The city of Edinburgh is renowned world-wide for its history, architecture, scenery and cultural attractions. Built on a group of hills, it is situated between the Firth of Forth to the north, the Pentland Hills to the south, and the council areas of East Lothian and West Lothian to the east and west. The population today is estimated at over 450,000 and is growing rapidly, predominantly through migration. Known in the 19th century for biscuits, brewing and books, its economy has become oriented towards services, particularly in the areas of finance, science, tourism and the professions. Edinburgh is the second largest financial centre in the UK after London and the fourth largest in Europe, including the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life, Tesco Bank, the UK Green Investment Bank and Lloyds Banking Group subsidiaries Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows. Biscuits are still made in the city by Burtons and Nairn-Simmers, but McVities which was founded on Rose Street in 1830 left the city in 1969. Most of the major breweries have closed, leaving only the Caledonian Brewery in Slateford Road and there are a few modest book publishers. For many years the focus of civil administration for Scotland, the city's importance as a political centre was re-established with the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The city also has a significant retail sector, centred on Princes Street, with shopping complexes including Princes Mall, St. James' Centre, Multrees Walk, The Gyle, Ocean Terminal, Cameron Toll Shopping Centre, Fort Kinnaird, Craigleith Retail Park and Hermiston Gait Retail Park. Further key industries include information technology, renewable energy and the life sciences, exemplified by the Edinburgh BioQuarter. The creative industries also represent an important sector of the city's economy.
There are signs of human activity in the area from at least c.5000 BC with fortifications evident from c.1000 BC. Celtic and Roman occupants were followed by Northumbrians and Scots. In the 15th Century it was made Scotland's capital, but its importance as the political centre of Scotland was later diminished by the Union of 1707 with England. Later cultural and architectural achievements in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with its seven hills, earned it the title 'Athens of the North'. The city's Old Town and New Town were jointly recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Today, Edinburgh is known world-wide as a tourist mecca, and the city represents 17.7% of Scotland's tourist economy (2012). It is the location for one of the world's largest international arts festival, held annually since 1947. This has given rise to an almost year-round programme of spin-offs; including the Festival Fringe, Book, Film, Jazz and Science festivals, together with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Edinburgh's Hogmanay. Edinburgh hosted both the 10th Commonwealth Games in 1974 and the 13th Games in 1986, together with a summit of the European Council of Ministers in (1992) and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (1997).
Edinburgh has four universities; namely Edinburgh (1582), Heriot-Watt (1966), Napier (1992) and Queen Margaret (1998), together with the highest proportion of privately-educated children of any city in the UK, reaching 25% of the total school population distributed across 15 fee-paying schools.
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