Treaty of Union

The Treaty of Union became law on May Day 1707, it was a union between Scotland and England which saw the dissolution of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh and direct rule from the English government´s seat of power at Westminster.

The Union of the Crowns had been affected over a hundred years before in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of Britain. However the revolution of 1688 saw the end of Stuart rule and over the next few decades the tension between Scotland and England grew.

King William was embroiled in a war with France which he was determined to win and this was proving costly to Scottish trade. When combined with the failure of the Darien expedition to establish a Scottish colony in South America and the refusal of the English parliament to allow Scots to trade with the English colonies the Scottish parliament was becoming agitated.

Meanwhile the exiled House of Stuart was being encouraged and supported by the French and there was a real fear that an uprising in Scotland would jeopardise English security. While the English had accepted the House of Hanover, Scotland had not, and the Scottish parliament was threatening to support a separate succession which led to the English threatening to block free trade between the nations.

With the childless Queen Anne taking the throne in 1702 the situation for the Protestant succession looked less than secure. The English became increasingly convinced that an absolute union was necessary, particularly as the Jacobites were gaining an increasing influence in the Scottish parliament.

The whole affair was accelerated when the Scots passed the Act of Security in 1704 which would allow Scotland to choose a different monarch. The English responded by passing the Alien Act in 1705 which would impose economic sanctions on the Scots, barring free trade and preventing Scots from owning land in England unless they repealed the Act of Security or made moves towards uniting with England.

The Act of Union contained 25 articles which were mostly economic. Possible opposition was dampened by the promise that the Presbyterian Church of Scotland would continue as the official religion and that the substantially different Scots law system would be preserved.

The union was almost universally opposed by the common people of Scotland and countless petitions and riots were ignored. The Scottish nobles on the other hand stood to benefit financially both from the protection of free trade with England and from direct bribes and so the treaty was passed by a large majority of 110 votes for to 67 votes against.

The Scottish people felt betrayed by the treaty and the sentiment is nicely summed up in Robert Burns famous work Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.

Many have argued that Scotland benefited greatly from this union and there is no doubt Scots were to play an integral part in the establishment of the British Empire. However things could have been very different and the financial crisis which led the ruling classes to accept the proposal were largely provoked by the actions of the English in the first place.

Brief Version of Treaty of Union

1 - Scotland and England will become great Britain and share the same flag which will be a new flag.

2 - That the House of Hanover will continue to rule and that no Catholic will be allowed on the throne (or even anyone married to a Catholic).

3 - That there will only be one parliament for Great Britain.

4 - That there will be free trade between Scotland and England.

5 - That all Scottish ships will now be considered British ships.

6 - That all duties on imports and exports will be the same in Scotland and England.

7 - That excises on liquor will be the same in Scotland and England.

8 - Scotland will be exempt from paying duty on salt for seven years.

9 - Scotland´s share of the tax burden agreed.

10 to 13 - Scotland exempt from English duty on paper, vellum and parchment, windows and lights, coal, culm and cinders, and malt.

14 - Scotland can make and consume as much malt as they want regardless of the war with France.

15 - Various money provided for Scotland to make up for assuming our part of the English national debt.

16 - Currency will be standarised as English currency although Scotland can retain a seperate Mint.

17 - Weights and measures will be standardised throughout country.

18 - Scottish laws preserved.

19 - Courts and legal system in Scotland to remain seperate and the same as before.

20 - All inherited positions and positions for life in Scotland will remain so.

21 - Royal Burghs rights and privileges in Scotland to remain unchanged.

22 - Scotland gets 16 seats in the House of Lords and 45 seats in the House of Commons.

23 - Defines the rights of the 16 peers from Scotland to join the House of Lords.

24 - That a new seal will be created for Britain but until then the old seals for Scotland and England will be used.

25 - Any law that contradicts the union is now null and void.

Read the full Treaty of Union.

It is also worth mentioning that the preservation of the seperate and established churches in England and Scotland were dealt with in a seperate Act of Security which ensured that the established Presbyterian Church of Scotland would remain the official religion in Scotland. This discouraged the Church in Scotland from opposing the union.