Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Act of Settlement and the Union of Parliaments

The Treaty of Union, March 1707
Public Domain
The Princess Anne’s only surviving child, the duke of Gloucester died of smallpox on 30 July 1700. This raised the question of the Protestant succession, which was resolved by the Act of Settlement in May 1701, which established the succession, on Anne’s death, on the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her heirs.

Because the Act of Settlement had been passed by the English Parliament, there were concerns that Scotland might chose a different monarch from England.  Between April and July 1706 Union Commissioners convened in London. 25 articles were drawn up, which were ratified by the Scots Parliament in January 1707 and by Westminster on 6 March. The Act of Union was passed in March.

Key features were the establishing of:
  1. A single kingdom of ‘Great Britain’ with the succession vested in the Hanoverians. This state comprised c. 1 million Scots and some 5 m. English.
  2. A single Parliament at Westminster by expanding the Commons and Lords to include 45 MPs from Scottish constituencies to join 513 English MPs (a 12:1 ration compared with England) and 16 elected Scots peers to join the 45 English peers. This low representation flattered the country’s economic strength (38:1) but grossly under-represented the population ratio (5:1) between the two kingdoms.
  3. A British free trade area and the use of English standards of coins, weights and measures within it.
  4. An equality of Scots and English in colonial trade.
  5. A unified fiscal system based upon that already in place in England.
But the Scottish privy council continued, no change was made to Scotland’s legal system,  the Presbyterian settlement, the universities, burghs or hereditable jurisdictions. Scotland therefore remained a distinct country.

Scotland’s last Parliament was dissolved in April and the Union came into effect on 1 May 1707. The flags of St George and St Andrew were merged.

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