Negotiating the Articles of Union 1705 - 1706

The Scottish Parliament assembled in Edinburgh on 28 June 1705, but for nearly a month did nothing to consider the question. On 23 July Queen Anne impatiently urged the Duke of Argyll, the new Lord High Commissioner, to make progress. A week later, Lord High Treasurer, Godolphin, was speculating on having to take direct action to bring the Scots into line.

However, after seemingly endless manoeuvring during August, the Scottish Court party managed to obtain enough support from the Squadrone – a group of young Presbyterian Whig nobles - to secure the Scottish Parliament's agreement for Scots participation in fresh negotiations for a union treaty. 

Who should choose the new commissioners?

Having agreed to negotiate a treaty, the next task was to appoint the commissioners. Should they be chosen by parliament or the Queen?

If chosen by parliament, the opposition would almost certainly be able to appoint many opponents of union who would try to sabotage negotiations.

On 1 September, one of the chief opposition figures, the Duke of Hamilton, having done his best to obstruct the introduction of a treaty act, proposed that the commissioners be nominated by the Queen.

Dismay

Stunned by Hamilton's inexplicable behaviour, most of the opposition leaders left the chamber in dismay, and the motion was passed by eight votes.

Godolphin had at last secured what he needed, a treaty, plus the power to nominate the Scottish commissioners. But there was also the beginning of a political sea-change among the Scottish political elite.

Ruthless execution

The ruthless execution in March of Captain Green, whose English ship, the Worcester, had strayed into Scottish waters, showed how delicate the relationship was between England and Scotland.

If there was armed conflict, Scotland might well come off worse. The Duke of Hamilton admitted privately that "our independency is now a jest", and that Scotland stood to gain more from a negotiated union than simple agreement on the succession, or war.

Related information

Court party

Scottish Parliamentary grouping that tended to support the monarch's ministers.

Squadrone Volante

Italian term meaning flying squadron, used to refer to the small group of young Presbyterian Whig nobles and their supporters (known also as the new party) who were keen to dissociate themselves from the main opposition.

In Scottish parliamentary politics they held the central ground between the Court and Country parties.