Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Act of Security

The Act of Security was passed by the Scottish Parliament on the 5th of August, 1704.

The Act of Security was a brusque response by the independently minded Scottish Parliament of the early 18th Century to the English Parliament’s Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement of 1701. Both pieces of English legislation were designed to ensure the succession of the English Throne didn’t go – heaven forbid – to a Roman Catholic. That piece of 1704 Scottish legislation, together with the Act anent Peace and War of 1703, was in effect a declaration of its independence and somewhat retaliatory for the offence caused by the English through not having the manners to consult with the Scots on the matter of the succession in the first place.

You see, at that time, the rule of both countries was still separate in one significant sense, despite the ‘Union of the Crowns’ having taken place around a hundred years previously. There was still to be a King (or Queen) of Scotland and a King (or Queen) of England, albeit since James VI & I, the Crowns had been worn by the same individual. Two separate countries, two separate Thrones, two separate Parliaments, one joined-up King (or mixed-up Queen) to rule them both and in the darkness bind them.

The Act of Security allowed the Three Estates of Scotland to choose whom it liked as successor to Queen Anne, quite independently from the choice of the English Parliament, if certain, reasonable, Scottish trade concessions were not granted. Of course, the English were mortally afraid that the Scots would unilaterally restore the bona-fide line of Stuarts (Stewarts) and in particular, the Catholic James VII & II, who had lately been, in effect, deposed by the ‘Glorious Revolution’, which led to the Protestant Dutchman, William of Orange, stepping up to the Thrones of England and Scotland. In 1704, William’s sister-in-law, Big Annie Stuart, was Queen and as she was showing no sign of producing a live heir, the English Parliament was getting a bit jumpy. In a tit-for-tat response, the English duly passed legislation known as the Alien Act of 1705. That placed the threat of economic sanctions on the Scots unless they closed the loophole created by their Act of Security. So for a while, insecurity reigned.

The Scots were graciously given a couple of options; either accept the Hanoverian succession or begin proceedings on a union of Parliaments in order to remove the potential for such dilemma to be occur. The economic sanctions threatened were such that Scottish imports to England would be banned and Scots living in England would be treated as foreigners with their rights withdrawn. Any land and property that they owned in England would be forfeited. Of course, this primarily affected the Lords and their Ladies, the Nobles, Magnates and landed Gentry; not the burghers and common people. However, from the economic viewpoint of Scotland as a country, it amounted to international blackmail. Poor Scotland was still reeling from the economic disaster of the Darien Scheme and with England threatening to cut trade and free movement between the two countries, it was caught between a rock and a hard place.

One outcome, if Scotland had gone its own way, would have been the creation of a fully independent Scotland with its own Royalty, rather than the hybrid nation it became as a result of the Union of the Crowns. England, of course, had the same hybrid status as long as the two countries shared the same King or Queen. In reality, England had more to lose and as it was fighting a war with France, it needed Scottish cannon fodder. England, through its Parliament, determined that full union of the two Parliaments and nations was essential, before Anne's death, in order to rule out, once and for all, any partition. The representatives of the English Parliament set about their purpose with a will and used a combination of exclusionary legislation i.e., the Alien Act of 1705, politics with a small ‘p’, and bribery with a large ‘B’ to achieve the desired result.

That end result was the Act of Union of 1707, which, by virtue of Article II, meant that the Act of Settlement effectively became part of Scots Law. And just to make sure, despite a separate Scottish succession being deemed void by the Act of Union, the new Parliament of Great Britain passed the Repeal of Certain Scotch Acts of 1707, which explicitly repealed both the Act of Security and the Act anent Peace and War.

The Act of Union contained twenty-five articles, which were mostly economic. Likely opposition from the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was negated by the promise that it would continue to be the official religion. In addition, it was agreed that the substantially different Scottish system of law would be preserved. The path to agreement was not easy as it was almost universally opposed by the common people of Scotland. Countless petitions and riots occurred, but were effectively ignored. On the other hand, many of the Scottish Nobility stood to benefit financially from, amongst other things, the relaxation of rules against trading with English (then to be British) colonies abroad. The treaty was passed by a large majority of 110 votes ‘for’ to 67 votes ‘against’, but only after the scandal of the bribery, which Robert Burns sums up nicely in his poem, ‘Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation’.

“What force or guile could not subdue
Thro' many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor's wages.”

Many have argued that Scotland benefited greatly from the Union and there is no doubt Scots played a significant part in the subsequent establishment of the British Empire. However, things could have been very different and the financial crisis, which led the ruling classes to accept the proposal, was provoked by the actions of the English in the first place.

4 comments:

  1. Then they retaliated with the Aliens Act.

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    1. Can someone please send me links to understand ancient Scottish law of governments better? curious from America. gallopingwolves at gmail.com

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    2. You might be better served by asking the question on Quora.
      Here's something reasonably current: http://www.scottishgovernmentyearbooks.ed.ac.uk/
      This site was available, but now seems defunct: http://www.nas.gov.uk/about/default.asp
      and this might be useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Archives_of_Scotland

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