The politics of devolution
The politics of devolution

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The politics of devolution

2.2 Scotland

Having enjoyed political independence until 1707, the survival of many of Scotland's institutions – notably its systems of law, religion and education – after Union with England contributed to the preservation of its singular identity. The different way in which Scotland began to be incorporated into the UK, through monarchical ascent (of James VI of Scotland to the English throne) rather than by conquest (as was the case in Wales and Ireland), may account for the lesser impact the development of the UK exerted on Scottish distinctiveness.

In 1296, Edward I forced the submission of John Balliol, King of Scotland, with ease. Subsequently, William Wallace led national resistance against the English, winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297), losing at Falkirk (1298) before being executed in London (1305).

In 1306, Robert Bruce (Robert I) rose in revolt and was crowned the King of Scots, defeating the English army of Edward II at Bannockburn (1314). In 1320, the Scots Nobles sent a letter to Pope John XXII to persuade him of the legitimacy of King Robert the Bruce. This was a patriotic address known as the Declaration of Arbroath, invariably quoted as the first nationalist statement in Western Europe. The Declaration referred to Robert the Bruce as ‘King of Scots’, not King of Scotland, portraying the image of a limited monarch of a people, not only a ruler of the land. Successively, James VI, King of Scotland, became King James I of England in 1603, adopting the title of ‘King of Great Britain, France and Ireland’ in October 1604.

Following the Civil War and the beheading of Charles I, England was proclaimed a free Commonwealth ruled by the army under Oliver Cromwell's leadership. Although Scotland immediately proclaimed King Charles II as monarch, Cromwell invaded and defeated Scottish Royalists to offset this. Subsequently, following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the Act of Union of Parliaments was passed in 1707 enacting a full and incorporating union between England and Scotland. This meant that the Scots gave up their political independence.

In 1715, and again in 1745, the Jacobites attempted to break the Union, but were unsuccessful. Despite such opposition, it is open to debate whether the Scots consented to the Act of Union, or had it imposed upon them. Nonetheless, while Scotland was now governed at Westminster, the Union between England, Scotland and Wales did preserve the Kirk (the Scottish Church), as well as maintain distinctively Scottish forms of law and education, all of which contributed to a Scottish identity.

Figure 1
Figure 1 Presentation of the Treaty of the Union between England and Scotland to Queen Anne © National Galleries of Scotland

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