The Union of 1707
Union of 1707
The Union of 1707 refers to the process by which the kingdoms of Scotland and England were combined into a country known as Great Britain. It superseded an earlier arrangement, known as the Union of the Crowns, during which Scotland had continued as a sovereign state but shared a monarchy with England. A previous attempt at a union of the two states took place under the Commonwealth in the 1660s, but this was reversed on the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
The Union of 1707 removed most of Scottish independence and abolished its Parliament. It was an English initiative designed to neutralise dynastic and international threats, and was initially very unpopular in Scotland. Its passage through the Scottish Parliament was achieved by ruthless manipulation of patronage and extensive bribes. Scottish resistance to Union had been weakened by a series of economic disasters, chiefly the failure and collapse of the Darien Scheme. After the religious violence and extremes of the seventeenth century the Union finally established Presbyterianism as the state religion in Scotland.
In the decades that followed, the unpopularity of the Union and its religious settlement fuelled Jacobitism, which promised to reverse it. Later, the successes of the British Empire and in particular- its economic benefits at home, galvanised support for Union, and fuelled a new British identity. The governmental issues created by the terms of the Act however, did not vanish. From the late nineteenth century a movement for Scottish ‘Home Rule’ appeared, under the curious phenomenon of Unionist-Nationalism.
During the early twentieth century the British Government responded by devolving some powers to the Scottish Office in Edinburgh. But from mid century, the collapse of Empire undermined the Union and fuelled a resurgence in Scottish Nationalism. Demands for the return of the Scottish Parliament continued despite opposition and apathy in London. In the late 1970s a referendum on limited devolution for Scotland was held and was narrowly and controversially defeated by the incumbent Conservative British Government. Further agitation followed and eventually, in 1999, the Scottish Parliament was restored after a gap of over two hundred years. In September 2014 a further referendum is to be held which if successful will further reverse the 1707 Act of Union and re-establish Scottish sovereignty.