Before looking at the challenge of Scottish independence from the UK we should look at how the Union of England and Scotland came about.
The Early Scottish Independence Battles
Prior to the Union in 1707 Scotland has always been seen to an independent country. It started in 844 AD when the Kingdoms of Scots and Picts merged to form Scotland as one nation. After 1707 Scottish independence was lost Scotland and England were no longer recognised as separate Kingdoms.
Scottish Independence and separate kingdoms had applied even when our country of Scotland was ruled over by the English armies. It even applied between 1603 and 1707 when the same King was on the throne of Scotland and England.
The Fight for Scottish Independence and Freedom
Throughout the centuries there have been people who have given their lives for Scottish Independence and the freedom of Scotland as an independent self ruling country.
The most famous of those were involving William Wallace (Braveheart) and Robert The Bruce (Bannockburn). See our Scottish History pages for more information about some of the Scottish battles against the English throne to maintain Scottish independence and self government.
Why did we give up Scottish Independence to create the United Kingdom in the first place?
There had been many attempts at merging the two countries into one. Especially after James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England in 1603 to become James I of England. A couple of days later after hearing the news James left Scotland for England promising to return every three years. In reality he only returned once in 1617 and then only to meddle in the affairs of the Church of Scotland.
Scotland was effectively ruled from London on a day to day basis by the King’s Privy Council. It was during this time that the new “Union Jack” flag incorporating the cross of St George of England and St Andrew of Scotland was first flown.
However sharing one joint King did not stop wars between the two nations. Just days before the union Scottish independence armies were fighting English Armies in France.
Meanwhile other types of bloodless battles were also being fought in the two home countries. For example most English merchants refused to trade with Scottish merchants as they considered them as uncivilised neighbours.
Independence of Scottish Church
His son, Charles I, only returned to Scotland the land of his birth in 1633. That was for his official coronation as King of Scotland. (He had already crowned as King of England.)
However he introduced legislation to restructure the Church of Scotland to be the same as the Church of England. This included rewriting the church service book making the use of our traditional church service style being used throughout Scotland illegal. For example he was even sending church goers to prison for their use of freestyle extemporary prayer used throughout Scotland.
This was to lead to riots and the formation of two armies ready to fight for the freedom of the Scottish Church. One of the two Scottish armies invaded England and occupied Newcastle in North East England. The other staying behind to defend the Scottish Lowlands from attack. Peace was soon established again but undercurrents still existed between the Covenantors and the King.
Massacres of Scottish people lead to the Scots raising new armies again fighting major battles against the King’s English forces. Treaties between Scotland and Oliver Cromwell’s Roundhead Model Army fighting against the King brought Cromwell some early success.
Then Cromwell decided he did not like some Scottish church doctrine and declared Scots unwelcome in England. Again the Scots were cast aside by the English forces once their resources were no longer needed!
More battles were fought over the next 60 years. This included nine years (1651 and 1660) of complete military occupation of Scotland . See the Covenanters’ fight for Church of Scotland’s independence and freedom.
The Act of Union 1707
The end of Scottish Independence was in sight when Charles proposed an official union of England and Scotland as a means of bringing Scots under his control.
Seeing major lack of support for his cause he needed to strengthen his hand and force the Scots to agree to the merger with England. One of the steps he took to end Scottish Independence was The Navigation Act 1690 was passed by the English Parliament. It’s main aim was to prevent Scots from even legally trading with England.
Whilst the Scottish merchant classes welcomed the concept of a union between Scotland and England as they could financially benefit from it large numbers were very unhappy.
To try to appease Scots the Act Of Union had built in legislation to ensure that:-
- Scotland’s unique legal system would not be merged but remain separate from England’s.
- The independence of the Church of Scotland.
- The Scottish Education system.
There were two major groupings of Scots strongly opposed to any union of the two countries.
- The very strong Tory-Jacobite group eager to restore the Stuarts to the Scottish throne.
- The Patriot or Country party headed by Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun who believed that Scottish Independence was the best thing for Scotland.
The two groups however were from different classes and their prime reason for existence were so different. This meant they were often unable to work together effectively for the purpose of preserving the independence of Scotland.
The actual vote in the Scottish Parliament was 110 in favour with 68 against (68%). However the majority of the MPs were of course members of the merchant classes who would make massive financial gain from the repeal of the Navigation Act.
Outside of Parliament the vast majority of people were thought to against any union with England. Some of the local Edinburgh population even invaded the Scottish Parliament straight after the vote to stop it being officially signed. The officials had to flee to hide in a neighbouring basement to get it signed.
Nevertheless the union of the two countries of Scotland and England went ahead with the end of Scottish Independence.
See the following pages for more information.
170o to 1707 just before the loss of Scottish Independence.
1707 to 1710 just after Scotland lost its independence.
The Jacobite Revolution.
The Current Scottish Independence Campaign.
Why is Scotland the only country in modern times to have found oil and become poorer?