IT was in this week 315 years ago that the final vote was taken in the Scottish Parliament to approve the Act of Union with England. On January 16, 1707, the Scottish Parliament voted by 110 to 67 to join with the English Parliament in a new unitary state to be called the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

It is very instructive for anyone who believes in Scotland regaining its independence to look at what happened in the days and weeks leading up to the final vote, and to learn about what happened on that fateful day. For it is in that history that I believe Scotland may have a method of exiting this current absurd union.

It is axiomatic that the Union was achieved through methods we would not consider democratic. Universal suffrage was more than two centuries away, and both Parliaments were simply not representative of the peoples of Scotland and England.

As anyone who has bothered to study the 1707 Union knows, it was arranged in Scotland by a Parcel of Rogues, as Burns termed them, mostly but not all aristocrats who accepted blatant bribery to bring about the Union so earnestly desired by Queen Anne and her political lapdogs with the securing of the Protestant Succession via the House of Hanover their main obsession, as proven by the opening articles of the Act of Union.

The National: Queen Ann receiving the Act of Union, 1707Queen Ann receiving the Act of Union, 1707

After the years of to-ing and fro-ing, from 1705 It had all been “fixed” by a Commission appointed by Queen Anne, and from October, 1706, the Scottish Parliament voted on the Act, article by article, with some opponents such as Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun making passionate defences of Scottish nationhood.

Out in the country, massive opposition grew, with no fewer than 80 petitions organised in burghs across Scotland calling for an end to the Union process. There were riots on the streets of the main towns and the army was summoned to defend Edinburgh against a rumoured rising in November, 1706, while a huge English force gathered and prepared to march into Scotland to suppress any rebellion.

There were genuine fears that the Church of Scotland would be overrun in the new state and the Scottish Parliament swiftly passed “An Act for Securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government” to appease the Kirk.

The Parliamentary opposition to the Union was hopelessly split and slowly but surely each article was passed. The supporters of the Union and their leader James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, soon realised they were going to win while James Hamilton, the 4th Duke of Hamilton, supposedly the leader of the opposition, vacillated.

The final meeting to discuss the articles was set for January 16, 1707, and the minutes of that meeting show how disgusting the whole Union process had become. For after ratifying the act about the Kirk, the main business of the day was a spat between the Dukes of Queensberry and Hamilton about who would continue to have precedence.

As the minutes show, Hamilton argued: “I and my predecessors have been in continuall possession of having the first seat and of first voteing in parliament and have been first called in the rolls of parliament past memory of man, and upon this protestation I take instruments and desire the same to be insert in the records of parliament.”

Even then all the Parcel wanted was to ensure their status, which in turn led to bigger pay-offs from the English Parliament – Queensberry got £12,325 sterling from them. The vote on the ratification duly went ahead, and again it is interesting to see the names of those who voted No – do many present earls and lairds know their ancestors were against the Union?

The Parliament met for the final time – at least until 1999 – on March 25, 1707 when Queensberry implored its members to “promote an universal desire in this kingdom to become one in hearts and affections, as we are inseparably joyn’d in interest with our neighbour nation.”

The Union did not provide the promised economic bonanza, however, and six years later a motion to dissolve the Union went before the House of Lords. It was defeated by four votes.

Obviously all that happened in a different context to our modern democratic state. So how does this country of Scotland democratically and legally withdraw from the Union? The answer is the same as the methodology for joining the Union – by a vote in the Scottish Parliament, joined, I would suggest, by the MPs from Westminster.

I would strongly recommend that the Yes movement, the SNP and Scottish Greens prepare for a general election in late 2023 or 2024 when the aim must be to gain 50% plus one of the votes cast. Since the SNP and Greens will be standing on a pro-independence manifesto, winning a majority of the votes will give an undoubted democratic mandate for the calling of a legal referendum, ie: the Section 30 option which, whether we like it or not, is the preferred choice of the SNP leadership for ending the Union.

If Boris Johnson, or his successor, ignores that mandate and refuses indyref2 then our elected representatives must meet and vote to end the Union. Our representatives will have the might of democracy and the Scottish people’s sovereignty behind them and no court, no international forum, could ignore that fact.

On January 16, 1707, the country of Scotland did not cease to exist, but to become a full nation state again we need to look at history and conclude there is a lesson to be learned – Unions can be entered into, and Unions can be left, by the exercise of democracy.