The Romans arrived in the Scottish Lowlands in A.D. 80 but left few traces of their stay. During the period known as the Dark Ages, four groups emerged in Scotland: the Picts in the north; the Scots (of Irish origin) in the west; the Britons, who were related to the Welsh, in the southwest; and the Angles in the southeast. Linguistically, these groups were distinct from one another: the linguistic tradition of the Angles derived from Low German and Saxon English, the Scots and Britons spoke Gaelic, and the Picts possessed a language of their own. The formation of a unitary nation out of these disparate groups came about as a result of external pressures and the slow growth of Christianity in the region.
The first Scottish king, formally recognized, was Malcolm II (1005-1034), who inherited control of the southwestern portion of Scottish territory and won lands to the southeast through conflicts with England. But through the eleventh and twelfth centuries, rulership was frequently disputed among local leaders, and individual petty kings often sought English alliances to strengthen their causes. By the late thirteenth century, this state of affairs had resulted in increasing English control over the region. King Edward I of England arbitrated among claimants to the Scottish throne and installed John Balliol in that position for a time—though he was later to depose Balliol and assume personal control in 1296. The Treaty of Northhampton, in 1328, confirmed Scottish nationhood.
At about this time the house of Stuart arose, from which line came a succession of Scotland's leadership, nearly ending with Catholic Mary Stuart, who was beheaded in 1587. Her son became James I of England and James VI of Scotland. The last reigning Stuart was James II of England (James VII of Scotland), who was forced to abdicate in 1688, largely because the predominantly Protestant Scots rejected his devout Catholicism.
The year 1707 brought about the formal Act of Union with England, linking the political entities of Scotland and England. While the political fortunes of the two nations have remained joined one to another since that time, the strong sense of a specifically Scottish national identity has never been erased, and to this day there are strong movements aimed at establishing Scottish independence.