May 1st

On this day in 1707, the Acts of Union came into action, uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland.

Image result for acts of union 1707

”United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain”

Following negotiations between commissioners representative of the respective parliaments, the Union with Scotland Act 1906 and Union with England Act 1907 were passed; at the time in question, whilst Scotland and England had shared a monarch since the Union of the Crowns 1603, they had retained status as separate states with unique legislatures.

What began as a hostile merger, would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world … it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history

– Simon Schama

The ascendancy of Queen Anne to the throne had incorporated an emphasis upon greater political integration, encouraging fresh negotiations between the countries in spite of the historical animosity that had tainted previous attempts at anything resembling unification. 31 commissioners were appointed by both countries for the negotiation and discussion process, taking 3 months to reach a mutually amicable conclusion.

British motivations were largely linked to a desire to maintain their position of power with regards to Scotland, with fears that Scotland choosing another monarch may act counter to British objectives and national security. On the Scottish side, the prospects of submitting to a union were accompanied by prospects of financial recovery needed following the collapse of the Darien scheme; an unsuccessful attempt by the Scottish government to become a participant in broader world trade with the establishment of the colony of Caledonia. Furthermore, allegations of bribery for Scottish parliamentary support were rife, with £20 000 allocated to the distribution amongst pro-union supporters.

We’re bought and sold for English Gold,
Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.

-Robert Burns

The prospects of a union were not looked upon favourably by the public; with riots occurring in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Large proportions of the Scottish populace were concerned at implications such a union would hold in terms of an Anglicization of elements of Scottish society such as the church, with fears as to the loss of a strong Scottish identity independent form England. The threat of rioting became so severe that martial law was imposed to curtail opposing forces.

Irish houses of Parliament offered congratulations with regards to the union, opening up the opportunity for a broadening union including Ireland

May God put it in your royal heart to add greater strength and lustre to your crown, by a still more comprehensive Union.

However, the question of uniting with Ireland was not seriously considered until the 1790s.

Looking forward

The consideration of the initial uniting of these countries is particularly interesting in light of the progression of the relationship between England and Scotland. A rising emphasis on nationalism can be noted in the rise of parties such as the SNP alongside the granting of a Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. Whilst the decision of 55% to remain part of the union could be said to consolidate a mandate of retaining Scotland as part of Great Britain, this was by no means an overwhelming majority. Furthermore, the recent vote to allow Britain to leave the European Union has once more brought discussion of Scottish Independence to prominence on political platforms, with calls for a second referendum proving difficult to ignore.


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