There are 192 members by the UN (193 if you count the Vatican, which is an observer without voting rights). There are 196 that qualify as 'independent countries'. List of countries by capital. Arguments via about.com
This is debatable. For instance, I would say Taiwan is a country... many people would disagree with me.
Scotland and Wales I would not count as separate countries as they form a willing commonwealth in the UN as the United Kingdom.
Wikipedia's list of sovereign states puts it at 204 (including the new South Sudan). I would say this one is a little more controversial. It is up for debate if Northern Cyprus is sovereign.
I prefer to use this definition of an independent country (I've seen it before, but I can't remember who came up with it) and say there are 196 countries in the world. The criteria are:
- Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).
- Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
- Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
- Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
- Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
- Has a government which provides public services and police power.
- Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country's territory.
- Has external recognition. A country has been "voted into the club" by other countries
Although, admittedly, some of these criteria are rather subjective.