Most Scottish industry and commerce is concentrated in a few large cities on the waterways of the central lowlands. Edinburgh, on the Firth of Forth, is a cultural center, the administrative capital of Scotland, and a center of paper production and publishing. Glasgow, one of the largest cities in Great Britain, lies on the Clyde; it is Scotland's leading seaport and a center of shipbuilding and it supports numerous light industries. Although heavy industry has declined, the high-technology "Silicon Glen" corridor has developed between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tourism is also very important.
The significance of coal, once Scotland's most important mineral resource, has declined. Oil, however, gained prominence in Scotland's economy during the 1970s, with the growth of North Sea oil extraction companies. Natural gas is also abundant in the North Sea fields. Aberdeen is the center of the oil industry. Other important industries are textile production (woolens, worsteds, silks, and linens), distilling, and fishing. Textiles, beer, and whisky, which are among Scotland's chief exports, are produced in many towns. Salmon are taken from the Tay and the Dee, and numerous coastal towns and villages are supported by the herring catch from the North Sea. Only about one fourth of the land is under cultivation (principally in cereals and vegetables), but sheep raising is important in the mountainous regions. Because of the persistence of feudalism and the land inclosures of the 19th cent. (see History, below), the ownership of most land in Scotland is concentrated in relatively few hands (some 350 people own about half the land). In 2003, as a result, the Scottish parliament passed a land reform act that empowered tenant farmers and communities to purchase land even if the landlord did not want to sell.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.