Scotland was one of the industrial powerhouses of Europe from the time of the Industrial Revolution onwards, being a world leader in manufacturing. This left a legacy in the diversity of goods and services which Scotland produces, from textiles, whisky and shortbread to jet engines, buses, computer software, ships, avionics and microelectronics, as well as banking, insurance, investment management and other related financial services. In common with most other advanced industrialized economies, Scotland has seen a decline in the importance of both manufacturing industries and primary-based extractive industries. This has, however, been combined with a rise in the service sector of the economy, which has grown to be the largest sector in Scotland.
Scotland has five international airports operating scheduled services to Europe, North America and Asia, as well as domestic services to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Highlands and Islands Airports operates eleven airports across the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, which are primarily used for short distance, public service operations, although Inverness Airport has a number of scheduled flights to destinations across the UK and mainland Europe.
Edinburgh Airport is currently Scotland’s busiest airport handling over 13 million passengers in 2017. It is also the UK’s 6th busiest airport.
Four airlines are based in Scotland:
Network Rail owns and operates the fixed infrastructure assets of the railway system in Scotland, while the Scottish Government retains overall responsibility for rail strategy and funding in Scotland. Scotland’s rail network has 359 railway stations and around 1,710 miles (2,760 km) of track. In 2018–19 there were 102 million passenger journeys on Scottish railways.
The East Coast and West Coast main railway lines connect the major cities and towns of Scotland with each other and with the rail network in England. London North Eastern Railway provides inter-city rail journeys between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness to London. Domestic rail services within Scotland are operated by Abellio ScotRail. During the time of British Rail, the West Coast Main Line from London Euston to Glasgow Central was electrified in the early 1970s, followed by the East Coast Main Line in the late 1980s. British Rail created the ScotRail brand. When British Rail existed, many railway lines in Strathclyde were electrified. Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive was at the forefront with the acclaimed “largest electrified rail network outside London”. Some parts of the network are electrified, but there are no electrified lines in the Highlands, Angus, Aberdeenshire, the cities of Dundee or Aberdeen, or Perth & Kinross, and none of the islands has a rail link (although the railheads at Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig principally serve the islands).
The East Coast Main Line crosses the Firth of Forth by the Forth Bridge. Completed in 1890, this cantilever bridge has been described as “the one internationally recognized Scottish landmark”. Scotland’s rail network is managed by Transport Scotland.
The remainder of the road network is managed by the Scottish local authorities in each of their areas.
Regular ferry services operate between the Scottish mainland and outlying islands. Ferries serving both the inner and outer Hebrides are principally operated by the state-owned enterprise Caledonian MacBrayne.