THE SCOTS (a brief history of the Scotti)

When the Romans left Britain, they left a divided country. Just as England consisted of seven rival kingdoms warring for control, so Scotland was being fought over by the Picts, the Scots and the Angles.       By 848,Kenneth Mac Alpin had united the Picts and Scots into a country he called Alba with its political capital at Forteviot and its spiritual capital at Dunkeld.

There followed countless attacks to be repelled from the English and Viking armies, not forgetting the rivalries between those who believed they had a claim to the throne within Scotland itself. It was not until the reign of Malcolm II that the boundaries of Scotland became recognised as they are today. He was victorious against the English and Vikings, bringing the kingdom of Lothian under his rule, shortly followed by an alliance with the kingdom of Strathclyde.

By the mid 6th century, the Picts, who by far were the largest group of people in Scotland, had been engaged in a power struggle with the Irish kingdom of dal Riada, which was beginning to be established, in what is now Argyll (the eastern Irish)       In time, the Irish settlers would be given another name, the scotti, from the Latin name for Irish.

From about 500AD a new group joined the fight, the native Celtic Britons, began to establish kingdoms of their own in southwest Scotland much as their counterparts were doing elsewhere in Britain. The two most important were Rheged and Gododdin.

By about 600AD, a fourth group had arrived, the Angles. They pushed north and west from their kingdom of Bernicia, shortly to become part of the much more powerful Northumbrian kingdom.

The net result was a predictable pile-up in which all four found themselves variously allied with and against each other in a state of near permanent warfare.       By 700 Rheged and Gododdin had been wiped from the map.       The 9th century saw the introduction of the Vikings, as their raiding increased, it was the Picts who came to bear their brunt.       In 839, they suffered a crushing defeat at Forteviot.       It is possible that they might have been betrayed by a Dal Riadan prince, Kenneth Mac Alpin. Kenneth was able to take advantage of this disarray, and by 842 had made himself undisputed ruler of a joint Dal Riadan- Pictish kingdom.       The kingdom would be called Alba and was poised to form the heart of a new much more powerful Scotland.

Against this unpromising background the 8th century and 9th century nonetheless saw a gradual but significant consolidation of Scotland’s power and with it, the power of her rulers. The major feature was the almost complete elimination of the Picts other than in the far north. In part, this was as much a linguistic and cultural process as a political one.

The Scots suffered major defeats at the hands of the Vikings in 866 and again in 871.       They were to be further rebuffed by the Vikings in 914 and 918. The year also saw the long-running Anglo-Scots rivalry begin.       By 1031 the Scots had been halted in their southern conquest into Northumbria by Cnut. Cnut not only made the Scottish king submit to him but also definitively established England rule in Northumbria.       In this process, Cumbria aside, the Anglo-Scottish border was permanently fixed.

The territorial core may have been established but, when the king died in 1034 with no heirs, the kingdom was plunged into a round of dynamic turmoil.