Politics

England, Scotland and the Treaty of Union, 1706-08

In 1707, under the terms of the Treaty of Union, England and Scotland became a single state – the United Kingdom of Great Britain – and the parliaments at Westminster and Edinburgh were replaced by a single ‘Parliament of Great Britain’.   The arrangements for establishing the new parliament were set out in Article 22 of the Treaty.   The wording of the Treaty made no mention of the closure of the Scottish Parliament, but the detailing of an entirely new scheme for the representation of Scotland left no doubt that the new Parliament was in fact to consist of the Parliament at Westminster with the addition of Scots representatives.  

The finalized ‘Articles of Union’ were signed at Whitehall on 22 July 1706 and formally presented to Queen Anne the following day.   They were considered by the Scottish Parliament during October 1706-January 1707, and an Act was then passed declaring Scotland’s assent.   The Articles were then debated at Westminster, first by the Commons, then the Lords, during February 1707.   A bill was passed for ratifying the Articles to which the Queen gave her assent in person at the House of Lords on 6 Mar. 

 After the Scottish Parliament had passed its ratifying Act it had turned to the question of Scotland’s future parliamentary representation.   Article 22 of the Treaty had decreed that 16 peers and 45 commoners were to represent Scotland at Westminster, leaving it to Scotland’s Parliament to settle the detail.   The Edinburgh parliament was a unicameral body which, by the eve of the Union, had grown to consist of a ‘theoretical’ total of 302, made up of some 143 hereditary peers, 92 ‘shire’ or county commissioners, and 67 burgh commissioners.   Inevitably, Scotland’s loss of its representative body – symbolizing the loss of national sovereignty – in favour of a much reduced representation at Westminster produced deep resentment among the Scottish populace.    

At the end of January 1707, following a series of ill-attended sittings, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation setting out the procedures for electing the 16 peers and 45 commoners.  The 16 representative peers were to be chosen by the entire body of Scottish peers through ‘open election’ rather than by ballot.   Each elected peer was to serve for the duration of one Parliament.  Upon the dissolution of Parliament all Scottish peers would be