THE disastrous Darien scheme, a Scottish colony in Panama in the late 1690s whose failure almost crashed Scotland’s economy, played an important role in bringing about the Act of Union in 1707.

As part of the United Kingdom, many more Scots would settle in North America, particularly in Canada and what would later become the United States.

But Darien was not the only early Scottish attempt at colonising the Americas. There were several other, often more successful, Scottish settlements in North America in the century before the Act of Union. By 1600, Scots were already trading with early colonies in America, with a Dundee ship, the Gift of God, travelling between Portugal and Newfoundland.

READ MORE: The Darien Scheme: 330 years since the farce that shaped Scotland

Because England and Scotland shared a king, James VI and I, Scots could be found settling in English colonies in the early 1600s as well. This same king would help create the first Scottish-led colony in the Americas.

In 1621, he granted much of what are now the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Sir William Alexander of Menstrie. Alexander spent the following years trying to recruit volunteers and raise funds for his planned colony there, called Nova Scotia, Latin for New Scotland.

Under Charles I, Alexander (below) began to sell plots of land there as baronies to prospective settlers. But the region was also claimed by the French.

The National:

When war broke out between Great Britain and France in 1627, Alexander took the chance to seize territory from the French colonies in the region. Small settlements of Scots and English were established and in 1629 Alexander led an expedition to Nova Scotia, where he founded a fort and a town called Fort Royal, today’s Annapolis Royal.

Another settlement was established by Sir James Stewart of Killeith on Cape Breton Island. It was called Baleine and a fort was built to defend it. The colonists soon raided the French in Quebec and seized their fort. But a few months later a French counter-attack retook the colony and captured Baleine.

Great Britain and France made peace in 1629 and agreed that Cape Breton would pass to the French. Most of the Scottish settlers on the island returned to their homeland, but some remained living under French rule or travelled to the English colonies in New England.

The Nova Scotia colony continued for a further two years, until Charles I agreed to cede this land to France as well. The final 46 colonists left for England in 1632. This first Scottish colony ended not because of the settlers themselves but as a victim of international diplomacy.

Alexander’s son, William, continued to have an interest in the region. In 1635, he acquired a land grant stretching from modern New Brunswick to Long Island. Some Scots even achieved high office in the colonies. From 1664 to 1676 North Carolina had a Scottish governor, William Drummond.

Others arrived on the continent less willingly. The War of the Three Kingdoms saw many Scottish prisoners of war sent to the Americas, including 1000 to the English colonies in north-eastern America. Scots continued to arrive later in the 1600s as indentured servants or prisoners.

Others arrived as employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which was founded in 1670. This corporation dominated the fur trade in British Canada and America and employed many Scots. The company considered Scots, particularly those from Orkney, to have the necessary disposition to cope with the cold climates it operated in and recruited them heavily.

Another company, the Scottish Carolina Company, backed by many Glasgow merchants, founded Stuart’s Town, near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1684. But like Nova Scotia, the region was contested with another European power, Spain, and the colony was not protected by the English authorities. In 1686, the settlement was captured by the Spanish and the settlers moved to Charleston.

Because of these two unsuccessful ventures in Nova Scotia and South Carolina, the bulk of Scots settled in English colonies then, rather than establishing their own. By 1700, Scots could be found in Boston, Charlestown, Philadelphia and New York.

Many, particularly Glaswegians, took part in tobacco smuggling. In 1701, some Scots even established a factory in Newfoundland in 1701 to help them smuggle tobacco to Scotland and the Netherlands.

Other Scots could find more legitimate careers in the colonial administration, such as John Livingston, a minister from Ancrum in the Borders who became a fur trader in Albany, New York, before becoming Speaker of New York’s Provincial Assembly.

The governor of New Jersey from 1692-7 and 1699-1703 was also a Scot, Andrew Hamilton, originally an Edinburgh merchant.

The most successful Scottish colony was a joint one with English settlers, East New Jersey. Working with English Quakers, Scots Quakers mostly from Kincardineshire and Aberdeenshire, led by Robert Barclay of Urie, settled there from 1683 onwards.

Within a few years, some 700 Scots had joined the colony. Even after the Act of Union, a Scottish community persisted in the region, with around 3000 Scots settlers living in central Jersey by the mid-1700s.

But not all Scots settled in colonies administered by Great Britain. A few could be found living under the rule of rival countries. The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, which would later be renamed New York when conquered by the British, included a few Scots.

Alexander Lindsay, from Fife, and his Aberdeenshire wife Catherine Duncanson settled in the colony after being recruited as colonists in Amsterdam in 1639. Lindsay would go on to become a trader with Native Americans in the region.

On the Delaware, the short-lived Swedish colony of Nya Sverige, or New Sweden, also had a few Scots, including the trader James Sandilands and his ship De Schotzen Duytsman, The Scottish Dutchman.

Though the Darien colony is rightly well-known for its failure, it does not define the whole story of Scottish colonisation. Instead, it marked an end to a century of much more widespread Scottish settlement in the Americas than one single colony at the end of the 1600s.