Treaty of Union (1707)

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The Treaty of Union, which led to the Acts of Union, refers to the joint actions of the parliaments of England and Scotland in 1707 which united the two previously independent countries to form Great Britain.

The Treaty itself consisted of 25 articles which were considered and passed in succession by the Scottish Parliament in 1706-07, the final overall Act being passed on January 16, 1707 by a vote of 110 - 67. The Treaty went into effect on May 1 of that same year. Scotland was permitted to send sixteen peers to the Lords and forty-five MPs (burgh and shire commissioners) to the Commons; England's representation was unchanged.


Background

England and Scotland had been ruled by the same monarch, while maintaining separate, sovereign parliaments, since 1603 when James VI, King of Scots, assumed control of the English throne (as James I) in an event known as the Union of the Crowns. Several attempts at a union of governments occurred after 1603, but were not successful.

In England following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, concerns grew about the line of royal succession, due to the lack of surviving children by William and Mary and Queen Anne. The English Parliament passed the Act of Settlement in 1701, which named James VI and I's granddaughter Sophia of Hanover as the heir presumptive to the throne. The Scottish Parliament was upset that they were not consulted, and in 1704 passed the Act of Security, which stated that Parliament would choose a successor upon Anne's death without issue.

Another factor that influenced the union was the economic decline brought on by the Darien scheme. The Darien scheme was an attempt to establish a Scottish colony in the New World, which brought them into competition with the East India Company. The Company refused to sell supplies to the new colony, which ultimately doomed it, and Scotland took a large financial loss.

The idea of a formal union of governments benefited both countries by solidifying the monarchy and creating economic prosperity between the two countries.

Provisions of the Treaty

Among its major provisions, the Treaty provided for:

  • an "incorporating" Union of the two countries, Scotland and England, into a single political entity, Great Britain;
  • a settlement of the royal succession question involving an endorsement of the Hanoverian succession;
  • free trade between the two countries and access to English colonies in the America's by Scotland for trade purposes;
  • the payment of a sum of money to Scotland, called the Equivalent, which was a method of reimbursing investors in the failed Darien scheme; and
  • guarantee of the independence of the Church of Scotland.

New Scottish Parliament

Following a public referendum and the passing of the Scotland Act by Parliament, the devolution Scottish Parliament was recreated and held its first elections in 1999. The Act provides the Scottish Parlaiment control over Scottish affairs; however, the UK Parliament still maintains its authority over Scotland.

Further reading

  • Christopher A. Whatley and Derek J. Patrick, The Scots and the Union
  • Michael Fry, The Union: England, Scotland, and the Treaty of 1707
  • Neil Davidson, Discovering the Scottish Revolution, 1692-1746
  • Scotland in the Age of Improvement, edited by N.T. Phillipson and Rosalind Mitchison

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