1st May 1707

The Acts of Union come into force

England and Scotland had shared a monarch for more than a century by the time the Acts of Union officially brought them together to form a single kingdom. The Acts are so named because they were two separate treaties. The treaty enacted in England was the Union with Scotland Act, which was passed in 1706. In Scotland, it was the Union with England Act, which was passed in 1707.

Regal and political changes

The first monarch to sit simultaneously on the Scottish and English thrones had been James VI of Scotland (who was also James I of England) who had been crowned in 1603. He moved his court to London and promised to return to Scotland regularly, but rarely did.

Moreover, the two countries retained entirely separate legal systems and Parliaments, to a far greater degree than they do today. Although Scotland once again has its own Parliament for dealing with devolved matters, the enacting of the Acts of Union saw its then parliament closed, and all political considerations thereafter being taken in Westminster.

The Darien Scheme

Attempts had been made to unify the two countries before, and it’s conceivable that the attempts of 1706 and 1707 would have failed, as these other attempts had had, if Scotland had not been financially stung by the Darien Scheme, which cost many private individuals – and the country’s economy as a whole – dearly, making a union almost a necessity on financial grounds alone. Despite this, there remained significant opposition to the union within Scotland at the time of the economic collapse.

The Acts included safeguards for Scottish law and the Church of Scotland, which did much to overcome opposition from those quarters, and simultaneously instituted a monetary union and customs union like that established between many members of the European Union. Scotland was given 45 seats in the House of Commons and a small number of seats in the House of Lords. It was also paid a significant sum of money, although this went largely to those who were already the wealthiest within the kingdom.

Some of the provisions of the Acts have been softened, for example with the re-establishment of a Scottish Parliament after successive referendums, and they could have been undone entirely had the result of the 2014 referendum on full Scottish independence delivered a different result.



Other events that occured in May

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.