How Scotland brought the vote to England

The Scots gave England the "vote" following the Union of the Crowns in 1603, according to new research by a Scottish historian.

Dr Alan McDonald, from Dundee University, has discovered that until James VI of Scotland (below, right) became the first monarch of a United Kingdom the word "vote" had never been used in the English Parliament.

He is convinced that the "vote" was added to the parliamentary lexicon at Westminster after being imported from the Scottish Parliament following the coronation of the Scottish monarch to the English crown.

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Dr McDonald said during his research he had found that, while the concept of voting was widely used in the English parliament prior to the beginning of the 17th century, the word itself was never used in relation to the English Parliament until after 1603.

And in a research paper, published in the latest edition of the journal Parliaments, Estates and Representation, he also challenges conventionally-held assumptions about the power of the Scottish Parliament.

Traditionally, historians have been dismissive of the significance of voting in the Scottish Parliament before the Covenanting revolution of 1638, viewing it as a largely ineffective body that passed the King's legislative programme without question.

But he has found detailed evidence of a Scottish Parliament where debating and voting on issues of the day was a predominant feature.

"What I was taught as a student was that the Scottish Parliament was not a powerful check on the monarchy," he said. "The King was essentially able to do as he wanted, with the decision- making process amounting to nothing more than the rubber stamping of a series of measures that the King put before the parliament.

"What I found was, contrary to this traditional view, each individual draft contained in the programme was debated quite extensively before being voted on. When carrying out this research, I found that there were lots of different references to voting in letters and memoirs.

A lot of times, these amounted to throwaway remarks which suggested that voting was quite normal rather than being an exceptional event.

"It also emerged that, in England, prior to 1600 there are no references to votes, only 'voices.'"Thereafter references to votes and voting began to appear, which is too neat a coincidence when you consider James VI became James I in 1603 and came from an environment where voting was well established as part of the political lexicon.

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"The Oxford English Dictionary shows virtually no citations of 'vote' in England until after 1603, whereas it shows citations appearing in Scotland from the mid-15th Century.

"After 1603 we see an increasing number of references to voting in England until it replaced "voice" completely to refer to the counting of opinions."