TODAY I conclude this short series on the debates and rancour that led up to the Act of Union of 1707, having presented the evidence – much suppressed over the centuries – that the Union was a political fix by Queen Anne and her supporters, chiefly among the nobility of England and Scotland, and that the Union really was opposed by the ordinary people of Scotland.   

As I hope I have shown over the past few weeks, the Scottish Parliament’s vote for the Act of Union of 1707 was a foregone conclusion, especially after the Church of Scotland, not to mention the nation’s merchants, lawyers and lecturers, were bought off with important concessions in the final run-up to the voting which started to take place in late 1706. 

Yet still, campaigners tried to overturn what was becoming inevitable. As I have shown, the Court Party joined with the Squadrone Volante to form a comfortable majority in favour of the Union, while the opposition Country Party was divided – mainly into Jacobite and Presbyterian factions – and, crucially, was unable to “whip” its membership to even attend Parliament.   

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The fight put up by some Parliamentarians against the Union has echoes to this day, however, none more so than the address made by William Johnstone, the 1st Marquess of Annandale, in November 1706.

I make no apologies for quoting extensively from it: “Whereas it evidently appears since the printing, publishing and considering of the articles of the treaty now before this house this nation seems generally averse to this incorporating union in the terms now before us as subversive of the sovereignty, fundamental constitution and Claim of Right of this kingdom and as threatening ruin to this church as by law established. 

“And since it is plain that if a union were agreed to in these terms by this parliament and accepted of by the parliament of England, it would in no sort answer the peaceable and friendly ends proposed by a union, but would, on the contrary, create such dismal distractions and animosities amongst ourselves and such jealousies and mistakes between us and our neighbours as would involve these nations into fatal breaches and confusions.  

“Therefore I do protest, for myself and in name of all those who shall adhere to this my protestation, that an incorporating union of the crown and kingdom of Scotland with the crown and kingdom of England, and that both nations shall be represented by one and the same parliament (as contained in the articles of the treaty of union), is contrary to the honour, interest, fundamental laws and constitution of this kingdom, is a giving up the sovereignty, the birthright of the peers, the rights and privileges of the barons and burghs, and is contrary to the Claim of Right.”        

Annandale did indeed speak for many. Disturbances against the  Union had started in Edinburgh but in the last weeks of 1706, they spread across the country. 

James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, was Queen Anne’s chief commissioner and worked tirelessly to persuade members of the Parliament to vote in favour of the Union. But even he could see the problems for the pro-Union side, recognising that the issue of taxation could be crucial.  

In the Marchmont papers in the National Records of Scotland, there is a letter written by Queensberry on December 10, 1706. I quote exactly as it was written: “So the greatest difficulty realy lies on the matter of impositions on salt and malt. 

“The opposers of the Union have so frighted the people about these Taxes, in representing them in some cases three or four, and in others at least 5 or 6 times as heavy as they realy are, or possibly can be, that there is hardly any persuading of them to understand, or hear the truth, and had it not bin for this Committee of Parliament to have taken such hearty and unwearied pains to inform themselves, and others, it had bin impossible to bring them to so good an issue as I still hope we shall.” 

He engineered concessions that appeased the Union’s opponents and whatever else he was, Queensberry must have been brave physically. 

George Lockhart of Carnwath in his famous account of the Union wrote of Queensberry’s daily journeys through the angry crowds in Edinburgh. It did help Queensberry that according to Lockhart, he passed between two lanes of musketeers and his coach was surrounded by horse guards and at night by foot guards.  

To its great credit, the UK Parliament website does not play down the extent of the opposition in Scotland and the steps taken to suppress it, noting that “the authorities issued another proclamation in late December 1706 forbidding ‘unwarrantable and seditious convocations and meetings’. 

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“A month later, another proclamation was issued ‘against all tumultuary and irregular meetings and convocations of the leidges’. In Glasgow, Dumfries and Lanark, people had taken up arms: they were ‘insolently burning the Articles of Treaty betwixt our two Kingdoms’. Sheriffs, baillies and magistrates were authorised to take whatever action necessary to quench the riots.”  The Union was very much opposed by the Scottish people.  

The UK Parliament website records it thus: “The 25th and last Article was approved on 14 January, 1707. The next day the draft of an act for ratifying the Articles as ‘enlarged, explained and amended’ was introduced.  

“On 16 January it was ordered that the Act for guaranteeing the Presbyterian Kirk be made part of the Act of Ratification. The Act of Ratification was then put to a vote. In effect, this was a final vote on the Articles of Union. The Court-Squadrone Volante majority achieved a comfortable 110 to the Country party’s 67 votes.

The Act was then touched with the royal sceptre by Queensberry, the usual manner of signifying the sovereign’s approval of acts of the Scottish Parliament.”  The end of “ane auld sang” then, at least until 1999.