NQ Scottish History

Worsening relations with England

Following the union of the crowns in 1603, both the parliaments of Scotland and England were predominantly Protestant. With the death of Charles II in 1685, his younger brother was crowned James II. As the first Catholic monarch since before the reformation, he set about implementing highly unpopular anti-protestant campaigns. It soon became clear to many of his subjects that James would have to go. The Convention of Estates was convened in Edinburgh in 1689, resulting in the deposition of James and his replacement by his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange.

There were many in Scotland, especially in the Highlands, who refused to accept the deposition of James VII/II. They called themselves Jacobites. King William II/III demanded that the leaders of clans known to support James swear allegiance to him by 1 January 1692 or face severe reprisals.

One clan failed to meet the deadline: the MacDonalds of Glencoe. William’s orders were swiftly carried out, and 38 MacDonalds were killed in a single night. The attackers, guests of the MacDonalds visiting from a neighbouring glen, burned all the homes and buildings, leaving another 40 women and children to die from exposure to the harsh winter conditions.

Although William’s policies regarding the Jacobites were unpopular in Scotland, dislike for the new king was heightened by his interference in the Darien Scheme: the development of a Scottish trading company that threatened the profits of similar companies in England.

Further tensions had arisen between the Scottish and English parliaments during this time as the Scots protested at the increasing arrogance of the English parliament in repeatedly enacting legislation that affected the Scots, without consultation with the Scottish parliament. Despite being united under a single ruler, opinions of the two parliaments differed strongly in the questions of succession and war.

Mary’s sister Anne had succeeded William after his death in 1702, and promptly went to war with Spain and France. Anne had no children, so the English parliament had passed the Act of Settlement, allowing for the succession of Sophia of Hanover upon Anne's death.

The Scots were angered at not having been consulted on such a crucial issue, and were concerned about the consequences of a non-Stuart monarch for Scottish independence. The Scottish parliament decided to pass the Act of Security, an article that clearly stated the intent of the Scottish Kingdom to choose its own ruler at time of succession. It appeared that all chances of unification of the parliaments of Scotland and England were gone.