“Prey tell me why everything in the past is glorious and everything in the future, in an independent Scotland will be fundamentally wrong”. I will confine my brief to the year’s 1701-1745.
1701: The English Parliament, introduced the 1701, Act of Settlement, passing royal succession to the House of Hanover securing only Protestant succession to the throne, and to strengthen the guarantees for ensuring parliamentary system of government.
1702: William III died, (without issue). Mary’s sister, Anne, became queen, (1702-1714). She had 17 children, none of which survived her.
1704: Protracted and at times angry discussions, (between English and Scottish negotiators) broke down. England wishing to transfer royal succession to the, “House of Hanover”. Scotland insisting upon the successor to Queen Anne being of direct Scottish descent as contained in the right of succession, laws of Scotland.
1704: The Scottish Parliament passed the, “Act of Security” threatening, (in the absence of agreement) to withdraw financial and military support to England, (fighting yet another war with Spain.)
1705: The Alien Act was a law passed by the Parliament of England in 1705, as a response to the Parliament of Scotland’s Act of Security of 1704, which in turn was partially a response to the English Act of Settlement 1701.
The Alien Act provided that Scottish nationals in England were to be treated as aliens (foreign nationals), and estates held by Scots would be treated as alien property, making inheritance much less certain.
It also included an embargo on the import of Scottish products into England and English colonies – about half of Scotland’s trade, covering goods such as linen, cattle and coal.
The Act contained a provision that it would be suspended if the Scots entered into negotiations regarding a proposed union of the parliaments of Scotland and England.
Combined with English financial offers to refund Scottish losses on the Darien scheme, the Act achieved its aim, leading to the Acts of Union 1707 uniting the two countries as the Kingdom of Great Britain.
1706: The vast majority of Scots, argued vehemently against the proposals, forcefully rejecting them and working hard to retain their independence opened up new markets reducing dependence on trade with England.
Scottish nobles, landed gentry and traders, who had borne much of the financial losses attributed to the, (Darien Project) were of a different mindset and led by the Duke of Queensberry, (the most senior noble in Scotland) they established a secret dialogue with Westminster politicians providing assurance an, “Act of Union” would be agreed, subject to a suitable financial settlement.
A “sweetener”, £400,000 was passed in secret to the Duke of Queensberry for distribution to the appropriate Scottish gentry.
1706: Despite the assurances of the Duke of Queensberry that Scotland would be delivered as promised the majority of Scots were still opposed to any agreement with England and a hastily convened meeting of senior politicians in London decided that urgent measures would need to be taken, persuading the leader of factions opposed to the Union, (Duke of Hamilton) to switch sides. The ploy was successful, The Duke, together with enough of his close friends transferred their allegiance.
1706: The English public voiced doubt that the proposed Union would bring benefits and their concerns were raised in Westminster.
To reassure England, Robert Harley, Spymaster in the Westminster Government, contracted William Defoe to write a thrice weekly review, (for the widest possible distribution in England) aimed at persuading English opinion to support the proposed Union.
The thrust of Defoe’s assertions claimed that it would end the threat from Scotland forever and gain for Westminster an “inexhaustible treasury of fighting men” and a valuable new market further increasing the power of England.
1706 In the autumn, “Spymaster Harley” ordered Defoe to Edinburgh with the mission (as a secret agent) to do everything possible to help secure acquiescence in the Treaty of Union.
His first reports included vivid descriptions of violent demonstrations against the Union. Some time after, John Clerk of Penicuik, a leading Unionist, wrote, “He was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob of Edinburgh would have pulled him to pieces.”
Defoe, a Presbyterian, had been accepted as an adviser to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and committees of the Parliament of Scotland.
Harley wrote that he was, “privy to all their folly” but, “perfectly unsuspected as with corresponding with anybody in England”. He was then able to heavily influence proposals that were put to the Scottish Parliament.
In manipulating Scottish opinion he used opposite arguments, to those he used in England, for example, unusually ignoring the English doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament, telling Scot’s that they could have complete confidence in the guarantees in the Treaty.
He secretly wrote a many pamphlets praising the Union. These were then circulated throughout Scotland all purported to have been written by Scots, misleading even reputable historians into quoting them as evidence of Scottish opinion of the time.
Robert Harley Spymaster
1707: The “Act of Union” was signed off. Defoe, (ignored by Westminster) was financially rewarded by, “Spymaster Harley”.
Robert Burns scathingly wrote, “We’re bought and sold for English Gold, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation”.
1707: The Scottish public infuriated by the betrayal by the Nobles and, “hi heid yins” in Parliament, generated a hotbed of unrest against the Union.
The Presbyterian minister of the Trongate church in Glasgow urged his congregation, “to up and anent for the City of God”.
The “Dear Green Place” that was Glasgow required government troops to put down the rioters tearing up copies of the Treaty, an act that was repeated at almost every Mercat cross in Scotland.
Martial Law was imposed, (coupled with a dawn to dusk curfew) and maintained for some months after the signing of the, “Act of Union”.
1723: Defoe returning to Scotland many year’s later and (on viewing the abject poverty of the people) admitted that the increase of trade and population in Scotland which he had predicted as a consequence of the Union, was “not the case, but rather the contrary”.
He assessed hostility towards his party was, “because they were English and because of the Union, which they were almost universally exclaimed against”.
1745: In supporting the claims of the Jacobites, Scots did so believing they had a much stronger right to the throne of Scotland than the recently crowned German king from the “House of Hanover”.
The brutality at Culloden and the 30 year rape of Scotland, beyond Perth was a display of abject hatred of Scot’s, the effects of which are evident 270 years after.
Lessons learned, Scots heeded that it was the upper and middle classes of England, who controlled Westminster and by result the UK and having staged a coup d’etat with a foreigner, (William of Orange) in a pre-emptive strike getting rid of a potentially troublesome monarch, they would fight to retain their power.
At the start of the Eighteenth century Scotland a once prosperous nation, (had fallen on hard times due to the greed of bankers). But instead of being provided with support, it was sold out to England by a bunch of self interested rogues.
300 year’s later Scotland is well placed, to return to the, world’s “family of nations”, independent and free.