Is there any part of the island of Great Britain which is not in England & Wales or Scotland?

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    – feetwet
    Commented Jun 30 at 16:01

2 Answers 2



Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales so anything not in one of those is also not in Great Britain. The Act of Union in 1707 created the United Kingdom of Great Britain from the Kingdoms of England (including Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland.

There are plenty of places in the British Isles that aren’t in England, Wales or Scotland. But Great Britain = England + Scotland + Wales.

The island of Great Britain is the biggest island in Great Britain so, ipso facto, it is all within those three countries.

  • This is the correct answer. I don't know why it has less support than the other answer that doesn't even address the question.
    – tell
    Commented Jun 30 at 11:09
  • 2
    @tell Perhaps because it doesn't address the words "island of ...". For example, as Wikipedia says "The term "Great Britain" can also refer to the political territory of England, Scotland and Wales, which includes their offshore islands.[11]", but "the island of Great Britain" excludes other islands which are offshore from it; so the words "island of ..." seem like they should matter.
    – kaya3
    Commented Jul 1 at 1:38
  • Yeah, for all I know, there could be some portion of the physical island which was not claimed by either Kingdom (England or Scotland) as of 1707, and was not annexed since then either. Stranger things exist elsewhere in the world. Commented Jul 1 at 3:58
  • But following your logic, Oakney, while in the Kingdom of Scottland would not be part of the Island of Great Britain, as that is a different island (chain)?
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 1 at 14:39
  • @tell this answer suffers from an error of logic, as described in comments above. Consider: in light of the correct statements in this answer concerning the genesis of the Kingdom of Great Britain, the question could be rephrased as "is there any part of the Island of Great Britain that was not part of the Kingdom of Scotland or the Kingdom of England at the time of the Act of Union 1707?" This answer does not address that question.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 1 at 17:10

The "draftsman is playing it safe" insofar as he had no actual reason for introducing a definition of a phrase that is not contested or confusing.

The reason for the revised definition of "United Kingdom" is Irish independence

That provision of the Interpretation Act 1978 comes with a bracketed reference [12th April 1927], which means that it applies only to legislation after that date. For earlier Acts, the reader has to guess what might be meant based on context - depending on the date, the subject matter, and the care taken in drafting, "United Kingdom" might mean both Great Britain and Ireland, or just Great Britain. The precise date is because that is when the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 came into effect, which included as its section 2(2) the words

In every Act passed and public document issued after the passing of this Act the expression "United Kingdom" shall, unless the context otherwise requires, mean Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The 1978 Act repealed the words "Act passed and", so that the remaining provision of the 1927 Act is about other public documents, and the provision about legislation was consolidated into the 1978 Act. Similar manouevers were done with other interpretive provisions, as a tidying-up exercise, so 1978 didn't bring a substantive change in the meaning of "United Kingdom". That already happened in 1927.

The proximate reason was of course to recognize that the formation of the Irish Free State (as it was known then) meant that continuing references to the whole of Ireland as being part of the UK would be misleading.

Interpretation Acts are only trying to make useful definitions for legislative purposes; they are not dictionaries of every possible word

The Interpretation Act 1978 does not seek to define everything. Which terms get defined is a matter of overall convenience. Sometimes it is about avoiding repetition of the same (or worse, slightly different!) words in lots of different Acts, like:

"Writing" includes typing, printing, lithography, photography and other modes of representing or reproducing words in a visible form, and expressions referring to writing are construed accordingly.

It would be awkward if every statute that involved writing had to repeat the list of alternatives, and confusing consequences might arise if one of those instances happened to omit "printing".

Other definitions may be about brevity, like the definition of "Privy Council" as "the Lords and others of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council". Note that this does not itself define what Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council is! It does not need to, because we the readers know the answer; moreover, it's a body that exists by virtue of the royal prerogative and not any statute.

The 1978 Act derives from recommendations of the Law Commission (see in Command Paper 7235) on updating its predecessor, the Interpretation Act 1889. The Commissions saw several instances where there was a need to tweak the statutory language, but they did not see fit to add a lot of new general definitions, especially for terms like "Great Britain" which are already fully understood without difficulty.

  • @Nemo are you sure of that? Where are those cast-iron definitions to be found?
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 23:21
  • 1
    @Nemo What about all the little islands?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 12:09
  • @Nemo Schedule I defines "England" and "Wales," but not "Scotland."
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 22:05
  • 1
    @Nemo that doesn't change the fact that the current kingdom was constituted by the 1800 act as the union of Great Britain and Ireland, that the name changes have all been related to changes in the Ireland portion of the UK, and that the Great Britain portion of the UK continues to be defined by the 1706 act.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 16:45
  • 1
    It appears that this answer is mainly responding to parts of the original question which have been edited away (back in 2021). The references to "playing it safe" and the Interpretation Act 1978 were in the question as originally asked, and now no longer make sense.
    – alexg
    Commented Jul 1 at 12:53

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