Parliament of Scotland
Pàrlamaid na h-Alba
Pairlament o Scotland
|Disbanded||1 May 1707|
|Preceded by||Curia regis|
|Succeeded by||Parliament of Great Britain|
The Earl of Seafield 1
| ennoblement by the monarch,|
inheritance of a peerage,
appointment as an officer of state, or
election with limited suffrage1
|Parliament Hall, Edinburgh, meeting place of the Parliament from 1639–1707.|
|1Reflecting Parliament as it stood on |
25 March 1707;
2 officers of state
90 commissioners for shires
67 commissioners for burghs
The Parliament of Scotland (Scots : Pairlament o Scotland; Scottish Gaelic : Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland from the 13th century until 1707. The parliament evolved during the early 13th century from the king's council of bishops and earls, with the first identifiable parliament being held in 1235 during the reign of Alexander II, when it already possessed a political and judicial role.
A unicameral institution, for most of its existence the Parliament consisted of the three estates of clergy, nobility, and the burghs. By the 1690s it comprised the nobility, the shires, the burghs, and various officers of state. Parliament gave consent for the raising of taxation and played an important role in the administration of justice, foreign policy, war, and the passing of a broad range of legislation. Parliamentary business was also carried out by "sister" institutions, such as General Councils or Conventions of Estates, which could both carry out much business dealt with by parliament, but lacked the powers and ultimate authority of a full parliament.
The Parliament of Scotland was adjourned and dissolved in 1707 following the ratification of the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England. With the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 May 1707, the parliaments of Scotland and England were succeeded by the new Parliament of Great Britain. Under the Acts of Union 1800, the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland merged to become the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Long portrayed as a constitutionally defective body that acted merely as a rubber stamp for royal decisions, modern research has found that the Parliament of Scotland played an active role in Scottish affairs, and often limited the power of the Scottish Crown.
The members were collectively referred to as the Three Estates (Scots : Thrie Estaitis), or "three communities of the realm" (tres communitates), until 1690 composed of:
The first estate comprised the archbishops of St Andrews and Glasgow, the bishops of Aberdeen, Argyll, Brechin, Caithness, Dunblane, Dunkeld, Edinburgh (1633-38 & 1662-1690), Galloway, Isles, Moray, Orkney and Ross and, at different periods, various abbots, priors, archdeacons, and deans.After the reformation in 1559, the Scottish abbeys and priories disappeared, although not overnight. Kelso and Lindores were closed quickly, while others, such as Sweetheart, survived well into the 17th century. Next, the bishops themselves were removed from the Church of Scotland, as a result of the Glorious Revolution and the accession of William II. When no members of the First Estate remained, the Second Estate was then split, to retain the division into three.
From the 16th century, the second estate was reorganised by the selection of Shire Commissioners: this has been argued to have created a fourth estate. During the 17th century, after the Union of the Crowns, a fifth estate of officers of state (see Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland) has also been identified. These latter identifications remain highly controversial among parliamentary historians. Regardless, the term used for the assembled members continued to be "the Three Estates".
A Shire Commissioner was the closest equivalent of the English office of Member of Parliament , namely a commoner or member of the lower nobility. Because the parliament of Scotland was unicameral, all members sat in the same chamber, in contrast to the separate English House of Lords and House of Commons.
The Scottish parliament evolved during the Middle Ages from the King's Council. It is perhaps first identifiable as a parliament in 1235, described as a "colloquium" and already with a political and judicial role.In 1296 we have the first mention of burgh representatives taking part in decision making. By the early 14th century, the attendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and Robert the Bruce began regularly calling burgh commissioners to his Parliament. Consisting of The Three Estates – of clerics, lay tenants-in-chief and burgh commissioners – sitting in a single chamber, the Scottish parliament acquired significant powers over particular issues. Most obviously it was needed for consent for taxation (although taxation was only raised irregularly in Scotland in the medieval period), but it also had a strong influence over justice, foreign policy, war, and all manner of other legislation, whether political, ecclesiastical, social or economic. Parliamentary business was also carried out by "sister" institutions, before c. 1500 by General Council and thereafter by the Convention of Estates. These could carry out much business also dealt with by Parliament – taxation, legislation and policy-making – but lacked the ultimate authority of a full parliament. The Scottish parliament met in a number of different locations throughout its history. In addition to Edinburgh, meetings were held in Perth, Stirling, St Andrews, Dundee, Linlithgow, Dunfermline, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Berwick-upon-Tweed.
From the early 1450s until 1690, a great deal of the legislative business of the Scottish Parliament was usually carried out by a parliamentary committee known as the "Lords of the Articles". This was a committee chosen by the three estates to draft legislation which was then presented to the full assembly to be confirmed. In the past, historians have been particularly critical of this body, claiming that it quickly came to be dominated by royal nominees, thus undermining the power of the full assembly.Recent research suggests that this was far from always being the case. Indeed, in March 1482, the committee was taken over by men shortly to be involved in a coup d'état against the King and his government. On other occasions the committee was so large that it could hardly have been easier to control than the full assembly. More generally, the committee was a pragmatic means to delegate the complicated drafting of acts to those members of parliament skilled in law and letters – not unlike a modern select committee of the UK Parliament – while the right to confirm the act remained with the full assembly of three estates. The Lords of the Articles were abolished in 1690 as part of the revolutionary settlement.
At various points in its history, the Scottish Parliament was able to exert considerable influence over the Crown. This should not be viewed as a slow rise from parliamentary weakness in 1235 to strength in the 17th century, but rather a situation where in particular decades or sessions between the thirteenth and 17th century, parliament became particularly able to influence the Crown, while at other points that ability was more limited. As early as the reign of David II, parliament was able to prevent him pursuing his policy of a union of the crowns with England, while the 15th-century Stewart monarchs were consistently influenced by a prolonged period of parliamentary strength. Reverses to this situation have been argued to have occurred in the late 16th and early 17th centuries under James VI and Charles I, but in the 17th century, even after the Restoration, parliament was able to remove the clergy's right to attend in 1689 and abolish the Lords of the Articles in 1690, thereby limiting royal power. Parliament's strength was such that the Crown turned to corruption and political management to undermine its autonomy in the latter period. Nonetheless, the period from 1690 to 1707 was one in which political "parties" and alliances were formed within parliament in a maturing atmosphere of rigorous debate. The disputes over the English Act of Settlement 1701, the Scottish Act of Security, and the English Alien Act 1705 showed that both sides were prepared to take considered yet considerable risks in their relationships.
Between 1235 and 1286, little can be told with certainty about Parliament's function, but it appears to have had a judicial and political role which was well established by the end of the century. With the death of Alexander III, Scotland found itself without an adult monarch, and in this situation, Parliament seems to have become more prominent as a means to give added legitimacy to the Council of Guardians who ran the country. By the reign of John Balliol (1292–96), Parliament was well established, and Balliol attempted to use it as a means to withstand the encroachments of his overlord, Edward I of England. With his deposition in 1296, Parliament temporarily became less prominent, but it was again held frequently by King Robert Bruce after 1309. During his reign some of the most important documents made by the King and community of the realm were made in Parliament—for instance the 1309–1310 Declaration of the Clergy.
By the reign of David II, the "three estates" (a phrase that replaced "community of the realm" at this time) in Parliament were certainly able to oppose the King when necessary. Most notably, Parliament repeatedly prevented David from accepting an English succession to the throne. During the reigns of Robert II and Robert III, Parliament appears to have been held less often, and royal power in that period also declined, but the institution returned to prominence, and arguably enjoyed its greatest period of power over the Crown after the return of James I from English captivity in 1424.
By the end of the Middle Ages the Parliament had evolved from the King's Council of Bishops and Earls into a "colloquium" with a political and judicial role.The attendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and burgh commissioners joined them to form the Three Estates. It acquired significant powers over particular issues, including consent for taxation, but it also had a strong influence over justice, foreign policy, war, and other legislation, whether political, ecclesiastical, social or economic. Much of the legislative business of the Scottish parliament was carried out by a parliamentary committee known as the Lords of the Articles, chosen by the three estates to draft legislation which was then presented to the full assembly to be confirmed.
After 1424, Parliament was often willing to defy the King – it was far from being simply a "rubber stamp" of royal decisions. During the 15th century, Parliament was called far more often than, for instance, the English Parliament – on average over once a year – a fact that both reflected and augmented its influence. It repeatedly opposed James I's (1424–1437) requests for taxation to pay an English ransom in the 1420s and was openly hostile to James III (1460–1488) in the 1470s and early 1480s. In 1431, Parliament granted a tax to James I for a campaign in the Highlands on the condition that it be kept in a locked chest under the keepership of figures deeply out of favour with the King. In 1436, there was even an attempt made to arrest the King "in the name of the three estates". Between October 1479 and March 1482, Parliament was conclusively out of the control of James III. It refused to forfeit his brother, the Duke of Albany, despite a royal siege of the Duke's castle, tried to prevent the King leading his army against the English (a powerful indication of the estates' lack of faith in their monarch), and appointed men to the Lords of the Articles and important offices who were shortly to remove the King from power. James IV (1488–1513) realised that Parliament could often create more problems than it solved, and avoided meetings after 1509. This was a trend seen in other European nations as monarchical power grew stronger – for instance England under Henry VII, as well as France and Spain.
Like many continental assemblies the Scottish Parliament was being called less frequently by the early sixteenth century and might have been dispensed with by the crown had it not been for the series of minorities and regencies that dominated from 1513.The crown was also able to call a Convention of Estates, which was quicker to assemble and could issue laws like parliament, making them invaluable in a crisis, but they could only deal with a specific issue and were more resistant to the giving of taxation rights to the crown.
Parliament played a major part in the Reformation crisis of the mid-sixteenth century. It had been used by James V to uphold Catholic orthodoxyand asserted its right to determine the nature of religion in the country, disregarding royal authority in 1560. The 1560 parliament included 100 lairds, who were predominantly Protestant, and who claimed a right to sit in the Parliament under the provision of a failed shire election act of 1428. Their position in the parliament remained uncertain and their presence fluctuated until the 1428 act was revived in 1587 and provision made for the annual election of two commissioners from each shire (except Kinross and Clackmannan, which had one each). The property qualification for voters was for freeholders who held land from the crown of the value of 40s of auld extent. This excluded the growing class of feuars, who would not gain these rights until 1661. The clerical estate was marginalised in Parliament by the Reformation, with the laymen who had acquired the monasteries sitting as "abbots" and "priors". Catholic clergy were excluded after 1567, but a small number of Protestant bishops continued as the clerical estate. James VI attempted to revive the role of the bishops from about 1600. A further group appeared in the Parliament from the minority of James VI in the 1560s, with members of the Privy Council representing the king's interests, until they were excluded in 1641. James VI continued to manage parliament through the Lords of the Articles, who deliberated legislation before it reached the full parliament. He controlled the committee by filling it with royal officers as non-elected members, but was forced to limit this to eight from 1617.
In the second half of the sixteenth century, Parliament began to legislate on more and more matters and there was a marked increase in the amount of legislation it produced. During the reign of James VI, the Lords of the Articles came more under the influence of the crown. By 1612, they sometimes seem to have been appointed by the Crown rather than Parliament, and as a result the independence of parliament was perceived by contemporaries to have been eroded.[ citation needed ]
During the 16th century, the composition of Parliament underwent a number of significant changes and it found itself sharing the stage with new national bodies. The emergence of the Convention of Royal Burghs as the "parliament" of Scotland's trading towns and the development of the Kirk's General Assembly after the Reformation (1560) meant that rival representative assemblies could bring pressure to bear on parliament in specific areas.[ citation needed ]
Following the Reformation, laymen acquired the monasteries and those sitting as "abbots" and "priors" were now, effectively, part of the estate of nobles. The bishops continued to sit in Parliament regardless of whether they conformed to Protestantism or not. This resulted in pressure from the Kirk to reform ecclesiastical representation in Parliament. Catholic clergy were excluded after 1567 but Protestant bishops continued as the clerical estate until their abolition in 1638 when Parliament became an entirely lay assembly. An act of 1587 granted the lairds of each shire the right to send two commissioners to every parliament. These shire commissioners attended from 1592 onwards, although they shared one vote until 1638 when they secured a vote each.The number of burghs with the right to send commissioners to parliament increased quite markedly in the late 16th and early 17th centuries until, in the 1640s, they often constituted the largest single estate in Parliament.
The first printed edition of the legislation of the Parliament, The New Actis and Constitutionis, was published in Edinburgh in 1542 by the printer Thomas Davidson under commission from James V.
In 1639, the legislature was installed in the newly built Parliament Hall, where it remained until dissolution in 1707.Victory the same year in the early stages of the 1639–1652 War of the Three Kingdoms brought the Covenanters to power, with bishops being expelled from both kirk and Parliament. Control of the executive was taken from the Crown, many of the constitutional changes being copied by the English Parliament.
However, the Scots were increasingly concerned at their loss of political and economic power since 1603.In an effort to mitigate this, during the 1642–1645 First English Civil War, the Covenanters agreed the 1643 Solemn League and Covenant. One outcome was the creation of the Committee of Both Kingdoms, a union of English and Scottish parliamentary leaders; opposed by English Royalists and Oliver Cromwell, it was suspended in 1645. In 1647, the Scots agreed to restore Charles to the English throne; their failure in the 1648–1649 Second English Civil War led to his trial and execution by the English Rump Parliament and officers of the New Model Army.
Following the execution the Scots accepted Charles II as king in 1649 but their attempt to put him on the English throne was defeated in the 1649–1651 Anglo-Scots War.As a result, Scotland was incorporated into the Protectorate (see Cromwell's Act of Grace and Tender of Union) and a brief Anglo-Scottish parliamentary union (1653–1659).
An independent Parliament was restored in 1661, sometimes known as the "Drunken Parliament".The term was coined by John Welsh and he was put in trial for it. The restored body passed the 1661 Rescissory Act, which effectively annulled all Parliamentary legislation since 1633. It generally supported Charles and initially did the same when James succeeded in 1685; when it refused to pass his measures, James suspended it and resorted to rule by decree.
The deposition of James in 1689 ended a century of political dispute by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown. [ by whom? ] that unlike its English counterpart, the Scottish parliament never became a true centre of national identity. The 1707 Acts of Union created a combined Parliament of Great Britain, which sat in Westminster and largely continued English traditions without interruption.The Claim of Right which offered the crown to Mary and her husband William, placed important limitations on royal power, including the abolition of the Lords of the Articles. It has been argued
Robert Burns famously claimed Union was brought about by Scots "bought and sold for English gold" and bribery certainly played a prominent role.However, it was also driven by the same trends the Scots attempted to manage in the 1640s, worsened by the events of the 1690s; this was a time of economic hardship and famine in many parts of Europe, known in Scotland as the Seven ill years. Combined with the failure of the Darién scheme in 1698, it allowed Anne to achieve her great-grandfather's ambition of a unitary state. Parliament was dissolved, 45 Scots being added to the 513 members of the House of Commons and 16 to the 190 members of the House of Lords.
The office of the presiding officer in parliament never developed into a post similar in nature to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons at Westminster, mainly because of parliament's unicameral nature, which made it more like the English House of Lords. An act of 1428 which created a "common speaker" proved abortive, and the chancellor remained the presiding officer (until recently the British Lord Chancellor similarly presided over the House of Lords). In the absence of the King after the Union of the Crowns in 1603, Parliament was presided over by the Lord Chancellor or the Lord High Commissioner. After the Restoration, the Lord Chancellor was made ex-officio president of the parliament (now reflected in the Scottish Parliament by the election of a presiding officer), his functions including the formulation of questions and putting them to the vote.
The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act 1707 passed by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".
Parliament House in the Old Town in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a complex of several buildings housing the Supreme Courts of Scotland. The oldest part of the complex was home to the Parliament of Scotland from 1639 to 1707, and is the world's first purpose-built parliament building. Located just off the Royal Mile, beside St Giles' Cathedral, Parliament House is also the headquarters of the Faculty of Advocates, the Society of Writers to His Majesty's Signet, and the Society of Solicitors in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. Other buildings in the complex include the Advocates Library and the Signet Library. The entire complex is a Category A Listed building.
The Treaty of Union is the name usually now given to the treaty which led to the creation of the new state of Great Britain, stating that the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland were to be "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain". At the time it was more often referred to as the Articles of Union.
The Scottish Reformation was the process by which Scotland broke with the Papacy and developed a predominantly Calvinist national Kirk (church), which was strongly Presbyterian in its outlook. It was part of the wider European Protestant Reformation that took place from the sixteenth century.
Scotland in the early modern period refers, for the purposes of this article, to Scotland between the death of James IV in 1513 and the end of the Jacobite risings in the mid-eighteenth century. It roughly corresponds to the early modern period in Europe, beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation and ending with the start of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.
The Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert the Bruce it fought a successful War of Independence and remained an independent state throughout the late Middle Ages. Following the annexation of the Hebrides and the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1266 and 1472 respectively, and the final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482, the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, during the reign of Queen Anne, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union.
The Restoration was the return of the monarchy to Scotland in 1660 after the period of the Commonwealth, and the subsequent three decades of Scottish history until the Revolution and Convention of Estates of 1689. It was part of a wider Restoration in the British Isles that included the return of the Stuart dynasty to the thrones of England and Ireland in the person of Charles II.
Scotland in the Late Middle Ages, between the deaths of Alexander III in 1286 and James IV in 1513, established its independence from England under figures including William Wallace in the late 13th century and Robert Bruce in the 14th century. In the 15th century under the Stewart Dynasty, despite a turbulent political history, the Crown gained greater political control at the expense of independent lords and regained most of its lost territory to approximately the modern borders of the country. However, the Auld Alliance with France led to the heavy defeat of a Scottish army at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and the death of the king James IV, which would be followed by a long minority and a period of political instability.
The Rescissory Act, 1661 or Act rescinding and annulling the pretended parliaments in the years 1640, 1641 etc. was added to the Scottish Parliamentary register on the 28 March 1661. At one stroke, it annulled the legislation of 1640–1648, covering the time of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Commonwealth. This parliament was sometimes known disparagingly as the "Drunken Parliament".
The history of Scots law traces the development of Scots law from its early beginnings as a number of different custom systems among Scotland's early cultures to its modern role as one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. The various historic sources of Scots law, including custom, feudal law, canon law, Roman law and English law have created a hybrid or mixed legal system, which shares elements with English law and Northern Irish law but also has its own unique legal institutions and sources.
Government in medieval Scotland, includes all forms of politics and administration of the minor kingdoms that emerged after the departure of the Romans from central and southern Britain in the fifth century, through the development and growth of the combined Scottish and Pictish kingdom of Alba into the kingdom of Scotland, until the adoption of the reforms of the Renaissance in the fifteenth century.
The economy of Scotland in the early modern era encompasses all economic activity in Scotland between the early sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth. The period roughly corresponds to the early modern era in Europe, beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation and ending with the last Jacobite risings and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.
Government in early modern Scotland included all forms of administration, from the crown, through national institutions, to systems of local government and the law, between the early sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth century. It roughly corresponds to the early modern era in Europe, beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation and ending with the last Jacobite risings and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Monarchs of this period were the Stuarts: James IV, James V, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, Charles I, Charles II, James VII, William III and Mary II, Anne, and the Hanoverians: George I and George II.
The Cunninghams of Drumquhassle were a family of the landed gentry in Scotland from the early 16th century to the mid-17th. They are linked to the Cunninghams of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire, being descended through junior lines via the Cunninghams of Polmaise. At their greatest extent, their lands included Mugdock-Mitchell and the house at Killermont, covering the part of parishes of Strathblane and New Kilpatrick. John Cunningham, the third laird held several positions of responsibility within the Scottish court, including Master of the Royal Household for James VI and a Collector General of tax during the regency of the Earl of Lennox, but his involvement in the power struggles between the Scottish nobility and the court of Elizabeth I of England also led to his demise and he was executed for treason in 1585. Over the next century, the family lost its land and power – in the mid-17th century, the Cunninghams sold their country house in Drumquhassle in rural Stirlingshire and it passed to the Govane family.
The Glorious Revolution in Scotland refers to the Scottish element of the 1688 Glorious Revolution, in which James VII was replaced by his daughter Mary II and her husband William II as joint monarchs of Scotland and England. Prior to 1707, the two kingdoms shared a common monarch but were separate legal entities, so decisions in one did not bind the other. In both countries, the Revolution confirmed the primacy of Parliament over the Crown, while the Church of Scotland was re-established as a Presbyterian rather than Episcopalian polity.
The Convention of Royal Burghs, more fully termed the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland, was a representative assembly which protected the privileges and pursued the interests of Scotland’s principal trading towns, the royal burghs, from the middle of the 16th century to the second half of the 20th century. It evolved as a forum in which burgh delegates, termed "commissioners", could "consult together and take common action in matters concerning their common welfare" before and during the sittings of parliament. An exclusively merchant body, it was essentially a parliament which "declared the law of the burghs" just as the Scottish Parliament "declared the law of the land". The Convention expanded over time by admitting lesser burghs to its membership; and by the 16th century had grown in influence to the extent that "it was listened to rather than directed by the government". Though still known as the "convention of royal burghs", it referred to itself from the late 17th century onwards as simply the "convention of burghs", as by then membership was no longer restricted exclusively to royal burghs and commissioners from all types of burgh were represented in parliament.
Scotland under the Commonwealth is the history of the Kingdom of Scotland between the declaration that the kingdom was part of the Commonwealth of England in February 1652, and the Restoration of the monarchy with Scotland regaining its position as an independent kingdom, in June 1660.
Culross in Perthshire was a royal burgh that returned one commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland and to the Convention of Estates.
James Oswald was a member of the Parliament of Scotland, 1703-1707, representing Kirkcaldy and, later, the member for Dysart Burghs in the House of Commons of Great Britain.