The influence of volcanoes on Scotland's landscape and politics.

                             (Above image is a capture of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh)
Today's U.K. General Election combined with reports of a volcanic explosion in New Zealand coincide with a report in yesterday's Times newspaper of the bizarre linkage between the existence of Scotland as a unitary state and distant volcanic activity.

A recent report by Rosanne D'Arrigo of Columbia University points out that:
  • Scotland suffered cruel conditions in the 1690s including extensive famine which was due to a combination of archaic farming practices and the coldest weather conditions in the past 800 years.
  • The cold weather is attributed to sulphurous clouds blocking the sun, cooling the climate and disrupting the weather.
  • The triggers for the weather disruption are assigned to two volcanic eruptions which occurred in the tropics (far away from Scotland) in 1693 and 1695.
  • The economic downturn caused by the farming crisis motivated the Scottish establishment to embark on the ill-fated Darien Scheme (in what is now Panama) which actually exacerbated the country's financial difficulties which in turn influenced the Scottish Parliament to accept an offer of union with England in 1707 and hence formation of the United Kingdom.(In recent years a powerful political party has emerged in Scotland whose raison d'etre is to reverse the union of 1707.)
Although there are no active volcanoes in Scotland currently, the country's geological past -and current landscape- has been heavily influenced by volcanic activity and lava flows, viz:
  • In the Carboniferous period (290m-360m years ago) the Campsie Fells (a line of hills north of Glasgow) were formed as was Arthur's Seat (Edinburgh) and the volcanic plug on which Edinburgh Castle sits.
 Campsie Fells are the line of hills appearing in distance of this image

Edinburgh Castle

 Arthur's Seat

  • In the Cretaceous Period (65m-135m years ago) the North Atlantic was formed resulting in extensive volcanic activity lasting about five million years which lead to the creation of Ailsa Craig (a volcanic plug off S.W. Scotland) and the extensive mountainous scenery on the Isle of Skye (off Scotland's west coast). which mainly comprises the roots of ancient volcanoes.
 Ailsa Craig

 Cuillin Mountains, Isle of Skye

  • Staffa (a small island off the west coast), Stirling Castle which sits atop an ancient volcano and various islands and hills around the Fife region of eastern Scotland.


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