NQ Scottish History

Arguments for and against union with England

The debate in Scotland over whether or not to completely unify with England was a difficult one to reconcile. On the one hand, the prospects for trade with the English colonies - something Scotland had been prevented from since the 1660’s - forecasted many economic benefits. On the other, there was a very real concern that a British Parliament would be dominated by English business interests. The two economies were vastly different at the time, with England’s industry far more developed than that of Scotland, resulting in lower prices for manufacturing goods made in England.

By combining the two kingdoms, England would enter into the merger with a prominent advantage in the domestic economy over Scottish industry. Although the long-term benefits of increased trade were appealing, in the short term, there was no question that the economy would face a period of decline before it could begin to flourish.

Politically speaking the arguments were more about ideology. Although pro-unionists saw unification as a chance to unite two querulous siblings in pursuit of a common interest, anti-unionists saw it as yet another attempt at turning Scotland into an obedient province of England. The English plan for a Hanoverian succession did nothing to soothe these fears, as many Scots still hoped for the return of a Scottish monarch to the throne.

Fears of English domination were not restricted to economics and politics however, as there was also a very real concern that the Anglican Church would dominate religious affairs in Britain. Unification with England not only threatened to irrevocably alter Scottish religion, economics and politics, but the distinct culture and languages of Scotland. Even the Scottish legal tradition would be exposed to English scrutiny if the merger occurred.