Remembering the day the Treaty of Union was signed - following months of rioting in the streets

The Scottish Parliament signed the Act of Union on January 16, 1707.  PIC: PA.
The Scottish Parliament signed the Act of Union on January 16, 1707. PIC: PA.
Share this article
0
Have your say

The agreement of the Treaty of Union in the Scottish Parliament on this day in 1707 followed months of fierce debate, unrest and even rioting on the streets.

From Glasgow to Dumfries to Lanark, people took arms with articles of the treaty burnt in the street.

In Edinburgh a ‘villanous and outragious mobb’ threatened and insulted judges and Members of the Scottish Parliament, according to an account held by National Library of Scotland.

Ministers of the Kirk spread more discontent as they began campaigning against union, which gathered momentum in the spring of 1706, just as the negotiations began in London.

READ MORE: The day a parliament returned to Scotland

In October 1706, the Scottish Parliament met to consider and ratify the Articles of Union. Publication of the Articles triggered widespread unrest.

Violent demonstrations took place outside Parliament House, and inside there were fears that the building would be invaded by protesters.

Troops were brought into the city with orders to shoot if necessary, and several regiments were placed at l on the Scottish border and in Ireland in the event of trouble.

READ MORE: Big Rachel: The shipyard worker called in to halt the Partick Riots

Rewards were offered for the capture of rioters with the more wealthy resident of our burghs urged to take responsibility for the actions of their staff and servants.

By December 1706, parliament was ordering the burning of pamphlets that challenged the proposed union with the papers to be destroyed by the hangman at Edinburgh’s Mercat Cross. Further proclamations were made against so-called seditious meeting.

Meanwhile, parliamentarians were engaged in their own manoeuvres as work intensified to push the treaty through.

Lord Queensberry was appointed the Queen’s High Commissioner for the parliamentary session that would decide upon the treaty and was tasked with insuring a successful outcome.

Honours, appointments, pensions and even arrears of pay and other expenses were distributed to secure support from Scottish peers and MPs.

The treaty’s 25 articles were debated and approved between October 1706 and January 1707.

Petitions were drawn up all over Scotland and submitted to the Scottish Parliament as the anti union campaign gathered momentum.

A total of 96 petitions were presented against the union, most in November and December 1706.

The Duke of Argyll, one of the leaders of the Scottish Court party, said that petitions were little more than "paper kites".

Economic matters were dealt with by the majority of articles with new flags and coinage also addressed.

It was agreed customs and excise charges would be set equally across the kingdom with Scots law and the country’s distinct education system to remain.

Critically, the Hanoverian line of succession to the Crown was confirmed - and the exclusion of Papists from the throne agreed.

Under the Treaty of Union, Scotland was paid £398,000 - a sum known as ‘the Equivalent’. This would partially offset losses incurred by the failed Darien Scheme to set up a colony in the Isthmus of Panama.

It would also compensate Scotland for sharing the responsibility for England’s national debt of £18 million.

On January 16, the Act ratifying the treaty was finally passed by 110 votes to 69 with the nobility forming the largest pro-Union group.

The Scottish Parliament then turned to the question of Scotland’s future parliamentary representation.

Article 22 of the Treaty set out that Scotland was to be represented by 16 peers and 45 commoners.

At the time, more than 300 representatives made up the Scottish Parliament, with just under half of its members hereditary peers.

Deep resentment among the public was stirred by this reduced representation at Westminster.

The Scottish Parliament continued to sit until 25 March 1707. The Queen’s Commissioner in Scotland, the Duke of Queensberry, ended its proceedings.

He urged the members to ‘… promote an universal desire in this kingdom to become one in hearts and affections, as we are inseparably joyn’d in interest with our neighbour nation’.

The Scottish Parliament did not meet again until May 12, 1999.