Mob unrest and disorder for Scotland

Before 1706 reports of unrest and public protest against union were rare. However, as negotiations progressed, the public mood became increasingly volatile, and during 1706 there was frequent civil unrest and disorder in Scottish towns.

Union was gaining acceptance among the Scottish governing, commercial and professional classes but, through the influence of Jacobites and others, the lower social ranks started to worry about the burden of taxation they would have to bear.

Kirk discontent

Ministers of the Kirk spread more discontent as they began campaigning against union, which gathered momentum in the spring of 1706, just as the negotiations began in London.

Protests over the Articles

In October 1706 the Scottish Parliament met to consider and ratify the Articles of Union. Publication of the Articles triggered widespread unrest. Violent demonstrations took place outside Parliament House, and inside there were fears that the building would be invaded by protesters.

Troops sent in

Troops were brought into the city with orders to shoot if necessary, and several regiments were placed at Queensberry's disposal on the Scottish border and in Ireland in the event of trouble.

The situation in Edinburgh grew quieter in November. Trouble now broke out elsewhere. But despite ministerial fears of armed insurrection on a national scale, the only disturbances in the period leading up to union were local and short-lived.

Petitions

Petitions, the usual way of bringing local grievances to parliamentary attention, were an interesting feature of the anti-union campaign. During the debates they were drawn up all over Scotland and submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

A total of 96 petitions were presented against the union, most in November and December 1706, during the debates on the Articles. They were designed to show to undecided MPs the widespread unpopularity of the proposed terms.

It is possible that the petitions and their messages had some influence in the changes made to the Articles. But the Duke of Argyll, one of the leaders of the Scottish Court party, said that petitions were little more than "paper kites" - a revealing insight into how governments of the day regarded public opinion.

Related information

Jacobites

Supporters of the claim to the throne of James II, who abdicated in 1688, and his Stuart descendants, the ‘Old Pretender’ (his son) James Edward Stuart and the ‘Young Pretender’ (his grandson) Bonnie Prince Charlie. ‘Jacobus’ is Latin for James.

Related links

Find out about how the public can petition Parliament