05-15]

After World War I, the world's first large-scale international broadcasting network, the BBC, was created. Britain was one of the major Allied powers in World War II, and wartime leader Winston Churchill and his peacetime successor Clement Attlee helped plan the post-war world as part of the "Big Three". World War II left the United Kingdom financially damaged. Loans taken out during and after World War II from both Canada and the United States were economically costly but, along with post-war Marshall aid, the UK began the road to recovery.

The immediate post-war years saw the establishment of the British Welfare State, including one of the world's first and most comprehensive public health services, while the demands of a recovering economy brought people from all over the Commonwealth to create a multiethnic Britain. Although the new post-war limits of Britain's political role were confirmed by the Suez Crisis of 1956, the international spread of the English language meant the continuing impact of its literature and culture, while at the same time from the 1960s its popular culture found influence abroad. Following a period of global economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the 1980s saw the inflow of substantial oil revenues and economic growth. The premiership of Margaret Thatcher marked a significant change of direction from the post-war political and economic consensus; a path that was continued by the New Labour government of Tony Blair in 1997.

The United Kingdom was one of the 12 founding members of the European Union at its launch in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Prior to that, it had been a member of the EU's forerunner, the European Economic Community (EEC), from 1973. The attitude of the present Labour government towards further integration with this organisation is mixed,cite web |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-1948441,00.html |title=Modest progress but always on back foot |publisher=Times Online |date=2005-12-21 |accessdate=2006-05-16] with the Offical Opposition, the Conservative Party, favouring a return of some powers and competencies to the state.cite web |url=http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=europe.news.campaigns.display.page&obj_id=73417 |title=European Constitution: bad for Britain, bad for Europe |publisher=Conservative Party |accessdate=2006-05-23]

The end of the 20th century saw major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales following pre-legislative referenda. [ [http://publius.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/28/1/217 Reforging the Union: Devolution and Constitutional Change in the United Kingdom] publius.oxfordjournals.org, accessed 7 October, 2008]

Government and politics

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state; the monarch of the UK also serves as head of state of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a personal union with those other states. The Crown has sovereignty over the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey. Collectively, these three territories are known as the Crown Dependencies, lands owned by the British monarch but not part of the United Kingdom. They are not part of the European Union. However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the authority to legislate for the dependencies, and the British government manages their foreign affairs and defence.

The UK has fourteen overseas territories around the world, the last remaining territories of the British Empire. The overseas territories are not considered part of the UK, but in most cases the local populations have British citizenship and the right of abode in the UK. This has been the case since 2002.

The UK has a parliamentary government based on strong traditions: the Westminster system has been emulated around the world — a legacy of the British Empire.

The UK's constitution governs the legal framework of the country and consists mostly of written sources, including statutes, judge made case law, and international treaties. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and law considered to be "constitutional law," the British Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. [cite web|url=http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/sovereignty.cfm|title=Official UK Parliament web page on parliamentary sovereignty] The United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution (the other two being New Zealand and Israel). [cite web| url=http://www.llrx.com/features/uk2.htm#UK%20Legal%20System |title=A Guide To the UK Legal System |author=Sarah Carter |publisher=University of Kent at Canterbury |accessdate=2006-05-16]

The position of Prime Minister, the UK's head of government, belongs to the Member of Parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, usually the current leader of the largest political party in that chamber. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are formally appointed by the Monarch to form Her Majesty's Government. Though the Prime Minister chooses the Cabinet, and by convention HM The Queen respects the Prime Minister's choices. The Cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister's party in both legislative houses, and mostly from the House of Commons, to which they are responsible. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, all of whom are sworn into Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and become Ministers of the Crown. "The Rt Hon" Gordon Brown MP, leader of the Labour Party, has been Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service since 27 June 2007.cite news | url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6245682.stm | title= Brown is UK's new prime minister | date=2007-06-27 | accessdate= 2008-01-23 | work= BBC News | publisher= news.bbc.co.uk ]

The Parliament of the United Kingdom that meets in the Palace of Westminster is the ultimate legislative authority in the United Kingdom. It has two houses: an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords, and any Bill passed requires the assent of HM The Queen to become law. A devolved parliament in Scotland and devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland, and Wales were established following public approval as expressed in referenda, but these are not sovereign bodies and could be abolished by the UK parliament.

For elections to the House of Commons, the UK is currently divided into 646 constituencies, with 529 in England, 18 in Northern Ireland, 59 in Scotland and 40 in Wales, [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/geography/westminster.asp Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies] statistics.gov.uk, accessed 10 October, 2008] though this number will rise to 650 at the next General Election. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament by simple plurality. General Elections are called by the Monarch when the Prime Minister so advises. Though there is no minimum term for a Parliament, a new election must be called within five years of the previous general election.

For elections to the European Parliament, the UK has 78 MEPs, elected in 12 multi-member constituencies. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/vote2004/euro_uk/html/front.stm European Election: United Kingdom Result] BBC News, 14 June, 2004] Questions over sovereignty have been brought forward due to the UK's membership of the European Union.cite web |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1779849,00.htm |title=Europe Wins The Power To Jail British Citizens |publisher=The Times |date=2005-09-14]

The UK's three major political parties are the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats, winning between them 616 out of the 646 seats available in the House of Commons at the 2005 general election. Most of the remaining seats were won by parties that only contest elections in one part of the UK such as the Scottish National Party (Scotland only), Plaid Cymru (Wales only), and the Democratic Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Ulster Unionist Party, and Sinn Féin (Northern Ireland only, though Sinn Féin also contests elections in Ireland). In accordance with party policy, no elected Sinn Féin Member of Parliament has ever attended the House of Commons to speak in the House on behalf of their constituents as Members of Parliament are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarch. However, the current five Sinn Féin MPs have since 2002 made use of the offices and other facilities available at Westminster. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1771635.stm|title=news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1771635.stm ]

Devolved national administrations

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each has a devolved, unicameral legislature and its own government or Executive, led by a First Minister. England, the largest country of the United Kingdom, has no devolved executive or legislature and is administered and legislated for directly by the UK government and parliament on all issues. This situation has given rise to the so-called West Lothian question which concerns the fact that MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can vote, sometimes decisively, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3432767.stm Scots MPs attacked over fees vote] BBC News, 27 January, 2004] on matters affecting England that are handled by devolved legislatures for their own constituencies. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/talking_politics/82358.stm UK Politics: Talking Politics The West Lothian Question] BBC News, i June 1998]

The Scottish Parliament has wide ranging legislative powers over any matter that has not been specifically 'reserved' to the UK parliament, including education, healthcare, Scots law and local government. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/events/scotland_99/the_scottish_parliament/310036.stm Scotland's Parliament - powers and structures] BBC News, 8 April 1999] Following their victory at the 2007 elections, the pro-independence SNP formed a minority government with its leader, Alex Salmond, becoming First Minister of Scotland. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6659531.stm Salmond elected as first minister] BBC News, 16 May, 2007] The pro-union parties responded to the electoral success of the SNP by creating a Commission to examine the case for devolving additional powers while excluding Scottish independence as an option, [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7311840.stm |title=Devolution review body launched |publisher=BBC News |date=2008-03-25] though the then leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Wendy Alexander, indicated that Labour would support calls for independence to be placed before the people in a referendum in the hope that a vote to reject independence would settle the constitutional debate for a generation. [cite web |url=http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/Wendy-39Bring-it-on39.4049804.jp |title=Wendy: 'Bring it on' |publisher=Scotsman |date=2008-05-05] Most opinion polls do show minority support for independence though support varies depending on the nature of the question. However, a poll in April 2008 that used the proposed referendum wording found support for independence had reached 41% with just 40% supporting retention of the Union. [cite web |url=http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2192965.0.0.php |title=41% of Scots back the break-up of the union |publisher=Sunday Herald |date=2008-04-13]

The powers devolved to the National Assembly for Wales are more limited than those devolved to Scotland, [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/events/wales_99/the_welsh_assembly/309033.stm |title=Structure and powers of the Assembly |publisher=BBC News |date=1999-04-09] although following the passing of the Government of Wales Act 2006, the Assembly can now legislate in some areas through Legislative Competency Orders which can be granted on a case by case basis. [cite web |url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/jul/16/wales.devolution |title=What powers does the Welsh Assembly have? |publisher=Guardian |date=2007-07-16] The current Welsh Assembly Government was formed several weeks after the 2007 elections, following a brief period of minority administration, when Plaid Cymru joined Labour in a coalition government under the continuing leadership of First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has powers closer to those already devolved to Scotland. The Northern Ireland Executive is currently led by First Minister Peter Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party) and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin). [http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/your-government/devolved-government.htm Northern Ireland Executive]

Local government

The history of local government in the United Kingdom is marked by little change in the arrangements that preceded the Union until the 19th century, after which there has been a constant evolution of role and function.Barlow, I., "Metropolitan Government", (1991)] Change did not occur in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in a uniform manner and the devolution of power over local government to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland means that future changes are unlikely to be uniform either.

The organisation of local government in England is complex, with the distribution of functions varying according to the local arrangements. Legislation concerning local government in England is decided by the UK parliament and the government of the United Kingdom, because England does not have a devolved parliament. The upper-tier subdivisions of England are the nine Government office regions or European Union government office regions. [cite web|url=http://www.gos.gov.uk/national/|publisher=gos.gov.uk|date=|accessdate=2008-07-31|title=Welcome to the national site of the Government Office Network] One region, Greater London, has had a directly elected assembly and mayor since 2000 following popular support for the proposal in a referendum. [ [http://www.london.gov.uk/london-life/city-government/history.jsp A short history of London government] london.gov.uk, accessed 4 October 2008 ] It was intended that other regions would also be given their own elected regional assemblies but a rejection by a referendum in 2004 of a proposed assembly in the North East region stopped this idea in its tracks. ["The Government is now expected to tear up its twelve-year-old plan to create eight or nine regional assemblies in England to mirror devolution in Scotland and Wales."cite web|url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article503255.ece|title=Prescott's dream in tatters as North East rejects assembly|accessdate=2008-02-15|work=The Times] Below the region level, London consists of 32 London boroughs and the rest of England has either county councils and district councils or unitary authorities. Councillors are elected by First Past The Post in single member wards or by the multi-member plurality system in multi-member wards. [ [http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/aio/39780 Local Authority Elections] Local Government Association, accessed 3 October, 2008]

Local government in Northern Ireland has, since 1973, been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote with powers limited to services like collecting waste, controlling dogs, and maintaining parks and cemeteries. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4449092.stm NI local government set for shake-up] BBC News, 18 November 2005 ] However, on 13 March 2008, the Executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils to replace the present system [ [http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-doe/news-doe-130308-foster-announces-the.htm "Foster announces the future shape of local government", NI Executive] ] and the next local elections will be postponed until 2011 to facilitate this. [ [http://www.nio.gov.uk/local-government-elections-to-be-aligned-with-review-of-public-administration/media-detail.htm?newsID=15153 Local Government elections to be aligned with review of public administration] www.nio.gov.uk, accessed, 2 August 2008 ]

Local government in Scotland is divided on a basis of 32 council areas with wide variation in both size and population. The cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are separate council areas as also is Highland Council which includes a third of Scotland's area but just over 200,000 people. The power invested in local authorities is administered by elected councillors, of which there are currently 1,222 [ [http://www.psa.ac.uk/2007/pps/Bennie.pdf STV in Scotland:Local Government Elections 2007] Political Studies Association, accessed 2 August 2008] who are each paid a part-time salary. Elections are conducted by single transferable vote in multi-member wards that elect either three or four councillors. Each council elects a Provost or Convenor to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area. Councillors are subject to a Code of Conduct enforced by the Standards Commission for Scotland. [Ethical Standards in Public Life framework: cite web|title=Ethical Standards in Public Life |url=http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/local-government/ethical-standards|publisher=The Scottish Government |accessdate=2008-10-3] The representative association of Scotland's local authorities is the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). [ [http://www.cosla.gov.uk/index.asp?leftId=10001D0EF-10766726 About COSLA] cosla.gov.uk, accessed 3 October 2008]

Local government in Wales consists of 22 unitary authorities, including the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, which are separate unitary authorities in their own right. [ [http://new.wales.gov.uk/topics/localgovernment/localauthorities/?lang=en Local Authorities] new.wales.gov.uk, accessed 31 July 2008] Elections are held every four years by First Past The Post [ [http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/how_do_i_vote/voting_systems/local_government_elections_i-3.aspx Local government elections in Wales] aboutmyvote.co.uk, accessed 3 October, 2008] with the most recent elections being in May, 2008. The Welsh Local Government Association represents the interests of local authorities in Wales. [ [http://www.wlga.gov.uk/ Welsh Local Government Association] Welsh Local Government Association, accessed 3 October, 2008]

Foreign relations and armed forces

The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8 and NATO, and a member state of the European Union. The UK has a "Special Relationship" with the United States. Apart from the US and Europe, Britain's close allies include Commonwealth nations, Ireland and other English speaking countries. Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations and its armed forces, which maintain approximately eighty military installations and other deployments around the globe. [cite web|url=http://www.globalpowereurope.eu/|title=www.globalpowereurope.eu/ ]

The Army, Navy and Air Force are collectively known as the British Armed Forces (or Her Majesty's Armed Forces) and officially the Armed Forces of the Crown. The commander-in-chief is the monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth II and they are managed by the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces are controlled by the Defence Council, chaired by the Chief of the Defence Staff.

The United Kingdom fields one of the most technologically advanced and best trained armed forces in the world. According to various sources, including the Ministry of Defence, the UK has the second highest military expenditure in the world, [cite web|url=http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/Organisation/KeyFactsAboutDefence/DefenceSpending.htm|title=Defence Spending] [cite web|url=http://www.sipri.org/contents/milap/milex/mex_trends.html|title=www.sipri.org/contents/milap/milex/mex_trends.html ] despite only having the 27th largest military in terms of manpower. Total defence spending currently accounts for 2.2% of total national GDP, compared to 4.4% at the end of the Cold War. [cite web|url=http://www.hatareview.org/ardy.html|title=www.hatareview.org/ardy.html ] It is the second largest spender on military science, engineering and technology. [cite web|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1394293,00.html|title=www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1394293,00.html ] The Royal Navy is considered to be one of the few true blue water navies along with those of France and the United States. [cite web|url=http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/sections/britain_world/naval_trident|title=www.henryjacksonsociety.org/sections/britain_world/naval_trident ] The British Armed Forces are equipped with advanced weapons systems, including the Challenger 2 tank and the Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighter. The Ministry of Defence signed contracts worth £3.2bn to build two new supercarrier sized aircraft carriers on 3 July 2008. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7486683.stm £3.2bn giant carrier deals signed] BBC News, 3 July 2008]

The United Kingdom is one of the five recognised countries possessing nuclear weapons, utilising the Vanguard class submarine-based Trident II ballistic missile system.

The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's global security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO, including the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, as well as the Five Power Defence Arrangements and other worldwide coalition operations. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, and Cyprus. [ [http://www.northwood.mod.uk/pjobs/pjobs.htm Permanent Joint Operating Bases] , northwood.mod.uk] [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/cgi-bin/newhtml_hl?DB=semukparl&STEMMER=en&WORDS=raf%20diego%20garcia&ALL=RAF&ANY=&PHRASE=%22Diego%20Garcia%20%22&CATEGORIES=&SIMPLE=&SPEAKER=&COLOUR=red&STYLE=s&ANCHOR=50221w33.html_spnew0&URL=/pa/cm200405/cmhansrd/vo050221/text/50221w33.htm#50221w33.html_spnew0 House of Commons Hansard] , publications.parliament.uk]

The British Army had a reported strength of 102,440 in 2005, [PDFlink| [http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/6FBA7459-7407-4B85-AA47-7063F1F22461/0/modara_0405_s1_resources.pdf Annual Reports and Accounts 2004-05] |1.60 MiB . Ministry of Defence. Retrieved on 14 May 2006] the Royal Air Force a strength of 49,210 and the 36,320-strong Royal Navy, which includes the Royal Marines, who provide commando units specialising in amphibious warfare.

The United Kingdom Special Forces, provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert tactics are required.

There are reserve forces supporting the regular military. These include the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. This puts total active and reserve duty military personnel at approximately 429,500, deployed in over eighty countries.

Despite the United Kingdom's military capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" would be undertaken as part of a coalition. [Office for National Statistics "UK 2005: The Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", p. 89 ] Setting aside the intervention in Sierra Leone, operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq may all be taken as precedent. Indeed the last war in which the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982, in which they were victorious.

Law and criminal justice

The United Kingdom does not have a single legal system due to it being created by the political union of previously independent countries with Article 19 of the Treaty of Union guaranteeing the continued existence of Scotland's separate legal system. [ [http://www.scotshistoryonline.co.uk/union.html The Treaty (act) of the Union of Parliament 1706] scotshistoryonline.co.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008] Today the UK has three distinct systems of law: English law, Northern Ireland law and Scots law. Recent constitutional changes will see a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom come into being in October 2009 that will take on the appeal functions of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. [PDFlink| [http://www.dca.gov.uk/consult/supremecourt/supreme.pdf Constitutional reform: A Supreme Court for the United Kingdom] |252 KiB , Department for Constitutional Affairs. Retrieved on 2006-05-22] The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, comprising the same members as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories, and the British crown dependencies.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Both English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law are based on common-law principles. The essence of common-law is that law is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of precedent ("stare decisis") to the facts before them. The Courts of England and Wales are headed by the Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to, as "The House of Lords") is presently the highest court in the land for both criminal and civil cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and any decision it makes is binding on every other court in the hierarchy.

Crime in England and Wales increased in the period between 1981 and 1995 though, since that peak, there has been an overall fall of 48% in crime from 1995 to 2007/8. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7511192.stm |title=Police-recorded crime down by 9% |publisher=BBC News |date=2008-07-17] Despite the fall in crime rates, the prison population of England and Wales has almost doubled over the same period, to over 80,000, giving England and Wales the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe at 147 per 100,000. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7235438.stm New record high prison population] BBC News, 8 February 2008 ] Her Majesty's Prison Service, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, manages most of the prisons within England and Wales.


Scots law, a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles, applies in Scotland. The chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, [ [http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/session/index.asp Court of Session - Introduction] scotcourts.gov.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008] and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases. [ [http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/justiciary/index.asp High Court of Justiciary - Introduction] scotcourts.gov.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008] The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to as "The House of Lords") presently serves as the highest court of appeal for civil cases under Scots law but only if the Court of Session grants leave to appeal or the initial judgement was by a majority decision. Sheriff Courts deal with most civil and criminal cases including conducting criminal trials with a jury, known as Sheriff solemn Court, or with a Sheriff and no jury, known as (Sheriff summary Court). The Sheriff Courts provide a local court service with 49 Sheriff courts organised across six Sheriffdoms. [ [http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/introduction.asp Introduction] scotcourts.gov.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008] The Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal with no possibility of retrial. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article431121.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1 The case for keeping 'not proven' verdict] timesonline.co.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008]

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is the member of the Scottish Government responsible for the police, the courts and criminal justice, and the Scottish Prison Service, which manages the prisons in Scotland. [ [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/14944/Scottish-Cabinet Scottish Cabinet and Ministers] scotland.gov.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008] Though the level of recorded crime in 2007/8 has fallen to the lowest for 25 years, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7643870.stm Scottish crime 'lowest since 80s'] BBC News 30 September, 2008] the prison population, at over 8,000, [ [http://www.sps.gov.uk/default.aspx?documentid=7811a7f1-6c61-4667-a12c-f102bbf5b808 Prisoner Population at Friday 22 August 2008] www.sps.gov.uk, accessed August 28, 2008] is hitting record levels and is well above design capacity. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7587724.stm Scots jail numbers at record high] BBC News, 29 August, 2008]


The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately convert|245000|km2|sqmi|-1 comprising of the island of Great Britain, the northeastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland) and smaller islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, coming within convert|35|km|mi|0 of the northwest coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. Great Britain lies between latitudes 49° and 59° N (the Shetland Islands reach to nearly 61° N), and longitudes 8° W to 2° E. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, near London, is the defining point of the Prime Meridian. When measured directly north-south, Great Britain is a little over convert|1100|km|mi|-2 in length and is a fraction under convert|500|km|mi|-2 at its widest, but the greatest distance between two points is convert|1350|km|mi|-1 between Land's End in Cornwall (near Penzance) and John o' Groats in Caithness (near Thurso). Northern Ireland shares a convert|360|km|mi|0|adj=on land boundary with Ireland.

The United Kingdom has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round. The temperature varies with the seasons but seldom drops below convert|-10|C|lk=on or rises above convert|35|C. The prevailing wind is from the southwest, bearing frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean. Eastern parts are most sheltered from this wind and are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters, especially in the west, where winters are wet, especially over high ground. Summers are warmest in the south east of England, being closest to the European mainland, and coolest in the north. Snowfall can occur in winter and early spring, though it rarely settles to great depth away from high ground.

England accounts for just over half of the total area of the UK, covering convert|130410|km2|sqmi|-1. Most of the country consists of lowland terrain, and mountainous terrain north-west of the Tees-Exe line. Mountain chains are found in the north-west (Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District), north (the upland moors of the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District) and south-west (Exmoor and Dartmoor). Lower ranges include the limestone hills of the Isle of Purbeck, Cotswolds and Lincolnshire Wolds, and the chalk downs of the Southern England Chalk Formation. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber Estuary. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike, which is in the Lake District convert|978|m|ft|0. England has a number of large towns and cities and, in terms of Larger Urban Zones, has six of the top 50 Zones in the European Union.

Scotland accounts for about a third of the total area of the UK, covering convert|78772|km2|sqmi|-1. [cite web |url=http://www.scotland.org/about/fact-file/index.html |title=Scotland Facts |publisher=www.scotland.org |accessedate=2008-07-16] The topography of Scotland is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Faultndash a geological rock fracturendash which traverses the Scottish mainland from Helensburgh to Stonehaven. The faultline separates two distinctively different regions; namely the Highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the south and east. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous terrain, including the highest peak, Ben Nevis, at convert|1344|m|ft|0. Lowland areas, in the southern part of Scotland, are flatter and home to most of the population, especially the narrow waist of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth known as the Central Belt. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, although Edinburgh is the capital and political centre of the country. Scotland also has nearly eight hundred islands, mainly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.

Wales accounts for less than a tenth of the total area of the UK, covering convert|20758|km2|sqmi|-1. Wales is mostly mountainous, though south Wales is less mountainous than north and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in south Wales, consisting of the coastal cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia, and include Snowdon ( _cy. Yr Wyddfa), which, at 1,085 m (3,560 ft) is the highest peak in Wales. The 14 (or possibly 15) Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s. Wales borders England to the east and the sea in the other three directions: the Bristol Channel to the south, the Celtic Sea to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Wales has over 1,200 km (750 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey ("Ynys Môn") in the northwest.

Northern Ireland accounts for just convert|14160|km2|sqmi|-1 and is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh, at convert|388|km2|sqmi|0, the largest body of water in the UK and Ireland. [cite web |url=http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/ni/geog.htm |title=Geography of Northern Ireland |publisher=University of Ulster |accessdate=2006-05-22] The highest peak is Slieve Donard at convert|849|m|ft|0 in the province's Mourne Mountains.

Cities and conurbations

The capitals of the individual countries of the UK are: Belfast (Northern Ireland), Cardiff (Wales), Edinburgh (Scotland) and London (England); the latter is also the capital of the UK as a whole.

The largest conurbations are as follows:
* Greater London Urban Area - 8.50 million
* West Midlands conurbation - 2.28 million
* Greater Manchester Urban Area - 2.24 million
* West Yorkshire Urban Area - 1.50 million
* Greater Glasgow - 1.17 million


A Census occurs simultaneously in all parts of the UK every ten years. [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/geography/census_geog.asp Census Geography] statistics.gov.uk, accessed 10 October, 2008 ] The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collecting data for England and Wales with the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency each being responsible for censuses in their respective countries. [ [http://www.ons.gov.uk/about/surveys/census/index.html Census] ons.gov.uk, accessed 11 October 2008]


At the April 2001 UK Census, the total population of the United Kingdom was 58,789,194, the third largest in the European Union (after Germany and France), the fifth largest in the Commonwealth and the twenty-first largest in the world. By mid-2007, this was estimated to have grown to 60,975,000.cite news|url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=6|title=Population estimates: UK population grows to 60,975,000|date=2008-08-21|publisher=Office for National Statistics|accessdate=2008-08-23] Current population growth is mainly due to net immigration but a rising birth rate and increasing life expectancy have also contributed. [cite web |url=http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,1857779,00.html |title=Rising birth rate, longevity and migrants push population to more than 60 million |publisher=The Guardian |date=2006-08-25 |accessdate = 2006-08-25] The mid-2007 population estimates also revealed that, for the first time, the UK is now home to more people of pensionable age than children under the age of 16. [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/22/population.socialtrends|title=Ageing Britain: Pensioners outnumber under-16s for first time|last=Travis|first=Alan|date=2008-08-22|work=The Guardian|accessdate=2008-08-23]

In 2007, the average total fertility rate (TFR) across the UK was 1.90 children per woman.cite news|url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?ID=951|title=Fertility: Rise in UK fertility continues|publisher=Office for National Statistics|date=2008-08-21|accessdate=2008-08-23] It is estimated that in 2008, the fertility of the United Kingdom climbed to 1.91 children per woman. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/22/population.immigrationandpublicservices] While a rising birth rate is contributing to current population growth, it remains below the replacement rate of 2.1 but higher than the 2001 record low of 1.63. England and Wales have birth rates of 1.92 and 1.90 respectively. Scotland had the lowest fertility at only 1.73 children per woman, while Northern Ireland had the highest at 2.02 children. The UK's TFR was considerably higher during the 1960s 'baby boom', peaking at 2.95 children per woman in 1964. The birth rate is higher amongst foreign-born women than UK-born women, although it is only the latter which is rising.

England's population by mid-2007 was estimated to be 51.1 million.cite news|url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/popest0808.pdf|title=Population estimates: UK population approaches 61 million in 2007|date=2007-08-21|publisher=Office for National Statistics|accessdate = 2008-08-28] It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 383 people resident per square kilometre in mid-2003,cite news|url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=760|title=Population: UK population grows to 59.6 million|date=2005-01-28|publisher=Office for National Statistics|accessdate = 2008-08-20] with a particular concentration in London and the South East. The mid-2007 estimates put Scotland's population at 5.1 milion, Wales at 3 million and Northern Ireland at 1.8 million with much lower population densities than England. Compared to England's convert|383|PD/km2|PD/sqmi, the corresponding figures were convert|142|PD/km2|PD/sqmi|abbr=on for Wales, convert|125|PD/km2|PD/sqmi|abbr=on for Northern Ireland and just convert|65|PD/km2|PD/sqmi|abbr=on for Scotland in mid-2003.


In contrast with some other European countries, high foreign-born immigration is contributing to a rising population, [ [http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23542455-details/Immigration+and+births+to+non-British+mothers+pushes+British+population+to+record+high/article.do Immigration and births to non-British mothers pushes British population to record high] , This is London, 22 August 2008] accounting for about half of the population increase between 1991 and 2001. United Kingdom is set to become Europe’s most highly populated nation within two generations, driven by immigration. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2626853/Immigration-to-make-Britain-the-most-crowded-country-in-Europe.html Immigration to make Britain the most crowded country in Europe] , Telegraph] Forecasts published by the European Commission suggest that UK will overtake Germany within 50 years as the population rises from 60.9 million today to 77 million. [ [http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=STAT/08/119&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en Population projections 2008-2060] , 26 August 2008] Britain's immigrant population is likely to almost double to 9.1 million by 2030. [cite web
title=Britain to have '9.1m immigrants by 2030'

The latest official figures (2006) show net immigration to the UK of 191,000 (591,000 immigrants and 400,000 emigrants) up from 185,000 in 2005 (overall, there was a loss of 126,000 Britons and a gain of 316,000 foreign citizens). [cite web
title=Half a million migrants pour into Britain in a year
] cite web
title=International migration: Net inflow rose in 2004
publisher=Office for National Statistics
accessdate = 2006-11-22
] [cite web
title=International migration 2005: Net inflow 185,000
publisher=Office for National Statistics
accessdate = 2006-11-22
] One in six were from Eastern European countries, with larger numbers coming from New Commonwealth countries. [cite web
title=Emigration soars as Britons desert the UK
] Immigration from the Indian subcontinent, mainly fuelled by family reunion, accounted for two-thirds of net immigration. [cite web
title=1,500 migrants enter UK a day
] By contrast, at least 5.5 million British-born people are living abroad, [cite web |url=http://www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=509 |title=Brits Abroad: Mapping the scale and nature of British emigration |author=Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah and Catherine Drew |publisher=Institute for Public Policy Research |date=2006-12-11 |accessdate = 2007-01-20] [cite web |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/britsabroad |title=Brits Abroad |publisher=BBC News |accessdate = 2007-04-20] [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6210358.stm |title=5.5 m Britons 'opt to live abroad' |publisher=BBC News |date=2006-12-11 |accessdate = 2007-04-20] the most popular emigrant destinations being Australia, Spain, France, New Zealand and the United States. [cite web|url=http://www.aol.in/news/story/2007042004189012000001/index.html|title=Indians largest group among new immigrants to UK] [cite web|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/02/uimmigrants5005.xml|title=1500 immigrants arrive in Britain daily, report says] [cite web |url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/spain/article/0,,1830838,00.html |title=Spain attracts record levels of immigrants seeking jobs and sun |publisher=The Guardian |date=2006-07-26 |accessdate = 2007-04-20]

A study by a city forecaster, however, contends that the above immigration figures are unreliable and that net immigration for 2005 was circa 400,000. [cite web |url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/05/nimm04.xml |title=Immigration 'far higher' than figures say |publisher=The Telegraph |date=2007-01-05 |accessdate = 2007-04-20] Nonetheless, the proportion of foreign-born people in the UK population remains slightly below that of some other European countries. [cite web |url=http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?id=402 |title=Europe: Population and Migration in 2005 |author=Rainer Muenz |publisher=Migration Policy Institute |date=June 2006 |accessdate = 2007-04-02]

In 2004, the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795 - a rise of 12 per cent on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Africa (32 per cent) and Asia (40 per cent), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4706862.stm|title=BBC Thousands in UK citizenship queue] In 2006, there were 149,035 applications for British citizenship, 32 per cent fewer than in 2005. The number of people granted citizenship during 2006 was 154,095, 5 per cent fewer than in 2005. The largest groups of people granted British citizenship were from India, Pakistan, Somalia and the Philippines. [John Freelove Mensah, [http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs07/hosb0807.pdf Persons Granted British Citizenship United Kingdom, 2006] , Home Office Statistical Bulletin 08/07, 22 May 2007, accessed 21 September 2007] 21.9 per cent of babies born in England and Wales in 2006 were born to mothers who were born outside the UK, (146,956 out of 669,601), according to official statistics released in 2007 that also show the highest birth rates for 26 years. [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=369 Fertility rate highest for 26 years] National Statistics, accessed 13 April 2008] As in the rest of the European Union, however, the birth rate remains below the replacement rate. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4768644.stm|title=The EU's baby blues|author=Clare Murphy|publisher=BBC News|date=2006-03-27|accessdate = 2008-04-13] [cite news|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/09/nmigrant109.xml|title=Britain's highest birth rates among migrants|author=Ben Leapman|publisher="Daily Telegraph"|date=2007-12-12|accessdate = 2008-04-13]

When the EU enlarged further east in 2004 and again in 2007, this gave the right for nationals from countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania to live in the UK. [cite web|url=http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?ID=306|title=United Kingdom: Rising numbers, rising anxieties|last=Sriskandarajah|first=Dhananjayan|coauthors=Hopwood Road, Francesca|date=May 2005|work=Migration Information Source|publisher=Migration Policy Institute|accessdate=2008-08-23] No restrictions were placed on the ability of nationals of the ten countries that joined the EU in May 2004 to work in the UK, but Romanians and Bulgarians, whose countries joined the EU in January 2007, are subject to transitional arrangements limiting their right to migrate to the UK for work. [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/sep/23/immigration.eu|title=Home Office shuts the door on Bulgaria and Romania|last=Doward|first=Jamie|coauthors=Temko, Ned|date=2007-09-23|work=The Observer|pages=2|accessdate=2008-08-23]

Figures published in August 2007 indicated that 682,940 people applied to the Worker Registration Scheme (for nationals of the central and eastern European states that joined the EU in May 2004) between 1 May 2004 and 30 June 2007, of whom 656,395 were accepted. [Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and Communities and Local Government, [http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/6353/aboutus/accessionmonitoringmay04jun1.pdf Accession Monitoring Report: A8 Countries, May 2004-June 2007] , 21 August 2007, accessed 26 August 2007.] Self-employed workers and people who are not working (including students) are not required to register under the scheme so this figure represents a lower limit on immigration inflow. These figures do not indicate the number of immigrants who have since returned home, but 56% of applicants in the 12 months ending 30 June 2007 reported planning to stay for a maximum of three months, with net migration in 2005 from the new EU states standing at 64,000. Research suggests that a total of around 1 million people had moved from the new EU member states to the UK by April 2008, but that half this number have since returned home or moved on to a third country. [cite web|url=http://www.ippr.org/members/download.asp?f=%2Fecomm%2Ffiles%2Ffloodgates%5For%5Fturnstiles%2Epdf|title=Floodgates or turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration flows to (and from) the UK|author=Naomi Pollard, Maria Latorre and Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah|publisher=Institute for Public Policy Research|date=2008-04-30|accessdate = 2008-04-30] [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7372025.stm|title=Half EU migrants 'have left UK'|publisher=BBC News|date=2008-04-30|accessdate = 2008-04-30] One in every four Poles in the UK is planning to remain for life, a survey has revealed. [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-509042/One-Poles-Britain-plan-stay-life-says-survey.html One in every four Poles in Britain plan to stay for life, says survey] ]

National Insurance data suggests that 2.5 million foreign workers moved to the UK to work (including those moving for short periods), the majority from EU countries, between 2002 and 2007. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6913296.stm|title=UK gets 2.5m new foreign workers|Date=24 July 2007]

The UK government is currently introducing a new points-based immigration system to replace the existing schemes for immigration from outside of the European Economic Area.

Ethnic groups

The present day population of the UK is descended from varied ethnic stocks, mainly pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman. Since 1945, substantial immigration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia has been a legacy of ties forged by the British Empire. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since 2004 has resulted in growth in these population groups, but, as of 2008, the trend is reversing and many of these migrants are returning home, leaving the size of these groups unknown. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7374683.stm 'Why I left UK to return to Poland'] , BBC News] As of 2001, 92.1% of the population identified themselves as White, leaving 7.9% [cite web |url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=764&Pos=4&ColRank=1&Rank=176 |title=Ethnicity: 7.9% from a non-White ethnic group |publisher=Office for National Statistics |date=2004-06-24 |accessdate = 2007-04-02] of the UK population identifying themselves as mixed race or ethnic minority.

Ethnic diversity varies significantly across the UK. 30.4% of London's population [cite web|url=http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadTableView.do;jsessionid=ac1f930dce6eace0153cf12440ca609dc762c8ae598.e38OaNuRbNuSbi0Ma3aNaxiQbNiLe6fznA5Pp7ftolbGmkTy?a=3&b=276743&c=London&d=13&e=13&g=325264&i=1001x1003x1004&m=0&r=1&s=1201351285750&enc=1&dsFamilyId=1812&bhcp=1|title=Resident population estimates by ethnic group (percentages): London|publisher=Office for National Statistics|accessdate = 2008-04-23] and 37.4% of Leicester's [cite web|url=http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadTableView.do?a=3&b=276827&c=Leicester&d=13&e=13&g=394575&i=1001x1003x1004&m=0&r=1&s=1208962134759&enc=1&dsFamilyId=1812|title=Resident population estimates by ethnic group (percentages): Leicester|publisher=Office for National Statistics|accessdate = 2008-04-23] was estimated to be non-white as of June 2005, whereas less than 5% of the populations of North East England, Wales and the South West were from ethnic minorities according to the 2001 census. [cite web|url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/commentaries/ethnicity.asp|title=Census 2001 - Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales|publisher=Office for National Statistics|accessdate = 2008-04-23] As of 2007, 22% of primary and 17.7% of secondary pupils at maintained schools in England were from ethnic minority families. [http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000744/UPDATEDSFR30_2007.pdf Schools and Pupils in England, January 2007] [cite web| url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/27/nschools127.xml |title=One fifth of children from ethnic minorities |publisher=The Daily Telegraph |author=Graeme Paton |date=2007-10-01 |accessdate = 2008-03-28] Britain's immigrant population will almost double in the next two decades to 9.1 million, a report said on 31 January 2008. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1577120/Britain-to-have-'9.1m-immigrants-by-2030'.html Britain to have '9.1m immigrants by 2030'] , Telegraph]


The UK does not "de jure" have an official language but the predominant spoken language is English, a West Germanic language descended from Old English and featuring a large number of borrowings from Old Norse, Norman French and Latin. Largely due to the British Empire, the English language has spread across the world, becoming the international language of business and being taught as a second language more than any other. [cite web |url=http://www.cepr.org/pubs/new-dps/dplist.asp?dpno=2055 |title=English-Language Dominance, Literature and Welfare |author=Jacques Melitz |publisher=Centre for Economic Policy Research |date=1999 |accessdate=2006-05-26]

The other indigenous languages of the UK are Scots, which is descended from early northern Middle English, and four Celtic languages: Welsh, Irish, Gaelic and Cornish. Celtic dialectal influences from Cumbric persisted in Northern England for centuries, most famously in a unique set of numbers used for counting sheep (see Yan Tan Tethera). In the 2001 Census over a fifth (21%) of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh, [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=447&Pos=6&ColRank=1&Rank=192 National Statistics Online ] at www.statistics.gov.uk] an increase from the 1991 Census (18%). [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_compendia/fow/WelshLanguage.pdf] In addition, it is estimated that about 200,000 Welsh speakers live in England. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/voices/multilingual/welsh.shtml Welsh today by Prof. Peter Wynn Thomas] bbc.co.uk] Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken by small groups around the globe with some Gaelic still spoken in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.

Across the United Kingdom, it is generally compulsory for pupils to study a second language to some extent: up to the age of 14 in England, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3983713.stm Fall in compulsory language lessons] BNC News 4 November, 2004] and up to age 16 in Scotland. French and German are the two most commonly taught second languages in England and Scotland. In Wales, all pupils up to age 16 are either taught in Welsh or taught Welsh as a second language. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/schoolgate/aboutschool/content/inwelsh.shtml The School Gate for parents in Wales] BBC Wales, accessed 11 October, 2008]


The United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it have long traditions of Christianity and a link between church and state still remains in England. Research suggests that 38% of the population have a belief in a God with a further 40% believing in a 'spirit or life force'.PDFlink| [http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_225_report_en.pdf Eurobarometer poll conducted in 2005] |1.64 MiB . Page 9. European Commission. Retrieved on 7 December 2006] People identify themselves with religion in the UK for both cultural and religious reasons and this is reflected by the disparity between the figures for those proclaiming a belief in a God and those identifying themselves with a particular religion. Christianity has the largest number of adherents followed by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism.


Christianity is the major religion with many Christian churches, denominations, and groups. The Tearfund Surveycite web |url=http://www.tearfund.org/webdocs/Website/News/Final%20churchgoing%20report.pdf |title=Tearfund Survey 2007 |accessdate=2007-05-05] in 2007 revealed 53% identified themselves as Christian. The report compared this to the 2004 British Social Attitudes Survey in which the results were very similar,Citation
publication-date = 2006-02-20
year = 2004
title = British Social Attitudes Survey
publisher = National Centre for Social Research
url = http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/findingData/snDescription.asp?sn=5329
accessdate = 2008-02-25
] and to the 2001 UK Census in which 71.6% said that Christianity was their religion, [cite web |url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=293 |title=UK Census 2001 |accessdate=2007-04-22] although noting that the latter used "a softer question".

The Church of England, which split from Rome in 1534 (see English Reformation) is, today, the 'established' Church in England: the church retains a representation in the UK Parliament and the British monarch is a member of the Church (required under the Act of Settlement 1701) as well as its Supreme Governor. Though the direct influence of the Church of England has been on the decline for years, it retains the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration), through the General Synod, that can then be passed into law by Parliament.

The Church of Scotland (known informally as the Kirk), which broke with Rome in 1560 (see Calvinism and Scottish Reformation) is a Presbyterian church, recognised as the national church of Scotland, and not subject to state control. The British monarch is an ordinary member, and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the Church at the coronation. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is now part of the Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland, and is not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the nineteenth century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland.

In the 1920s, the Church in Wales was separated from the Church of England and became 'disestablished'. The Church in Wales remains in the Anglican Communion. Methodism and other independent churches are traditionally strong in Wales.

The Anglican Church of Ireland was disestablished in the nineteenth century. It covers the entire island of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the state of Ireland). In Northern Ireland the Catholic Church in Ireland is the largest single denomination, although Protestants are in the majority overall. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Protestant denomination and is in terms of theology and history closely linked to the Church of Scotland

The Roman Catholic Church is the second largest denomination of Christianity in the UK. After the Protestant Reformation, strict laws were passed against Catholics; these were removed by the Catholic Emancipation laws in 1829. There are separate Catholic hierarchies for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Other large Christian groups include the Methodists (founded by John Wesley in London) and the Baptists. There are also growing Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, many of which have flourished with immigration from around the Commonwealth and beyond. Pentecostal churches are now third after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in terms of church attendance. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article757934.ece 'Fringe' Church winning the believers] Timesonline, 19 December 2006]

Other religions

Muslims in the United Kingdom are believed to number 1.8 million. [cite web |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3933-2299410,00.html |title=We need imams who can speak to young Muslims in their own words |accessdate=2006-08-09 |date=2006-08-05 |publisher=The Times] Mosques are present in most regions: The biggest groups are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin. More recently, refugees from Somalia, Northern Cyprus, the Balkans and Arab countries have increased Britain's Muslim population. The 2006 controversy over the burqa, brought up in comments by politician Jack Straw, reflects a split between some Britons questioning Muslim integration with British society, and others who believe that wearing the veil is compatible with it, in Britain. [cite web |url=http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/10/07/uk.straw/ |title=Veil: British papers back Straw |accessdate=2006-05-11 |date=2006-07-10 |publisher=CNN]

Religions of Indian origin, such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are followed in Britain. As of the 2001 census, there are about 560,000 Hindus and 340,000 Sikhs. Buddhism is practised by about 150,000 people. [cite web |url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/uk.asp |title=Census 2001 - Profiles |accessdate=2007-01-27 |publisher=Office for National Statistics] It is likely that these figures have increased since 2001. One non-governmental organisation estimates that there are 800,000 Hindus in the UK. [cite web |url=http://hinduism.iskcon.com/tradition/1212.htm |title=Hinduism in Britain today |publisher=International Society for Krishna Consciousness |accessdate=2007-04-22] Leicester houses one of the world's few Jain temples that are outside of India.

There are approximately 270,000 Jews in Britain, according to the 2001 census. [cite web |url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/uk.asp |title=Census 2001 - Profiles |accessdate=2007-12-02 |publisher=Office for National Statistics]

The United Kingdom has a large and growing atheist and agnostic population with 9.1 million (15% of the UK population) claiming no religion in the 2001 census. [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=6590 Religion: 2001 Census] National Statistics website.]


The UK economy is made up (in descending order of size) of the economies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Based on market exchange rates, the United Kingdom is today the fifth largest economy in the world [cite web |url=http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2006/01/data/dbcoutm.cfm?SD=2005&ED=2005&R1=1&R2=1&CS=3&SS=2&OS=C&DD=0&OUT=1&C=512-941-914-446-612-666-614-672-311-946-213-137-911-962-193-674-122-676-912-548-313-556-419-678-513-181-316-682-913-684-124-273-339-921-638-948-514-686-218-688-963-518-616-728-223-558-516-138-918-353-748-196-618-278-522-692-622-694-156-142-624-449-626-564-628-283-228-853-924-288-233-293-632-566-636-964-634-182-238-453-662-968-960-922-423-714-935-862-128-716-611-456-321-722-243-965-248-718-469-724-253-576-642-936-643-961-939-813-644-199-819-184-172-524-132-361-646-362-648-364-915-732-134-366-652-734-174-144-328-146-258-463-656-528-654-923-336-738-263-578-268-537-532-742-944-866-176-369-534-744-536-186-429-925-178-746-436-926-136-466-343-112-158-111-439-298-916-927-664-846-826-299-542-582-443-474-917-754-544-698&S=NGDPD&CMP=0&x=31&y=8 |title=Report for Selected Countries and Subjects |publisher=International Monetary Fund |date=2005 |accessdate=2006-05-15] and the second largest in Europe after Germany.

The Industrial Revolution started in the United Kingdom with an initial concentration on heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, steel production, and textiles. The empire created an overseas market for British products, allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. However, as other nations industrialised, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its competitive advantage and heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy, but accounted for only one-sixth of national output in 2003. [cite web |url=http://www.dti.gov.uk/ministers/speeches/hewitt150704b.html |title=TUC Manufacturing Conference |author=Patricia Hewitt |publisher=Department for Trade and Industry |date=2004-07-15 |accessdate=2006-05-16] The British motor industry is a significant part of this sector, although it has diminished with the collapse of the MG Rover Group and most of the industry is foreign owned. Civil and defence aircraft production is led by the United Kingdom's largest aerospace firm, BAE Systems, and the continental European firm EADS, the owner of Airbus. Rolls-Royce holds a major share of the global aerospace engines market. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is strong in the UK, with the world's second and sixth largest pharmaceutical firms (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, respectively) [cite web |url=http://www.dti.gov.uk/sectors/biotech/pharmaceutical/page10219.html |title=The Pharmaceutical sector in the UK |accessdate=2007-02-27 |publisher=Department of Trade and Industry] being based in the UK.

The UK service sector, however, has grown substantially, and now makes up about 73% of GDP. [cite web |date=2006-04-26 |url=http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/Product.asp?vlnk=9333 |title=Index of Services (experimental) |publisher=Office for National Statistics |accessdate=2006-05-24] The service sector is dominated by financial services, especially in banking and insurance. London is the world's largest financial centre with the London Stock Exchange, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, and the Lloyd's of London insurance market all based in the City of London. London is a major centre for international business and commerce and is the leader of the three "command centres" for the global economy (along with New York City and Tokyo). [cite book|author=Sassen, Saskia|title=The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo|year=2001|publisher=Princeton University Press|edition=2nd edition] It has the largest concentration of foreign bank branches in the world. In the past decade, a rival financial centre in London has grown in the Docklands area, with HSBC and Barclays Bank relocating their head offices there. Many multinational companies that are not primarily UK-based have chosen to site their European or rest-of-world headquarters in London: an example is the US financial services firm Citigroup. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, has one of the large financial centres of Europe [cite web |url=http://www.marklazarowicz.org.uk/parliament/speeches2003/4.30(WH).htm |title=Debate on Scottish financial services industry |first=Mark |last=Lazarowicz (Labour MP) |date=2003-04-30 |accessdate=2006-05-16] and is the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, one of the world's largest banks.

Tourism is very important to the British economy. With over 27 million tourists arriving in 2004, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world. [PDFlink| [http://www.world-tourism.org/facts/eng/pdf/highlights/2005_eng_high.pdf International Tourism Receipts] |1.10 MiB . UNWTO Tourism Highlights, Edition 2005 Page 12. World Tourism Organisation. Retrieved on 24 May 2006] London, by a considerable margin, is the most visited city in the world with 15.6 million visitors in 2006, ahead of 2nd placed Bangkok (10.4 million visitors) and 3rd placed Paris (9.7 million). [cite news|url=http://www.euromonitor.com/Top_150_City_Destinations_London_Leads_the_Way|title=Top 150 city destinations: London leads the way|first=Caroline|last=Bremner|publisher=Euromonitor International|date-2007-10-11|accessdate=2008-08-28]

The creative industries accounted for 7.3% GVA in 2004 and grew at an average of 5% per annum between 1997 and 2004. [cite web |date=2007-03-09 |url=http://www.culture.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/70156235-8AB8-48F9-B15B-78A326A8BFC4/0/CreativeIndustriesEconomicEstimates2006.pdf |title=Creative Industries Economic Estimates |publisher=DCMS |accessdate=2007-03-09]

The United Kingdom's agriculture sector accounts for only 0.9% of the country's GDP. [cite web |date=2005-02-28 |url=http://www.travlang.com/factbook/print/uk.html |title=CIA World Factbook - United Kingdom |publisher=CIA |accessdate=2007-02-08]

The UK has a small coal reserve along with significant, yet continuously declining [cite web |date=2006-11-30 |url=http://europe.theoildrum.com/story/2006/11/19/135819/75 |title=The architecture of UK offshore oil production in relation to future production models |publisher=The Oil Drum |accessdate=2008-08-27] natural gas and oil reserves. Over 400 million tonnes of proven coal reserves have been identified in the UK.cite web|title=Coal Around the World|author=UK Coal|url=http://www.ukcoal.com/coal-around-the-world
accessdate=2008-09-23|publisher=UK Coal|year=2007|work=UK Coal website
] In 2004, total UK coal consumption (including imports) was 61 million tonnes,cite web|title=Chapter 2: Long term trendsSolid fuels and derived gases|author=UK Coal|url=http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file19261.pdf
accessdate=2008-09-23|publisher=Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform|year=2008|work=BERR website
] allowing the UK to be self sufficient in coal for just over 6.5 years, although at present extraction rates it would take 20 years to mine. An alternative to coal-fired electricity generation is underground coal gasification (UCG). UGC involves injecting steam and oxygen down a borehole, which extracts gas from the coal and draws the mixture to the surface - a potentially very low carbon method of exploiting coal. Identified onshore areas that have the potential for UGC amount to between 7 billion tonnes and 16 billion tonnes.cite web|title=Coal Reserves in the United Kingdom|author=The Coal Authority|url=http://www.coal.gov.uk/media//860AD/Response%20to%20Energy%20Review%20-%20Appendix%202.pdf|accessdate=2008-09-23|publisher=The Coal Authority|year=2007|work=Response to Energy Review] Based on current UK coal consumption, these volumes represent reserves that could last the UK between 200 and 400 years.cite web|title=BBC News England Expert predicts 'coal revolution'|author=BBC|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7046981.stm|accessdate=2008-09-23|publisher=BBC|dater=2007-10-16|work=BBC News website]

Government involvement throughout the economy is exercised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (currently Alistair Darling) who heads HM Treasury, but the Prime Minister (currently "The Rt Hon" Gordon Brown MP), is First Lord of the Treasury; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Second Lord of the Treasury. In recent years, the UK economy has been managed in accordance with principles of market liberalisation and low taxation and regulation. Since 1997, the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, headed by the Governor of the Bank of England, has been responsible for setting interest rates at the level necessary to achieve the overall inflation target for the economy that is set by the Chancellor each year. [ [http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/about/more_about.htm More About the Bank] www.bankofengland.co.uk, accessed 8 August 2008 ] The Scottish Government, subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, has the power to vary the basic rate of income tax payable in Scotland by plus or minus 3 pence in the pound, though this power has not yet been exercised.

As of 2007, United Kingdom's government debt rose to 43.3% of GDP. [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uk.html#Econ United Kingdom - Economy] CIA - The World Factbook]

The UK economy did not grow at all in the second quarter of 2008 and is forecast by the OECD to be in recession by the end of the year. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7592660.stm UK recession this year, OECD says] BBC News, September 2, 2008 ]

The currency of the UK is the pound sterling, represented by the symbol £. The Bank of England is the central bank, responsible for issuing currency. Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland retain the right to issue their own notes, subject to retaining enough Bank of England notes in reserve to cover the issue. The UK chose not to join the euro at the currency's launch, and the British Prime Minister, "The Rt Hon" Gordon Brown MP, has ruled out membership for the foreseeable future, saying that the decision not to join had been right for Britain and for Europe. [cite web |date=2007-07-24 |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2127640.ece |title=Puritanism comes too naturally for 'Huck' Brown |publisher=Times Online |accessdate=2007-07-24] The government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair had pledged to hold a public referendum for deciding membership should "five economic tests" be met. In 2005, more than half (55%) of the UK were against adopting the currency, while 30% were in favour. [cite web |date=2005-02-28 |url=http://www.mori.com/polls/2005/citigroup-feb.shtml |title=EMU Entry And EU Constitution |publisher=MORI |accessdate=2006-05-17]


Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales having separate systems.

Education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, though the day to day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of Local Education Authorities. Universal state education in England and Wales was introduced for primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900. [cite web |url=http://www.humana.org/Article.asp?TxtID=223&SubMenuItemID=183&MenuItemID=43 |title=United Kingdom |publisher=Humana |accessdate=2006-05-18] Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August). The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, only a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. Despite a fall in actual numbers, the proportion of children in England attending private schools has risen to over 7%. [cite web |url=http://education.guardian.co.uk/publicschools/story/0,,2208553,00.html |title=Private school pupil numbers in decline] |publisher=Guardian |date=2007-11-09] Just over half of students at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford had attended state schools. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6905288.stm |title=More state pupils in universities |publisher=BBC News |date=2007-07-19] State schools which are allowed to select pupils according to intelligence and academic ability can achieve comparable results to the most selective private schools: out of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 two were state-run grammar schools. England has some of the top universities in the world; Cambridge, Oxford, and London are ranked among the top 20 in the 2007 THES - QS World University Rankings. [cite web|url=http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/hybrid.asp?typeCode=144|title=The top 200 world universities|publisher="Times Higher Education"|date=2007-11-09|accessdate=2008-02-19] There are fears, however, that a decline in the number of English students studying a foreign language will have a negative effect on business, which has led to calls for languages to be given greater priority. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4442223.stm|title=news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4442223.stm ] [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6960432.stm|title=news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6960432.stm ]

Education in Scotland is the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, with day to day administration and funding of state schools the responsibility of Local Authorities. Two non-departmental public bodies have key roles in Scottish education: the Scottish Qualifications Authority is responsible for the development, accreditation, assessment and certification of qualifications other than degrees which are delivered at secondary schools, post-secondary colleges of further education and other centres; [ [http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/5656.html About SQA] sqa.org.uk, accessed 7 October, 2008] and Learning and Teaching Scotland provides advice, resources and staff development to the education community to promote curriculum development and create a culture of innovation, ambition and excellence. [ [http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/aboutlts/index.asp About Learning and Teaching Scotland] ltscotland.org.uk, accessed 7 October, 2008] Scotland first legislated for compulsory education in 1496. [ [http://www.scotland.org/about/innovation-and-creativity/features/education/e_brain_drain.html Brain drain in reverse] scotland.org, accessed 7 October, 2008] The proportion of children in Scotland attending private schools is just over 4%, although it has been rising slowly in recent years. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6563167.stm |title=Increase in private school intake |publisher=BBC News |date=2007-04-17] Scottish students who attend Scottish universities pay neither tuition fees nor graduate endowment charges as the fees were abolished in 2001 and the graduate endowment scheme was abolished in 2008. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7268101.stm MSPs vote to scrap endowment fee] BBC News, 28 February 2008]

Education in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Minister for Education, currently Caitríona Ruane (Sinn Féin), [http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/your-government/devolved-government.htm Northern Ireland Executive] although responsibility at a local level is administered by five Education and Library Boards, covering different geographical areas. The 'Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) is the body responsible for advising the government on what should be taught in Northern Ireland's schools, monitoring standards and awarding qualifications. [ [http://www.ccea.org.uk/ About Us - What we do] ccea.org.uk, accessed 7 October, 2008]

The National Assembly for Wales has responsibility for education in Wales. A significant number of Welsh students are taught either wholly or largely in the Welsh language; lessons in Welsh are compulsory for all until the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh Medium schools as part of the policy of having a fully bi-lingual Wales.

The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked the UK 14th in science, which was higher than the OECD average. [http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/42/8/39700724.pdf]


Healthcare in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter and England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have separate systems with different policies and priorities [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7586147.stm 'Huge contrasts' in devolved NHS] BBC News, 28 August 2008 ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7149423.stm NHS now four different systems] BBC 2 January 2008] though the degree of co-operation usually conceals the difference from cross-border users of the services. The four systems provide public healthcare to all UK permanent residents that is free at the point of need and paid for from general taxation. A much smaller private medical system also exists. Various regulatory bodies are organised on a UK-wide basis such as the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and non-governmental-based (e.g. Royal Colleges). Across the UK, there is a large number of medical schools and dental schools, and a considerable establishment for training nurses and professions allied to medicine.

Healthcare in England is mainly provided by the National Health Service which today covers just England though originally it covered England and Wales. It was set up by the National Health Service Act 1946 that came into effect on 5 July 1948. The Department of Health exists to improve the health and wellbeing of people in England, [ [http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Aboutus/index.htm About the Department of Health] dh.gov.uk, accessed 5 October, 2008] and the Secretary of State for Health is answerable to the UK Parliament for the its work and for the work of the NHS. England's NHS is one of the largest cohesive organisations of any type in the world employing over 1.3 million people. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6450303.stm |title=NHS workforce 'falls by 11,000' |publisher=BBC News, |date=2007-03-14] Public sector healthcare delivery consists of primary (general practice), secondary (district general hospital) and tertiary (teaching hospital) levels of service. There is considerable interaction and cross-flow between the various levels. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, advises on whether drugs or treatments should be provided by the NHS in England and Wales.

Healthcare in Scotland is mainly provided by NHS Scotland, Scotland's public healthcare system. The service was founded by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 (later repealed by the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978) that took effect on 5 July 1948 to coincide with the launch of the NHS in England and Wales. However, even prior to 1948, half of Scotland's landmass was already covered by state funded healthcare, provided by the Highlands and Islands Medical Service. [ [http://www.60yearsofnhsscotland.co.uk/history/birth-of-nhs-scotland/highlands-and-islands-medical-service.html Highlands and Islands Medical Service (HIMS)] www.60yearsofnhsscotland.co.uk, accessed 28 July 2008] In 2006, NHS Scotland employed around 158,000 staff including more than 47,500 nurses, midwives and health visitors and over 3,800 consultants. In addition, there were also more than 12,000 doctors, family practitioners and allied health professionals, including dentists, opticians and community pharmacists, who operate as independent contractors providing a range of services within the NHS in return for fees and allowances. [ [http://www.show.scot.nhs.uk/introduction.aspx About the NHS in Scotland] NHS Scotland] The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing is responsible to the Scottish Parliament for the work of NHS Scotland.

Healthcare in Wales is mainly provided by NHS Wales. Originally formed as part of the same NHS structure created by the National Health Service Act 1946, power over the NHS in Wales was transferred to the Secretary of State for Wales in 1969. [ [http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?pid=11595&orgid=452 Introduction to NHS Wales 1960s] www.wales.nhs.uk ] In turn, responsibility for NHS Wales was passed to the Welsh Assembly and Executive under devolution in 1999. NHS Wales provides public healthcare in Wales and employs some 90,000 staff, making it Wales’ biggest employer. [ [http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?pid=11590&orgid=452 Introduction to NHS Wales - Staff] www.wales.nhs.uk ] The Minister for Health and Social Services is the person within the Welsh Assembly Government who holds cabinet responsibilities for both health and social care in Wales.

Healthcare in Northern Ireland is mainly provided by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.


The Highways Agency is the executive agency responsible for trunk roads and motorways in England apart from the privately owned and operated M6 Toll. [ [http://www.m6toll.co.uk/faqs/default.asp?mainmenuid=6 M6Toll Frequently asked questions] www.m6toll.co.uk, accessed 13 July 2008] The Department for Transport states that traffic congestion is one of the most serious transport problems and that it could cost England an extra £22 billion in wasted time by 2025 if left unchecked. [ cite web
title = Tackling congestion on our roads
url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/roadcongestion/
publisher = Department for Transport
] According to the government-sponsored Eddington report of 2006, congestion is in danger of harming the economy, unless tackled by road pricing and expansion of the transport network. [ cite web
title = Delivering choice and reliability
url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/speeches/congestion
publisher = Department for Transport
] [ cite web
title = The Eddington Transport Study
author = Rod Eddington
year = 2006
month = December
url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/eddingtonstudy/
publisher = UK Treasury

The Scottish transport network is the responsibility of the Scottish Government's Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department with Transport Scotland being the Executive Agency that is accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth for Scotland's trunk roads and rail networks. [ [http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/ Transport Scotland - Keeping Scotland moving] www.transportscotland.gov.uk, accessed 1 July 2008 ] Scotland's rail network has around 340 railway stations and 3,000 kilometres of track with over 62 million passenger journeys made each year. [ [http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/rail Transport Scotland - Rail] www.transportscotland.gov.uk, accessed 10 July 2008]

Across the UK, there is a radial road network of convert|46904|km|mi|0 of main roads with a motorway network of convert|3497|km|mi|0. There are a further convert|213750|km|mi|0 of paved roads. The rail network of 16,116 km (10,072 miles) in Great Britain and 303 route km (189 route mi) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger trains and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks are well developed in London and other cities. There was once over 48,000 route km (30,000 route mi) of rail network in the UK, however most of this was reduced over a time period from 1955 to 1975, much of it after a report by a government advisor Richard Beeching in the mid 1960s (known as the Beeching Axe). Plans are now being considered to built new high speed lines by 2025. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7467203.stm Major new rail lines considered] BBC News, 21 June 2008 ]

Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest international airport and, being an island country, the UK has a considerable number of sea ports.


Many major sports originated in the United Kingdom, including Association football, rugby, cricket, tennis and golf. A poll found that football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom. [ [http://www.ipsos-mori.com/sport/sports-tracker-05.pdf MORI Sports Tracker 1996-2005 ] ]

Internationally, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland compete separately in most team sports, as well as at the Commonwealth Games, and in sporting contexts the four can be referred to collectively as the Home Nations. There are national sports teams representing the United Kingdom, including Great Britain national basketball team and Great Britain at the Olympics.


Each of the Home Nations has their own Football Association, national team and league system, though a few clubs play outside their country's respective systems for a variety of historical and logistical reasons. Football was developed in the UK and is comfortably the most popular sport.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries in international competition and, as a consequence, the UK does not compete as a single team in football events at the Olympic Games. There are proposals to have a UK team take part in the 2012 Summer Olympics but the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status - a fear confirmed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/football/7286011.stm|title=Blatter against British 2012 team|publisher=BBC News|date=2008-03-09|accessdate=2008-04-02] England has been the most successful of the home nations, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, although there has historically been a close-fought rivalry between England and Scotland.

The English football league system includes hundreds of inter-linked leagues, consisting of thousands of divisions. The Premiership at the top, is the most-watched football league in the world [ [http://www.watch-football.net/articles/premier_league.html Premier and Champions League history] watch-football.net, accessed 1 October, 2008] and is particularly popular in Asia. [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3207829.stm |title=Chinese phone maker's fancy footwork |publisher=BBC News |date=2003-10-27 |accessdate=2006-08-09] Below this, The Football League has three divisions and then the Football Conference has a national division and two feeder regional leagues. Thereafter the structure becomes increasing regional. England is home to world-renowned football clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal. English teams have been successful in European Competitions including some who have become European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (three times), Nottingham Forest (twice) and Aston Villa. More clubs from England have won the European Cup than any other country (four compared to three from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands). Moreover, England ranks second in the all time list of European club trophies won with 35, one behind Italy's 36. The European Cup competition itself came about as the result of the success of another English club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, against top European sides [http://galeb.etf.bg.ac.yu/~mirad/archive.html EuroCups Archive] in the 1950s. The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium is England's principal sporting stadium.

The Scottish football league system has two national leagues: the Scottish Premier League, the top division of play, and the Scottish Football League, which has three divisions. Below this, but not connected to the national leagues, are three regional leagues; the Highland Football League, the East of Scotland Football League and the South of Scotland Football League. One English club, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish system. Scotland is home to two world-renowned football clubs in the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers. Scottish teams that have been successful in European Competitions include Celtic (European Cup in 1967), Rangers (European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972) and Aberdeen (European Cup Winners' Cup and European Super Cup in 1983). Celtic were the first British club to win the European Cup.

The Welsh football league system includes the Welsh Premier League and regional leagues. Welsh Premiership club The New Saints play their home matches on the English side of the border in Oswestry. The Welsh clubs of Cardiff City, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Swansea City and Wrexham play in the English system. Cardiff's 76,250 seater Millennium Stadium is the principal sporting stadium of Wales.

The Northern Ireland football league system includes the IFA Premiership. One Northern Irish club, Derry City, play their football outside of the UK in the Republic of Ireland football league system.

Other sports

Rugby union is organised on a separate basis for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with each having a league system and an international team, though every four years a British and Irish Lions team tours Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, composed of players selected from all the Home nations. While England has won the Rugby Union World Cup, in 2003, Wales has achieved a best of third place and Scotland a best of fourth place. Ireland has not progressed beyond the quarter finals. Rugby league originates from and is generally played in the Northern England and a single 'Great Britain' team had competed in the Rugby League World Cup but this will change in 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland will compete as separate nations. [ [http://www.rlwc08.com/ Official Website of Rugby League World Cup 2008] ]

Cricket was invented in England and the England cricket team, controlled by the England and Wales Cricket Board, [ [http://www.ecb.co.uk/ecb/about-ecb/ About ECB] www.ecb.co.uk, accessed 4 August 2008 ] is the only national team in the UK with Test status. Team members are drawn from the main county sides, and include both English and Welsh players. Cricket is distinct from Football and Rugby where Wales and England field separate national teams. Irish and Scottish players have played for England because neither Scotland nor Ireland have Test status and have only recently started to play in One Day Internationals. Scotland, England (and Wales), and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) have competed at the Cricket World Cup, with England reaching the Final three times. There is a professional league championship in which clubs representing 17 English counties and 1 Welsh county compete.

Snooker is also one of Great Britain's sporting exports. A game similar to billiards, the world championships are held annually in Sheffield. The sport continues to expand worldwide, with huge growth in China.

The game of tennis first originated from the City of Birmingham between 1859 and 1865. The Championships, Wimbledon are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are regarded as the most prestigious event of the global tennis calendar.

Thoroughbred racing is popular throughout the UK. It originated under Charles II of England as the "Sport of Kings" and is a royal pastime to this day. World-famous horse races include the Grand National, the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot. The town of Newmarket is considered the centre of English racing, largely due to the famous Newmarket Racecourse.

The UK has proved successful in the international sporting arena in rowing. It is widely considered that the sport's most successful rower is Steve Redgrave who won five gold medals and one bronze medal at five consecutive Olympic Games as well as numerous wins at the World Rowing Championships and Henley Royal Regatta.

Golf is one of the most popular participation sports played in the UK, with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, in Scotland, being the sport's home course.

Shinty (or "camanachd") is popular in the Scottish Highlands, sometimes attracting crowds numbering thousands in the most sparsely populated region of the UK, especially to watch the final of its premier tournament, the Camanachd Cup. [ [http://www.scottishsport.co.uk/othersports/shinty.htm Shinty] scottishsport.co.uk, accessed 2 October, 2008]

The UK is closely associated with motorsport. Many teams and drivers in Formula One (F1) are based in the UK and drivers from Britain have won more world titles than any other country. The country hosts legs of the F1 and World Rally Championship and has its own touring car racing championship, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone each July.

Dancesport or competitive Ballroom dancing has its origins in the UK when popular dancing at the time was codified by British dance schools from the 1920s onwards. For example, the Slow Waltz is still known as the English Waltz which is now as distinct from its original roots as its name, the Viennese Waltz. The UK remains a major centre for the sport and Ballroom dancing in general with the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool being a popular venue for major competitions.


The culture of the United Kingdom—British culture—is informed by the UK's history as a developed island country, monarchy, imperial power and, particularly, as a political union of four countries, which each have their own preserved and distinctive heritage, customs and symbolism. As a result of the British Empire, British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies such as Canada, Australia, India, and the United States.


The United Kingdom has been influential in the development of cinema, with the Ealing Studios claiming to be the oldest studios in the world. Despite a history of important and successful productions, the industry is characterised by an ongoing debate about its identity, and the influences of American and European cinema. Particularly between British and American film, many films are often co-produced or share actors with many British actors now featuring regularly in Hollywood films. The BFI Top 100 British films is a poll conducted by the British Film Institute which ranks what they consider to be the 100 greatest British films of all time.


'British literature' refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as well as to literature from England, Wales and Scotland prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. Most British literature is in the English language.

The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest dramatist of all time. [cite web |url=http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9109536 |title=Encyclopedia Britannica article on Shakespeare |accessdate=2006-02-26] [cite web |url=http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761562101/Shakespeare.html |title=MSN Encarta Encyclopedia article on Shakespeare |accessdate=2006-02-26] [cite web |url=http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/Shakespeare,+William |title=Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia article on Shakespeare |accessdate=2006-02-26] Among the earliest English writers are Geoffrey of Monmouth (12th century), Geoffrey Chaucer (14th century), and Thomas Malory (15th century). In the 18th century, Samuel Richardson is often credited with inventing the modern novel. In the 19th century, there followed further innovation by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, the social campaigner Charles Dickens, the naturalist Thomas Hardy, the visionary poet William Blake and romantic poet William Wordsworth. Twentieth century writers include the science fiction novelist H. G. Wells, the controversial D. H. Lawrence, the modernist Virginia Woolf, the prophetic novelist George Orwell and the poet John Betjeman. Most recently, the children's fantasy Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling has recalled the popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Scotland's contribution includes the detective writer Arthur Conan Doyle, romantic literature by Sir Walter Scott and the epic adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson. It has also produced the celebrated poet Robert Burns, as well as William McGonagall, regarded by many as one of the world's worst. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/31/AR2007073101696.html How to Celebrate 'The World's Worst Poet'?] washingtonpost.com, 1 August, 2007] More recently, the modernist and nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn contributed to the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks. Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, is UNESCO's first worldwide city of literature. [ [http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=27852&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html Edinburgh, UK appointed first UNESCO City of Literature] unesco.org, accessed 20 August 2008]

In the early medieval period, Welsh writers composed the Mabinogion. In modern times, the poets R. S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas have brought Welsh culture to an international audience.

Authors from other nationalities, particularly from Ireland, or from Commonwealth countries, have lived and worked in the UK. Significant examples through the centuries include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, and more recently British authors born abroad such as Kazuo Ishiguro and Sir Salman Rushdie.

In theatre, Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson added depth. More recently Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism.


The prominence of the English language gives the UK media a widespread international dimension.


There are five major nationwide television channels in the UK: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Five - currently transmitted by analogue terrestrial, free-to-air signals with the latter three channels funded by commercial advertising. In Wales, S4C the Welsh Fourth Channel replaces Channel 4, carrying Welsh language programmes at peak times. It also transmits Channel 4 programmes at other times.

The BBC is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates several television channels and radio stations in both the UK and abroad. The BBC's international television news service, BBC World News, is broadcast throughout the world and the BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in thirty-three languages globally, as well as services in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru and programmes in Gaelic on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland.

The domestic services of the BBC are funded by the television licence, a legal requirement for any British household with a television receiver that is in use to receive broadcasts, regardless of whether or not the householders watch BBC channels. Households which are the principal residence of any person over 75 are exempt [cite web|url=http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/information/agedover74s.jsp|title=TV licensing: aged over 74] and the requirement does not extend to radio listeners. The BBC World Service Radio is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the television stations are operated by BBC Worldwide on a commercial subscription basis over cable and satellite services. It is this commercial arm of the BBC that forms half of UKTV along with Virgin Media.

The UK now has a large number of digital terrestrial channels including a further six from the BBC, five from ITV and three from Channel 4, and one from S4C which is solely in Welsh, among a variety of others.

The vast majority of digital cable television services are provided by Virgin Media with satellite television available from Freesat or British Sky Broadcasting and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview. The entire country will switch to digital by 2012.

Radio in the UK is dominated by BBC Radio, which operates ten national networks and over forty local radio stations. The most popular radio station, by number of listeners, is BBC Radio 2, closely followed by BBC Radio 1. There are hundreds of mainly local commercial radio stations across the country offering a variety of music or talk formats.


The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the United Kingdom is .uk.


Traditionally, British newspapers could be split into "quality", serious-minded newspaper (usually referred to as "broadsheets" due to their large size) and the more populist, "tabloid" varieties. For convenience of reading, many traditional broadsheets have switched to a more compact-sized format, traditionally used by tabloids. "The Sun" has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper in the UK, with approximately a quarter of the market; its sister paper, "The News of the World" similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market, [cite web |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,1782,00.html |title=ABC Newspaper Circulation Figures |publisher=The Times |date=2006-05-12 |accessdate=2006-05-16] and traditionally focuses on celebrity-led stories. "The Daily Telegraph", a right wing broadsheet paper, has overtaken "The Times" (tabloid size format) as the highest-selling of the "quality" newspapers. [cite web |url=http://www.abc.org.uk/
title=Audit Bureau of Circulation Interactive Analysis National Newspaper Selection - Average Net Circulation (UK) 03-Jul-2006 to 30-Jul-2006 | accessdate=2006-09-04
Lists the circulation of "Daily Telegraph" as 844,929 and "The Times" as 620,456.
] "The Guardian" is a more liberal "quality" broadsheet. The "Financial Times" is the main business paper, printed on distinctive salmon-pink broadsheet paper.

First printed in 1737, the "Belfast News Letter" is the oldest known English-language daily newspaper still in publication today. One of its fellow Northern Irish competitors, "The Irish News", has been twice ranked as the best regional newspaper in the United Kingdom, in 2006 and 2007. [cite web |url=http://www.newspaperawards.co.uk/default.htm |title=The Newspaper Awards |accessdate=2007-05-19]

Aside from newspapers, British magazines and journals have achieved worldwide circulation including "The Economist" and "Nature".

Scotland has a distinct tradition of newspaper readership (see list of newspapers in Scotland). The tabloid "Daily Record" has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper outselling the "Scottish Sun" by four to one while its sister paper, the "Sunday Mail" similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market. The leading "quality" daily newspaper in Scotland is "The Herald", though it is the sister paper of "The Scotsman", the "Scotland on Sunday", that leads in the Sunday newspaper market. [ [http://www.business7.co.uk/business-news/breaking-business-news/2008/02/11/scottish-newspaper-readership-falls-97298-20316075/ Scottish newspaper readership falls] Business7, 11 February 2008]


Various styles of music are popular, from Heavy metal to the ancient forms of folk music indigenous to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Glasgow's contribution was recognised in 2008 when it was named a United Nations City of Music, one of only three cities in the world to have this honour. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7570915.stm Glasgow gets city of music honour] bbc.co.uk, accessed 20 August 2008 ]

Prominent among the UK contributors to the development of rock music in the 1960s and 1970s were The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Slade, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2245820.stm Honorary award for glam rockers] BBC News, 9 September, 2002 ] Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, and Black Sabbath. Heavy metal, hard rock, punk rock and New Wave were among the variations that followed. In the early 1980s, UK bands from the New Romantic scene such as Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, Soft Cell and Ultravox were prominent. In the 1990s, Britpop bands and electronica music attained international success. More recent pop acts, including The Smiths, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Coldplay, and the Spice Girls, have ensured the continuation of the UK's massive contribution to popular music.

Notable composers of Classical music from the United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it have included William Byrd, Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Benjamin Britten, pioneer of modern British opera.


The United Kingdom is famous for the tradition of "British Empiricism", a branch of the philosophy of knowledge that states that only knowledge verified by experience is valid. The most famous philosophers of this tradition are John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. Britain is notable for a theory of moral philosophy, Utilitarianism, first used by Jeremy Bentham and later by John Stuart Mill, in his short work "Utilitarianism". Other eminent philosophers from the UK and the countries that preceded it include Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Thomas Hobbes, Bertrand Russell, Adam Smith and Alfred Ayer. Foreign-born philosophers who settled in the UK include Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx, Karl Popper, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Science, engineering and innovation

The United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it have produced scientists and engineers credited with important advances, including;
* The modern scientific method, developed by English philosopher Francis Bacon
* The laws of motion and illumination of gravity, by English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian, Sir Isaac Newton
* The unification of electromagnetism, by James Clerk Maxwell
* The discovery of hydrogen, by Henry Cavendish
* The steam locomotive, by Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian
* The world's first working television system, by Scottish engineer and inventor John Logie Baird
* Evolution by natural selection, by Charles Darwin
* The Turing machine, by Alan Turing, the basis of modern computers
* The structure of DNA, by Francis Crick and others
* The development of the World Wide Web, largely attributed to Tim Berners-Lee
* The discovery of penicillin, by Scottish biologist and pharmacologist, Sir Alexander Fleming

Notable civil engineering projects, whose pioneers included Isambard Kingdom Brunel, contributed to the world's first national railway transport system. Other advances pioneered in the UK include the marine chronometer, the jet engine, the modern bicycle, electric lighting, the electric motor, the screw propeller, the internal combustion engine, military radar, the electronic computer, vaccination and antibiotics.

Scientific journals produced in the UK include "Nature", the "British Medical Journal" and "The Lancet". In 2006, it was reported that the UK provided 9% of the world's scientific research papers and a 12% share of citations, the second highest in the world after the US. [cite web |url=http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/research/story/0,,1736095,00.html |title=Britain second in world research rankings |publisher=The Guardian |date=2006-03-21 |accessdate=2006-05-14]

Visual art

The Royal Academy is located in London. Other major schools of art include the Slade School of Fine Art; the six-school University of the Arts London, which includes the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Chelsea College of Art and Design; the Glasgow School of Art, and Goldsmiths, University of London. This commercial venture is one of Britain's foremost visual arts organisations. Major British artists include Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, William Blake, J. M. W. Turner, William Morris, L. S. Lowry, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Gilbert and George, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, Howard Hodgkin, Antony Gormley, and Anish Kapoor. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the Saatchi Gallery in London brought to public attention a group of multigenre artists who would become known as the Young British Artists. Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Rachel Whiteread, Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Wood, and the Chapman Brothers are among the better known members of this loosely affiliated movement.


* The flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Flag. It was created by the superimposition of the flags of England (St George's Cross) and Scotland (Saint Andrew's Cross), with Saint Patrick's cross, to represent Ireland, being added to this in 1801. Wales is not represented in the Union Flag as Wales had been conquered and annexed to England prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. However, the possibility of redesigning the Union Flag to include representation of Wales has not been completely ruled out. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7114248.stm Welsh dragon call for Union flag] BBC News, 27 November 2007 ]

* The national anthem of the United Kingdom is "God Save the King", with "King" replaced with "Queen" in the lyrics whenever the monarch is female. The anthem's name, however, remains "God Save the King".

* Britannia is a national personification of the United Kingdom, originating from the Roman occupation of southern and central Great Britain. [cite web |url=http://www.24carat.co.uk/britanniaframe.html |title=Britannia on British Coins |publisher=Chard |accessdate=2006-06-25] Britannia is symbolised as a young woman with brown or golden hair, wearing a Corinthian helmet and white robes. She holds Poseidon's three-pronged trident and a shield, bearing the Union Flag. Sometimes she is depicted as riding the back of a lion. At and since the height of the British Empire, Britannia has often associated with maritime dominance, as in the patriotic song "Rule, Britannia!".

* The lion symbol is depicted behind Britannia on the 50 pence piece and one is shown crowned on the back of the 10 pence piece. It is also used as a symbol on the non-ceremonial flag of the British Army.

* The bulldog is sometimes used as a symbol of the United Kingdom and has been associated with Winston Churchill's defiance of Nazi Germany.Fact|date=October 2008

Within the United Kingdom

There is no official National flag of Northern Ireland following the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 or any unofficial flag universally supported in Northern Ireland. The use of various flags in Northern Ireland is contentious. However, the Ulster Banner is often used for sporting events. See Northern Ireland flags issue and [http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/notes/snpc-04474.pdf The Union Flags and flags of the United Kingdom]

See also

Notes and references

External links

* [http://www.royal.gov.uk/ Official website of the British Monarchy]
* [http://www.direct.gov.uk/ Official website of the United Kingdom Government]
* [http://www.visitbritain.com/ Official tourist guide to Britain]
* [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/Product.asp?vlnk=5703 Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom]
* [http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page823.asp "Countries within a country"] from the [http://www.number-10.gov.uk Official Website of the British Prime Minister]
* [http://dataranking.com/country.cgi?LG=e&CO=29 Economic & Social Data Ranking/ United Kingdom]
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  • United Kingdom — of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vereinigtes Königreich Großbritannien und Nordirland …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom — Kingdom King dom, n. [AS. cyningd[=o]m. See 2d {King}, and { dom}.] 1. The rank, quality, state, or attributes of a king; royal authority; sovereign power; rule; dominion; monarchy. [1913 Webster] Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Ps. cxiv.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • United Kingdom — United King|dom, the a country in northwest Europe, officially called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, made up of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Population: 58,789,194 (2001). Capital: London. The name… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • United Kingdom — 1. country in W Europe, consisting of Great Britain & Northern Ireland: 93,636 sq mi (242,516 sq km); pop. 55,734,000; cap. London: in full United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2. country (1801 1921) consisting of Great Britain &… …   English World dictionary

  • United Kingdom — According to the Interpretation Act 1978, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Related links Great Britain UK Practical Law Dictionary. Glossary of UK, US and international legal terms. www.practicallaw.com …   Law dictionary

  • United Kingdom — attested from 1737 …   Etymology dictionary

  • United Kingdom — of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (country in northern Europe consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • United Kingdom — see Britain …   Modern English usage

  • United Kingdom — a kingdom in NW Europe, consisting of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: formerly comprising Great Britain and Ireland 1801 1922. 58,610,182; 94,242 sq. mi. (244,100 sq. km). Cap.: London. Abbr.: U.K. Official name, United Kingdom of Great… …   Universalium

  • United Kingdom — <p></p> <p></p> Introduction ::United Kingdom <p></p> Background: <p></p> The United Kingdom has historically played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature… …   The World Factbook

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