What is the Union of the Parliament?

Although it seems that Scotland and England have always been joined, in fact it was not until 1707 that an official Treaty was drawn up to merge the two countries into a single state – a state which has since been known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The parliaments in Edinburgh and Westminster were then replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain, which was held in Westminster with Scottish representatives being present.

What Are The Acts of Union?

The Acts of Union were 2 Parliamentary Acts – the first was the 1706 Union With Scotland Act which was passed by the English Parliament and the second was passed in 1707, the Union With England Act which was passed by the Scottish Parliament. These two Acts together put into effect the Treaty of Union terms which had already been agreed in July 1706. The two Acts of Union joined together the two separate kingdoms of Scotland and England into a single kingdom which would be called Great Britain.

A Shared Monarch But No Shared Parliament

Although Scotland and England had had the same monarch since 1603 and the Union of the Crowns when the Scottish King, James VI inherited the throne of England following Queen Elizabeth I’s death, the two countries remained almost entirely separate with their own Parliaments. Although there had been previous attempts to unite both countries through Acts of Parliament (most notably in 1606, 1667 and in 1689), these had been unsuccessful, and therefore it was not until the first few years of the 18th century that the political establishments of both countries started to support the concept.

What Were The Reasons For The Union Of The Parliament?

There were many reasons which were given for the Union of the Parliaments, and although the concept was extremely unpopular with the ordinary people in Scotland, most of them had no vote and therefore had no voice on the matter. The primary reasons include:

  • Although the single crown and two Parliaments system had worked for much of the 100 years that it had been in place, there had been times when there had been difficulties. Once such time was when King Charles I was executed by the English parliament and became, for a time, a republic, while the governing body in Scotland intended to appoint Charles II to be their country’s ruler. The parliament in London wanted to avoid this happening in future and were determined to remove the Scottish Parliament to ensure this.
  • After King James VII abdicated and William and Mary took the throne, some people in Scotland continued to support the old monarch, causing years of uprisings.
  • In both Scotland and England there was considerable religious intolerance, however the deposed Stuarts, who were Catholic, had a strong claim to the throne, and many in Scotland believed that this was relevant. So, when the parliament in England decided to give the crown to the house of Hanover, the parliament in Scotland was extremely resentful.
  • Scotland suffered from several poor harvests during the 1690s and this led to a weak economic position in the country. This situation was then worsened by the failed Scottish colony in Panama which led to the country losing a quarter of its liquid assets. When the Act of Union was passed, 400,000 pounds of compensation in payment to those who had lost money was part of the deal.
  • Scotland was heavily dependent on half of its exports being sent to England, however in 1705 the market was closed by the English Parliament to Scottish linen, coal and cattle while also excluding Scotland from the colonies. This problem was solved by the Acts of Union in 1707.

What Were The Provisions Of The Acts of Union?

The Treaty of Union, which was agreed between the English and Scottish parliamentary representatives in 1706, comprised 25 articles, of which 15 were economically related. The Acts of Union incorporated provisions to ensure that Scotland would be able to send its own representative peers to the House of Lords while also guaranteeing that the established church in Scotland would continue to be the Church of Scotland. Other provisions included that the Court of Session would remain in place and that Scottish law would also stay in force. The 1701 Act of Settlement was also restated as well as the ban which prevented Roman Catholics from succeeding to the throne. A monetary and customs union were also created.

What Were The Benefits Of The Acts of Union?

Scotland gained a number of benefits from the Acts of Union, including gaining freedom of trade, not only with England but with the colonies too, thus expanding their markets. The Presbyterian church was granted permanent status, and the country also retained its own courts and law system. By the end of the 18th century, Scotland and England had become almost fully united, and the city of Glasgow was acknowledged to be one of Great Britain’s most thriving and successful cities. One of the greatest benefits that Scotland gained from the Acts of Union was that it brought to an end the domination that England had held over the country since 1603. Of course, there were benefits for England too, not least a greater sense of security that Scotland would no longer form a threat.