Deep seismic reflection profiles in Scotland reveal mantle structures beneath a crust with a polyphase tectonic history that resulted in several generations of structures. Continuum mechanics suggests that coeval mantle and crustal structures must be kinematically linked. Inherited structures imply relative ages for the reflectors, ages that can be placed into the context of the geological history of the near-surface rocks of northern Scotland. Thus, some mantle reflectors are assigned Triassic ages related to the opening of the West Orkney and related marginal basins of the Atlantic Ocean. Other mantle reflectors are cut by late Caledonian structures associated with the Great Glen Fault Zone and therefore older than c. 400 Ma. Many of these structures also track the late Precambrian margin of Laurentia and may be related to either the opening (900–600 Ma) or closing (500–600 Ma) of the Iapetus Ocean. Some reflective structures may also be attributed to 1800–1700 Ma Laxfordian deformation that was part of a global-scale orogenic belt.

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