The Scottish Parliament in revolt 1703

Elections were held in Scotland during 1702, and the new Scottish Parliament assembled in Edinburgh on 6 May 1703 and quickly proved a fractious and unpredictable body.

The Duke of Queensberry, as Lord High Commissioner - the Queen's personal representative to the Parliament of Scotland - led the Court (government) party, a minority administration, which struggled to steer a course between the opposition parties, the Cavalier (Episcopalian) and Country parties.

Parliament fails to co-operate

Queensberry's priority was to get Scotland to help fund the war with France. But the Scots were angry about English arrogance and obstruction during the recent union negotiations, especially over the vital issues of trade and the ill-fated Darien enterprise, and these increasingly stormy arguments dominated the proceedings.

There were repeated digressions from the all-important measures that were necessary to provide funds to fight France.

Queensberry loses control

Leading members of the opposition put forward legislation – an Act of Security – to preserve the Kirk, trade and the gains of the 1688 Revolution in Scotland.

On 16 July the Earl of Roxburghe caused uproar when he proposed adding a distinctly anti-English clause to the Act of Security.

Queen's successor

It specified that the Queen's successor in Scotland would not be the same person as that in England, unless Scotland was guaranteed the independence of its Crown, the freedom and power of its Parliament, and the liberty of its religion and trade from outside intrusion.

Scotland was expressing its deepest anger about its negligent treatment in the 1690s by King William, and by the high-handed action of the English parliament in determining the succession in 1701 in the Act of Settlement without consulting the Scots.

Queensberry had now completely lost control of the Parliament.

Another clause was later added to the Act of Security stating that there should be no joint monarch unless Scotland was granted unrestricted access to English colonial trade. The Act was passed after 19 stormy sittings on 13 August by a majority of 59.

Related information

Lord High Commissioner

The Queen's personal representative to the Scottish Parliament. The post was established in 1603 when James VI, king of Scotland, became James I of England.

The Commissioner usually maintained a vice-regal court at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, for the duration of the parliamentary session. Beside ceremonial duties his chief role was to manage the Scottish Parliament in line with royal policy.

This political function ceased in 1707. Since then the sovereign's lord high commissioners have presided over the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland - which meets annually in Edinburgh for 10 days in May.

Court and Country parties

Scottish Parliamentary groupings. The Court party tended to support the monarch's ministers and the Country party tended to oppose them. Parties were looser groupings than they are now.