Scotland is home to nearly 5.3 million people, mostly concentrated in the southern lowlands. Its territory extends up to the Shetland Islands which are closer to the Norwegian coast than to the capital Edinburgh.
Here is a factfile for Thursday`s independence referendum:
POPULATION AND CITIES
Population (2011): 5,295,400
Biggest city: Glasgow
Other cities: Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth, Stirling.
Flag: Saint Andrew`s Cross (white saltire on a blue field)
Patron saint: Saint Andrew
National day: November 30, Saint Andrew`s Day
National anthem: None. "Flower of Scotland" commonly used at sporting events.
Floral emblem: Thistle
National heroes: Robert the Bruce (king), Robert Burns (poet), William Wallace (independence leader).
Area: 78,772 square kilometres (30,414 square miles)
Highest point: Ben Nevis (1,344 metres/4,409 feet)
Longest river: River Tay (193 kilometres/119 miles)
Largest lake: Loch Lomond
Largest island: Lewis and Harris (Outer Hebrides)
Island groups: Orkney, Shetland, Outer Hebrides, Inner Hebrides.
Borders: England (154 kilometres/96 miles)
World heritage sites: the Antonine Wall, the Roman empire`s northernmost frontier; the Orkney Islands` neolithic monuments; New Lanark cotton mill village; the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh; the abandoned island of St Kilda.
Main ethnic groups: According to the 2011 census: White Scottish (84 percent); White other British (7.9 percent); Other White (1.9 percent); White Polish (1.2 percent); White Irish (1.0 percent); Pakistani (0.9 percent); Black or Caribbean Scottish (0.12 percent)
Main religions: Church of Scotland (32.4 percent); Roman Catholic (15.9 percent); other Christian (5.5 percent); Islam (1.4 percent); Hinduism (0.3 percent).
Recognised languages: English, Gaelic (spoken by 1.1 percent), Scots.
Life expectancy at birth: female - 80.1 years; male - 75.3 years.
Currency: pound sterling
Gross domestic product: £130 billion (£24,300 per capita) on-shore; £148 billion (£27,700 per capita) including geographical share of off-shore activity -- about the same as Austria.
Growth: 1.0 percent during the first quarter of 2014; 2.6 percent on same period last year.
Unemployment (January-March): 6.4 percent
Biggest employer worldwide: First Group (bus and train firm), 120,000.
Biggest turnover: SSE (electricity distribution and supply) £31,724 million, Royal Bank of Scotland £28,937 million.
Total value of exports (2012): £26 billion, excluding oil and gas.
Top export: Whisky (£4.3 billion)
Top export destinations (2012): Rest of UK, United States, Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway.
Oil and gas: Projected revenues from the offshore energy industry, with the Scottish government predicting up to £38.7 billion over the next five years.
Britain is forecasting £17.6 billion.
122: Romans construct Hadrian`s Wall.
858: Death of Kenneth MacAlpin, king of the Picts and founder of the dynasty that ruled Scots for centuries to come.
1296-1357: Wars of Independence with England.
1314: King Robert the Bruce defeats the English forces at Bannockburn, establishing de facto independence.
1560: Protestant reformation.
1603: Union of the Crowns. King James VI of Scotland, from the House of Stuart, becomes James I of England too.
1707: Acts of Union: England and Scotland merge to form Kingdom of Great Britain with one crown and one parliament.
1999: Reconstituted Scottish Parliament meets for first time, following referendum.
2014: Referendum on Scottish independence.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
UK head of state: Queen Elizabeth II
UK prime minister: David Cameron
First minister: Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party)
Deputy FM: Nicola Sturgeon (SNP)
Main parties in the 129-seat Scottish parliament: SNP (65); Labour (38); Conservatives (15).
Matters devolved to Edinburgh: Health, justice, education, agriculture, environment, local government.
Matters reserved for London: Finance, defence, energy, foreign affairs, constitution, civil service, immigration, transport, pensions, social security, transport.
Food: Haggis, shortbread, porridge, fish and chips, Scotch broth, Arbroath smokies, smoked salmon, neeps and tatties, oatcakes, scones, Dundee cake.
Drink: Whisky, Irn-Bru (soft drink), Drambuie, McEwan`s beer, Tennent`s lager.
Cultural events: Burns Night, Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Highland Games, Hogmanay, Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Royal Highland Show, T in the Park, Up Helly Aa.
National daily newspapers: Daily Record, The Herald, The Scotsman.
TV stations: STV, BBC Alba (Gaelic-language).
Famous philosophers and scientists: Alexander Flaming, discoverer of penicillin; Adam Smith, the forefather of liberal economics, and David Hume, a leading Enlightenment philosopher.
Famous actors: Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor, Gerard Butler, Tilda Swinton, Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly, James McAvoy.
Famous musicians: Bay City Rollers, Belle and Sebastian, Susan Boyle, Franz Ferdinand, Annie Lennox, Primal Scream, The Proclaimers, Simple Minds, Travis, Wet Wet Wet.
Main sports: Football, rugby union, golf.
Leading sports clubs: Celtic, Rangers (football); Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors (rugby union); The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews; Edinburgh Athletic Club.
Famous sports stars: Andy Murray, Alex Ferguson, Chris Hoy, Jackie Stewart, Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Dalglish.
Reigning Olympic champions: Tim Baillie (canoeing); Scott Brash (equestrian); Chris Hoy (cycling); Katherine Grainger (rowing); Andy Murray (tennis); Heather Stanning (rowing).