Did You Know?
- Union of the Parliaments 1707

Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union courtesy of the Scottish Parliament Web Site.

The reasons for the Union of the Parliaments (which was vastly unpopular with the ordinary Scottish people even though most of them at that time did not have the vote) were complex and varied. They can be summarised as follows:

Act of Union 1707
A commission representing the two bodies met and thrashed out the details. The Scots lost the argument for a federal arrangement but did manage to secure the continuation of the Scottish legal system, education and church. These were important elements in allowing the country to continue to regard itself as a separate entity. The privileges of the Scottish royal burghs were also to be maintained. Debates in the Scottish Parliament were heated and lengthy while the crowds in the streets burnt copies of the treaty and threw stones at the Parliament windows. A mob held the city of Glasgow for a month. But on January 16, 1707, the Treaty of Union was passed by 110 votes to 67 (with more than a suspicion that some of the poorer Members of Parliament had been bribed - though this was nothing new for those days). The Treaty was passed in Westminster without opposition and the Scottish Parliament met for the last time on 25 March 1707.

When the Act of Union was given the Royal Assent by the Earl of Seafield, he touched the document with the royal sceptre saying "There's the end of an auld sang." Nearly 300 years later, at the "re-convening" of Parliament in Edinburgh in 1999, the Presiding Officer was to remark that it was the "start of a new sang".

Writing later, Sir Walter Scott summed up the attitude of the Scottish "man in the street" at the time in the words of one of his characters: "I ken, when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament - men o' our ain, we could aye peeble them wi' stones when they werena gude bairns - But naebody's nails can reach the length o' Lunnon".

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