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June 2007

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

With a land area of 243,000 sq. km. (93,000 sq. mi.) slightly smaller than the state of Oregon, the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland plays host to the 2005 G8 Summit. The countries attending the G8 Summit are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The summit will take place at the Gleneagles Hotel just outside Glasgow, Scotland in July 2005.

The United Kingdom, like the United States, is comprised of several administrative units: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Both Wales and Scotland were independent kingdoms that resisted English rule until the English conquest of Wales in 1282, and the 1707 unification of England and Scotland as Great Britain.

The separate identities of each of the United Kingdom's constituent parts are reflected in their respective governmental structures. Up until the recent devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, a cabinet minister handled Welsh affairs at the national level with the advice of a broadly representative council for Wales while separate departments grouped under a Secretary of State for Scotland handled most domestic matters. In late 1997, however, following approval of referenda by Scottish and Welsh voters, the British Government introduced legislation to establish a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. The first elections for the two bodies were held May 6, 1999. The Welsh Assembly opened on May 26, and the Scottish Parliament opened on July 1, 1999. The devolved legislatures have largely taken over most of the functions previously performed by the Scottish and Welsh offices.

U.S. State Department Background Notes, 4/2005