The Scottish Caledonides, sited near the triple-junction between Laurentia, Amazonia and Baltica, is divided into at least five discrete blocks, each with a history incompatible with that of the block now lying adjacent to it. With the exception of the Hebridian margin, with its extensional Torridonian basins and Cambrian passive margin sequence, all blocks have undergone terrane-scale movements. The Moine, Central Highland Division and the bulk (if not all) of the Grampian Group have shared a common regional metamorphism, involving thickening and uplift, at c. 800 Ma and c. 450–480 Ma. This is incompatible with their being in the extensional regime that appears to characterise much of Neoproterozoic Laurentia. They, along with the polymetamorphic Dalradian block, now replace a region of passive margin and an unknown width of attendant Iapetus oceanic crust. These metamorphic blocks are grossly out-of-place.
The Midland Valley is a severely contracted block of ancient crust, once fringed by extensive oceanic basins to the N and S. An Ordovician–Devonian arc was founded on this older craton, and supplied sediment to basins on either side of it. This arc, during its Lower Palaeozoic life, matured, finally to yield relatively quartz-rich sediment, but was re-activated during the Devonian. An arc, similar to that of the Midland Valley, also supplied sediment to the Southern Uplands. Metamorphic debris in the Southern Uplands had a provenance in either this arc-basement or in a basement somewhere along the orogen. No metamorphic detritus in the Highland Border Complex has yet been demonstrated to have a Dalradian source.
Much of Scotland was assembled in a strike-slip regime. Evidence for strike-slip tectonics can be seen from the Late Proterozoic through to the Devonian. In periods of transtension, basins opened to accumulate sediment; in periods of transpression, those sediments were compressed and uplifted to yield sediments to successor basins. In the Neoproterozoic, during the phase of transpression, the basins were buried and metamorphosed, but during the Palaeozoic the basins were at a much higher level and escaped metamorphism.
A substantial volume of the Neoproterozoic–Palaeozoic sediment that accumulated in Scotland was derived from two orogens, both of which were sited some distance away. During the Neoproterozoic, the Grenville orogen was the main source, and in later (Devonian) time sediment accumulated in Scotland from the major, Late Palaeozoic continent–continent collision of Greenland–Scandinavia. These two external sources were augmented by a substantial contribution of sediment supplied from the Midland Valley arc or its lateral equivalent and by mild uplifts within the Scottish basements.