The United Kingdom (UK) comprises four countries: England, Scotland and Wales (which collectively make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland (which is variously described as a country, province or region).
Within the United Kingdom, a unitary sovereign state, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution. The UK Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but not in general matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is conditional on co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland (see North/South Ministerial Council) and the British Government consults with the Government of Ireland to reach agreement on some non-devolved matters for Northern Ireland (see British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference). England, comprising the majority of the population and area of the United Kingdom, remains fully the responsibility of the UK Parliament centralised in London.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However the ISO list of the subdivisions of the UK, compiled by British Standards and the UK's Office for National Statistics, uses "country" to describe England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a "province" in the same lists. Each has separate national governing bodies for sports and compete separately in many international sporting competitions, including the Commonwealth Games. Northern Ireland also forms joint All-Island sporting bodies with the Republic of Ireland for most sports, including rugby union.
Historically, from 1801, following the Acts of Union, until 1921 the whole island of Ireland was a country within the UK. Ireland was split into two separate jurisdictions in 1921: Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland left the United Kingdom under the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922.
|Countries of the United Kingdom|
|Found in||Legal jurisdictions|
|Possible status||NUTS 1 region (3)|
European constituency (3)
Legal jurisdiction (2)
|Additional status||Home Nations|
|Government||Devolved legislature (3)|
|England||London||none1||none2||English law||England and Wales|
|Northern Ireland||none3||Belfast||Northern Ireland Assembly||Northern Ireland Executive||Northern Ireland law, Irish land law||Northern Ireland|
|Scotland||Edinburgh||Scottish Parliament||Scottish Government||Scots law||Scotland|
|Wales||Cardiff||National Assembly for Wales||Welsh Government||English law, Welsh law||England and Wales|
|United Kingdom||London||UK Parliament||UK Government||UK administrative law||United Kingdom|
1 The UK Parliament makes all English legislation, whilst the London Assembly scrutinizes the Mayor of London.
2 The UK Government, the Mayor of London and their Mayoral cabinet, Metro Mayors and combined authorities, and the councils of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly exercise executive power in England.
3 The former flag of Northern Ireland, the Ulster Banner, is still used in some sport-related contexts.
(per km²; 2011)
|GVA per capita*|
|Northern Ireland||1,851,600||3%||13,562||6%||130.81||34 billion||2%||18,584|
|United Kingdom||65,110,000||100%||242,509||100%||259.16||1,666 billion||100%||25,351|
*Gross value added. Figures for GVA do not include oil and gas revenues generated beyond the UK's territorial waters, in the country's continental shelf region.
Various terms have been used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
|Constitutional documents and events relevant to the status of the United Kingdom and its constituent countries|
|Treaty of Union||1706|
|Acts of Union||1707|
|Wales and Berwick Act||1746|
|Acts of Union||1800|
|Government of Ireland Act||1920|
|Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act||1927|
|Statute of Westminster||1931|
|United Nations Act||1946|
|EC Treaty of Accession||1972|
|NI (Temporary Provisions) Act||1972|
|European Communities Act||1972|
|Local Government Act||1972|
|Local Government (Scotland) Act||1973|
|NI Border Poll||1973|
|NI Constitution Act||1973|
|EC Membership Referendum||1975|
|Scottish Devolution Referendum||1979|
|Welsh Devolution Referendum||1979|
|Local Government (Wales) Act||1994|
|Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act||1994|
|Referendums (Scotland & Wales) Act||1997|
|Scottish Devolution Referendum||1997|
|Welsh Devolution Referendum||1997|
|Good Friday Agreement||1998|
|Northern Ireland Act||1998|
|Government of Wales Act||1998|
|Human Rights Act||1998|
|Government of Wales Act||2006|
|Northern Ireland Act||2009|
|Welsh Devolution Referendum||2011|
|European Union Act||2011|
|Fixed-term Parliaments Act||2011|
|Scottish Independence Referendum||2014|
|European Union Referendum Act||2015|
|EU Membership Referendum||2016|
|EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act||2017|
|Invocation of Article 50||2017|
|European Union (Withdrawal) Act||2018|
|EU (Withdrawal) Act||2019|
The Interpretation Act 1978 provides statutory definitions of the terms "England", "Wales" and the "United Kingdom", but neither that Act nor any other current statute defines "Scotland" or "Northern Ireland". Use of the first three terms in other legislation is interpreted following the definitions in the 1978 Act. The definitions in the 1978 Act are listed below:
In the Scotland Act 1998 there is no delineation of Scotland, with the definition in section 126 simply providing that Scotland includes "so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to Scotland".
The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 refers to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as "parts" of the United Kingdom in the following clause: "Each constituency shall be wholly in one of the four parts of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)."
The Royal Fine Art Commission's 1847 report on decorating the Palace of Westminster referred to "the nationality of the component parts of the United Kingdom" being represented by their four respective patron saints.
"Regions": For purposes of NUTS 1 collection of statistical data in a format that is compatible with similar data that is collected elsewhere in the European Union, the United Kingdom has been divided into twelve regions of approximately equal size. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are regions in their own right while England has been divided into nine regions.
According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, there are broadly two interpretations of British identity, with ethnic and civic dimensions:
The first group, which we term the ethnic dimension, contained the items about birthplace, ancestry, living in Britain, and sharing British customs and traditions. The second, or civic group, contained the items about feeling British, respecting laws and institutions, speaking English, and having British citizenship.
Of the two perspectives of British identity, the civic definition has become the dominant idea and in this capacity, Britishness is sometimes considered an institutional or overarching state identity. This has been used to explain why first-, second- and third-generation immigrants are more likely to describe themselves as British, rather than English, Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh, because it is an "institutional, inclusive" identity, that can be acquired through naturalisation and British nationality law; the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom who are from an ethnic minority feel British. However, this attitude is more common in England than in Scotland or Wales; "white English people perceived themselves as English first and as British second, and most people from ethnic minority backgrounds perceived themselves as British, but none identified as English, a label they associated exclusively with white people". Contrariwise, in Scotland and Wales "there was a much stronger identification with each country than with Britain."
Studies and surveys have reported that the majority of the Scots and Welsh see themselves as both Scottish/Welsh and British though with some differences in emphasis. The Commission for Racial Equality found that with respect to notions of nationality in Britain, "the most basic, objective and uncontroversial conception of the British people is one that includes the English, the Scots and the Welsh". However, "English participants tended to think of themselves as indistinguishably English or British, while both Scottish and Welsh participants identified themselves much more readily as Scottish or Welsh than as British". Some people opted "to combine both identities" as "they felt Scottish or Welsh, but held a British passport and were therefore British", whereas others saw themselves as exclusively Scottish or exclusively Welsh and "felt quite divorced from the British, whom they saw as the English". Commentators have described this latter phenomenon as "nationalism", a rejection of British identity because some Scots and Welsh interpret it as "cultural imperialism imposed" upon the United Kingdom by "English ruling elites", or else a response to a historical misappropriation of equating the word "English" with "British", which has "brought about a desire among Scots, Welsh and Irish to learn more about their heritage and distinguish themselves from the broader British identity". The propensity for nationalistic feeling varies greatly across the UK, and can rise and fall over time.
The state-funded Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, part of a joint project between the University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast, has addressed the issue of identity in since it started polling in 1998. It reported that 37% of people identified as British, whilst 29% identified as Irish and 24% identified as Northern Irish. 3% opted to identify themselves as Ulster, whereas 7% stated 'other'. Of the two main religious groups, 68% of Protestants identified as British as did 6% of Catholics; 60% of Catholics identified as Irish as did 3% of Protestants. 21% of Protestants and 26% of Catholics identified as Northern Irish.
For Northern Ireland, however, the results of the Life & Times Survey are not the whole story. The poll asks for a single preference, whereas many people easily identify as any combination of British and Irish, or British, Northern Irish and Irish, or Irish and Northern Irish. The 2014 Life & Times Survey addressed this to an extent by choosing two of the options from the identity question: British and Irish. It found that, while 28% of respondents stated they felt "British not Irish" and 26% felt "Irish not British", 39% of respondents felt some combination of both identities. Six percent chose 'other description'.
The identity question is confounded further by identity with politics and religion, and particularly by a stance on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Again in 2014, the Life & Times Survey asked what respondents felt should be the "long term future for Northern Ireland". 66% of respondents felt the future should be as a part of the UK, with or without devolved government. 17% felt that Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic of Ireland. 50% of specifically Roman Catholics considered that the long-term future should be as part of the UK, with 32% opting for separation. 87% of respondents identifying as any Protestant denomination opted for remaining part of the UK, with only 4% opting for separation. Of those respondents who declared no religion, 62% opted for remaining part of the UK, with 9% opting for separation.
Following devolution and the significant broadening of autonomous governance throughout the UK in the late 1990s, debate has taken place across the United Kingdom on the relative value of full independence, an option that was rejected by the Scottish people in the Scottish independence referendum, 2014.
Cornwall is administered as a county of England, but the Cornish people are a recognised national minority, included under the terms of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2014.
Each of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales has separate national governing bodies for sports and competes separately in many international sporting competitions. Each country of the United Kingdom has a national football team, and competes as a separate national team in the various disciplines in the Commonwealth Games. At the Olympic Games, the United Kingdom is represented by the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, although athletes from Northern Ireland can choose to join the Republic of Ireland's Olympic team. In addition to Northern Ireland having its own national governing bodies for some sports such as Association football and Netball, for others, such as rugby union and cricket, Northern Ireland participates with the Republic of Ireland in a joint All-Ireland team. England and Wales field a joint cricket team.
The United Kingdom participates in the Eurovision Song Contest as a single entity, though there have been calls for separate and Scottish and Welsh entrants. In 2018, Wales participated alone in the spin-off "Choir of the Year", placing second.
One specific problem – in both general and particular senses – is to know what to call Northern Ireland itself: in the general sense, it is not a country, or a province, or a state – although some refer to it contemptuously as a statelet: the least controversial word appears to be jurisdiction, but this might change.
One problem must be adverted to in writing about Northern Ireland. This is the question of what name to give to the various geographical entities. These names can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences. ... some refer to Northern Ireland as a 'province'. That usage can arouse irritation particularly among nationalists, who claim the title 'province' should be properly reserved to the four historic provinces of Ireland-Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht. If I want to a label to apply to Northern Ireland I shall call it a 'region'. Unionists should find that title as acceptable as 'province': Northern Ireland appears as a region in the regional statistics of the United Kingdom published by the British government.
Next – what noun is appropriate to Northern Ireland? 'Province' won't do since one-third of the province is on the wrong side of the border. 'State' implies more self-determination than Northern Ireland has ever had and 'country' or 'nation' are blatantly absurd. 'Colony' has overtones that would be resented by both communities and 'statelet' sounds too patronizing, though outsiders might consider it more precise than anything else; so one is left with the unsatisfactory word 'region'.
In most sports, except soccer, Northern Ireland participates with the Republic of Ireland in a combined All-Ireland team.
This is a list of coats of arms of the United Kingdom, constituent parts, Crown dependencies and its overseas territories.British nationalism
British nationalism asserts that the British are a nation and promotes the cultural unity of Britons, in a definition of Britishness that may include people of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish descent (those living in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain and historically the whole of Ireland when it was within the United Kingdom). British nationalism is closely associated with British unionism, which seeks to uphold the political union that is the United Kingdom, or strengthen the links between the countries of the United Kingdom.British nationalism's unifying identity descends from the ancient Britons who dwelt on the island of Great Britain. British nationalism grew to include people outside Great Britain, in Ireland, because of the 1542 Crown of Ireland Act, which declared that the crown of Ireland was to be held by the ruling monarch of England as well as Anglo-Irish calls for unity with Britain.It is characterised as a "powerful but ambivalent force in British politics". In its moderate form, British nationalism has been a civic nationalism, emphasizing both cohesion and diversity of the people of the United Kingdom, its dependencies, and its former colonies. However, nativist nationalism has arisen based on fear of Britain being swamped by immigrants; this anti-immigrant nativist nationalism has manifested politically in the British National Party and other nativist nationalist movements. Politicians, such as former British prime minister David Cameron, have sought to promote British nationalism as a progressive cause.Citation of United Kingdom legislation
This article explains the citation of United Kingdom legislation, including the systems used for legislation passed by devolved parliaments and assemblies, for secondary legislation, and for prerogative instruments. This subject is relatively complex both due to the different sources of legislation in the United Kingdom, and because of the different histories of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom.Countries of the United Kingdom by GVA per capita
The countries of the United Kingdom by GVA per capita sets out the gross value added per capita (as of 2016) for each of the countries of the United Kingdom as well as separate figures for the nine English regions.Countries of the United Kingdom by population
The population of the countries and regions of the United Kingdom was last measured by census in 2011. and the Census organisations have produced population estimates for subsequent years by updating the census results with estimates of births, deaths and migration in each year. The census results, and the annual population estimates, summarised below show that England is by far the most populous country of the United Kingdom and its population is therefore also presented by region.
Population UK, Countries and Regions Feb 2017Economy of England
The economy of England is the largest economy of the four countries of the United Kingdom.
England is a highly industrialised country. It is an important producer of textiles and chemical products. Although automobiles, locomotives, and aircraft are among England's other important industrial products, a significant proportion of the country's income comes from the City of London. Since the 1990s, the financial services sector has played an increasingly significant role in the English economy and the City of London is one of the world's largest financial centres. Banks, insurance companies, commodity and futures exchanges are heavily concentrated in the City. The British pound sterling is the official currency of England and the central bank of the United Kingdom, the Bank of England, is located in London.
The service sector of the economy as a whole is now the largest in England, with manufacturing and primary industries in decline. The only major secondary industry that is growing is the construction industry, fueled by economic growth provided mainly by the growing services, administrative and financial sector.Education in the United Kingdom
Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter with each of the countries of the United Kingdom having separate systems under separate governments: the UK Government is responsible for England; whilst the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively.
For details of education in each region, see:
Education in England
Education in Northern Ireland
Education in Scotland
Education in WalesGeneral Certificate of Education
The General Certificate of Education (GCE) is a subject-specific family of academic qualifications that awarding bodies in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Crown dependencies and a few Commonwealth countries, notably Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore, confer on students. (The Scottish education system is different from those in the other countries of the United Kingdom).
The GCE is composed of three levels; they are, in increasing order of difficulty:
the Ordinary Level ("O Level");
the Advanced Subsidiary Level ("A1 Level" or "AS Level"), higher than the O Level, serving as a level in its own right, and functioning as a precursor to the full Advanced Level; and
Advanced Level ("A Level").Geography of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. With a total area of approximately 248,532 square kilometres (95,960 sq mi), the UK occupies the major part of the British Isles archipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and many smaller surrounding islands. The mainland areas lie between latitudes 49°N and 59°N (the Shetland Islands reach to nearly 61°N), and longitudes 8°W to 2°E. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, in South East London, is the defining point of the Prime Meridian.
The UK lies between the North Atlantic and the North Sea, and comes within 35 km (22 mi) of the north-west coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. It shares a 499 km international land boundary with the Republic of Ireland. The Channel Tunnel bored beneath the English Channel, now links the UK with France.
The British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are covered in their own respective articles, see below.Healthcare in Scotland
Healthcare in Scotland is mainly provided by Scotland's public health service, NHS Scotland. It provides healthcare to all permanent residents free at the point of need and paid for from general taxation. Health is a matter that is devolved, and considerable differences have developed between the public healthcare systems in the different countries of the United Kingdom. Though the public system dominates healthcare provision, private healthcare and a wide variety of alternative and complementary treatments are available for those willing to pay.Healthcare in Wales
Healthcare in Wales is mainly provided by the Welsh public health service, NHS Wales. NHS Wales provides healthcare to all permanent residents that is free at the point of need and paid for from general taxation. Health is a matter that is devolved, and considerable differences are now developing between the public healthcare systems in the different countries of the United Kingdom. Though the public system dominates healthcare provision, private health care and a wide variety of alternative and complementary treatments are available for those willing to pay.
The largest hospital in the country is the University Hospital of Wales hospital.Home Nations
The Home Nations, or Home Countries, refer collectively to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (countries of the United Kingdom), and in certain sports (e.g. rugby football and cricket) include the whole island of Ireland. The term "Home Nations" is used in this second sense partly because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have a unified association structure in certain sports, such as the Irish Rugby Football Union and Cricket Ireland. Formerly, the term was applied in general in this same wider sense, such as the period between 1801 and 1922, when the whole island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The synonymous "Home Countries" (not to be confused with the "home counties") is also sometimes used.The term has yet a third meaning in the context of British Cycling, where it refers collectively to the seven teams representing the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom plus the three Crown Dependencies (the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey) that participate in the Commonwealth Games. The Crown Dependencies are not part of the United Kingdom, but are politically associated with it, and together make up the British Islands.List of current heads of government in the United Kingdom and dependencies
In the United Kingdom, various titles are used for the head of government of each of the countries of the United Kingdom, Crown dependencies, and Overseas Territories. Following elections to the assembly or parliament, the party (or coalition) with a majority of seats is invited to form a government. The Monarch (in the United Kingdom) or governor / lieutenant governor (in the Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies) appoints the head of government, whose council of ministers are collectively responsible to the assembly.
The head of the British government is referred to as the Prime Minister, the leader of one of the constituent countries is referred to as a first minister, and the terms Chief Minister, Premier, and Chief Executive are used in the Overseas Territories. In the Crown dependencies, the term Chief Minister is used in all apart from Guernsey, where the leader is referred to as the President of the Policy and Resources Committee.Local government in the United Kingdom
Local government in the United Kingdom has origins that pre-date the United Kingdom itself, as each of the four countries of the United Kingdom has its own separate system. For an overview, see Administrative geography of the United Kingdom. For details, see:
Local government in England
Local government in Northern Ireland
Local government in Scotland
Local government in WalesFor the history of local government in each country, see:
History of local government in England
History of local government in Northern Ireland
History of local government in Scotland
History of local government in WalesFor local government entities in each country, see
Category:Local authorities of England
Category:Local authorities of Northern Ireland
Category:Local authorities of Scotland
Category:Local authorities of WalesMythologies of the countries of the United Kingdom
Mythology and folklore of the United Kingdom varies between the separate countries:
Mythology of England
Mythology of Scotland
Irish mythologyNational parks of the United Kingdom
National parks are a devolved matter with each of the countries of the United Kingdom having its own policies and arrangements. Counted together, the United Kingdom has fifteen national parks with ten in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. These parks are not truly national parks according to the internationally accepted standard of the IUCN but they are areas of outstanding landscape where habitation and commercial activities are restricted.
All fifteen national parks share two statutory purposes:
To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area, and
To promote understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the national park by the public.The Scottish national parks have two further statutory purposes:
To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the area, and
To promote sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities.All of the UK's national parks are members of National Parks UK, which works to promote the UK national parks family and to facilitate training and development between staff and members of all parks.UK Athletics
UK Athletics (UKA) is the governing body for the sport of athletics in the United Kingdom. It is responsible for overseeing the governance of athletics events in the UK as well as athletes, their development, and athletics officials. The organisation outwardly rebranded itself as British Athletics in 2013, although it remains legally known as UK Athletics, and continues to use the UK Athletics name in internal governance.UK Athletics is structured as a non-profit company limited by guarantee. It has four member organisations from each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom: England Athletics, Scottish Athletics, Welsh Athletics, and Athletics Northern Ireland.Unionism in Wales
Unionism in Wales favours the continuation of some form of political union between Wales and the other countries of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland), and hence is opposed to Welsh independence.Welsh Association of Sub Aqua Clubs
The Welsh Association of Sub Aqua Clubs (Welsh: Cwmdeithas Clybiau Tanddwr Cymru) (WASAC) was the national governing body (NGB) for Sub Aqua in Wales until January 2016. Sub Aqua is a broad term encompassing both recreational underwater activities such as recreational diving and snorkelling, and competitive underwater activities including underwater sports as underwater hockeyThe WASAC was one of 4 NGBs representing Sub Aqua in the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. The others are the British Sub Aqua Club (England), the Northern Ireland Federation of Sub-Aqua Clubs (Northern Ireland) and the Scottish Sub Aqua Club (Scotland), with the British Sub Aqua Club being the NGB for the United Kingdom; a role it has held since 1954.Although WASAC was responsible for underwater hockey (also known as Octopush), training and management of Wales national squads is controlled by Hoci Tanddwr Cymreig Underwater Hockey Wales (HTC UHW).The WASAC was based at Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Neath Port Talbot.
The WASAC was replaced by the British Sub Aqua Club as the governing body for Sub Aqua in Wales from January 2016.
Devolution in the United Kingdom
|Heads of devolved governments|
|Organisations and laws of the|
legislatures and governments
of the UK and the devolved areas
1. Rejected referendums are italicised. The others were fully or partially approved.
2. There is no law-making body for any regionally devolved area.
3. Administrations of regionally devolved areas are omitted.
United Kingdom articles