Looking more closely I discovered that this thistle is actually Spear Thistle, Cirsium vulgare. This is where the etymology and history of this plant becomes confusing. Most references I came across to the Scots Thistle name the Cotton Thistle, Onopordum acanthium as the plant actually stated to be the Scottish emblem. On reading little further into the old stories of how this flower came to its status of Scottish nation emblem I discovered that the Cotton Thistle was only a recently introduced species and that Spear Thistle was the native plant of the region at that time and most likely species to have been the plant responsible.
So is this thistle the Real McCoy after all? Maybe.
Photo: Robert Rath, 'Day 387, The Real McCoy' 1/320s f/11 ISO1250 200mm
... more at http://robertrath.com