IT was in this week of 1706 that the relatively short debate on approving the Act of Union began in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Today and over the next couple of weeks I want to give a flavour of that debate and the tumult that surrounded it, and hopefully will show how the Unionist propaganda that it was all achieved “just so” is so much bunkum and balderdash, not least because it was a rushed project from the outset of the formal debate.

It almost beggars belief that the process of uniting two such disparate states that had so often been at war with each other took just three months and two weeks to achieve, but as most people who know about the Union will agree, there were very powerful forces at work and the undemocratic Scottish Parliament bent to their will and to pro-Union persuasion, not the least of which was the personal intervention of Queen Anne on several occasions.

I am often asked why the Scottish parliamentarians just simply did not throw out the whole idea, just as the English Parliament had done in the 1690s when King William II, III of England let it be known he was in favour of a Union of Parliaments. There had even been formal negotiations between the two Parliaments proposed by Queen Anne a few years before the Union process really began, but these had come to nothing – indeed, they were counter-productive – until the English need for peace with their neighbours and the Scottish economy’s requirement for trade brought both sides back to the table.

This time, the leading figures in Scotland desperately wanted the Union as they were mostly broke after years of economic recession and the Darien scheme’s collapse while the English Parliament needed fighting men who would go to war for the new UK against Scotland’s Auld Alliance friend France.

By October 3, 1706, negotiations involving 31 commissioners on each side – all appointed by the monarch – had progressed so quickly at the Cockpit in London that though they had never all met face-to-face, a draft Treaty of Union had been drawn up and the Scottish Parliament met to debate the articles which, it should be noted, sailed through the English Parliament, indicating it was a good deal for them.

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The official website of the UK Parliament is admirably even-handed and accurate in its account: “In contrast to the abortive negotiations for union of 1702-3, the English this time had gone out of their way to accommodate Scottish demands, particularly over access to English trade.

“Next, the Scottish Parliament had to agree to the Articles of Union. This turned out to be arduous and was accomplished against a background of protest, often violent, in many parts of Scotland.”

So much for nicely-nicely. The UK Parliament account continues: “(The Duke of) Queensberry was appointed the Queen’s High Commissioner for the session and was responsible for a successful outcome. Honours, appointments, pensions and even arrears of pay and other expenses were distributed to clinch support from Scottish peers and MPs.”

History has forced their honesty. The Union was a foregone conclusion before the debates really got going. Putting it simply, the single-chamber Scottish Parliament was split into three factions with the so-called mainly aristocratic Court Party and the supposedly fluctuating Squadrone Volante making up a majority of the 227 members of the single-chamber Parliament. Nor was the opposition, the Country Party, well-organised.

The immediate publication of the draft Treaty caused a riot – literally so. The National Library of Scotland records: “When the draft Treaty of Union was made public in October 1706, there were riots on the streets of Scottish towns and cities. In Edinburgh, a ‘villanous and outragious mobb’ threatened and insulted judges and Members of the Scottish Parliament.

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“The authorities issued a proclamation offering a reward for the capture of the rioters. It also urged householders and masters to take responsibility for the ‘good behaviour of their apprentices, servants and domesticks’.”

Even as the riots continued outside, 317 years ago the Parliament debated each article in turn while pamphlets were published by the day arguing the case for and against the Union.

Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, one of the 31 Scottish commissioners for the Treaty of Union, stated a complete lie in that “neither our sovereignty nor our antiquity are lost in an incorporating union with England”.

He was the very soul of the Scottish Cringe: “Scotland is scarce known to any except its own inhabitants, or if it be, it is still under the cover of England, from whence its sovereignty and independency cast but a very dim light. What is it then we contend so much about?“

The fact that Scotland would have a much smaller number of MPs than England proved that this was a union of equal partners. What amazes me is how many of the opponents of the Union cited reasons that could apply even now.

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Alexander Fletcher of Saltoun, the Great Patriot, let rip: “It is much easier to corrupt 45 Scots at London, than it is to corrupt 300 at Edinburgh.”

William Forbes of Disblair warned: “England boldly tells you that you’ve no right to choose a successor to her present Majesty; nor the liberty to make good laws for the security of your most valuable interests.”

Robert Wylie said: “The Parliament of Scotland comes to be totally annulled, and the Parliament of England to continue just as it is, and always was, with some very inconsiderable accession of a few Scotsmen.”

The Duke of Hamilton was at first against the Union, but he knew the vote would be “for” just three days into the debate, as the Squadrone Volante had come out in favour of the Union. He wrote to his mother on October 6 – I quote him exactly as written: “My heart is Broke for the Business of this nation Surpases all that was ever knowen or heard off. The Squadrone have keept up ther sentiments with great cautiousnes till this day they have declard themselves all as one man for the union & in the tyrmes as you see them.”

Next week, I will show how the Unionists knew they had won even before the first and most important article of the Treaty was passed.