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The Scots and the Union of 1707: A 300th Anniversary Perspective

Chris Whatley will evoke the mood in Scotland 300 years ago revealing the fears and concerns of the Scottish people on the eve of the Union. Despite these misgivings outside (and within) Parliament, Scottish politicians voted to end centuries of Scottish independence. This controversial lecture will explain why.

BBC Scotland’s Political Editor, Brian Taylor will chair the next in the series of the Saturday Evening Lectures, The Scots and the Union of 1707: A 300th Anniversary Perspective.

The lecture will be delivered by Professor Christopher Whatley, from the University of Dundee. His book, Scots and the Union, has caused controversy in this, the 300th anniversary of the act of Union.

Chris Whatley says, "What's pleasing me is the number of people who are saying that the book has transformed thinking on the Union. For many people, the idea that England 'bought the soul’ of Scotland is now dead in the water. The task for me now is to unpick more thoroughly the reasons why the nationalist interpretation has held true for so long."

In the book Professor Whatley, of the University of Dundee, examines the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1707 and presents startling evidence which debunks the myth that the Scottish signatories of the Act of Union were corrupt and bribed by the English.

‘Bought and sold for English gold’, the phrase immortalised by Robert Burns, has been the accepted wisdom for almost 300 years. That myth is exploded in "The Scots and the Union".

Professor Whatley, Head of the College of Arts and Social Sciences and Vice Principal at the University of Dundee, spent five years examining archive evidence which shows the opposite is true. In The Scots and the Union, Professor Whatley argues that the Union was an act which benefited Scotland in 1707 and continues to do so now.

The book sets out in clear detail the real story of the Union. While Scotland did have debts that were wiped when the Union came into being, the joining of the two nations was much more than a financial agreement - it was a political deal, a practical deal and, most importantly, a deal that was desired by Scotland.

"The original aims in writing The Scots and the Union were to convey what the Union of 1707 meant to ordinary Scots at the time, and to tell the story of the passing of this landmark event in Scottish history," said Professor Whatley.

"How men and women viewed union with England, how they made their voices heard, and what effect it had on everyday lives. This is still the narrative that binds the book together."

"But as I scoured the sources, some well-known, others - many - little-used previously or not at all, it became apparent that popular accounts of the passage of the Union through the Scottish Parliament were inaccurate and untrue."

"It became clear that unionists in Scotland were not the traitors they have been portrayed as. Many were principled in their support of a British union that would strengthen Scotland economically and against their enemies - France, the Jacobites and the Catholic Church. Patriotism was certainly not the preserve of the opponents of the Union - even though it is these politicians Scots today are inclined to pay homage to. Unionists too thought and cared deeply about the future of what was a divided - but ambitious - Scottish nation."

"When I started working on this project none of this was obvious to me, so writing the book has been intriguing, a real voyage of discovery."

The Scots and the Union is published by Edinburgh University Press.

Professor Christopher Whatley is Head of the College of Arts and Social Sciences and Vice Principal at the University of Dundee. He is available for comment and interview.


Professor Christopher Whatley | talks | www


Date and Time:

4 February 2007 at 6:00 pm


1 hour



University of Dundee
01382 384021

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