After the Acts of Union, the trade tariffs with England were abolished. Thus, trade blossomed, especially with the American Colonies. Ships belonging to the Glasgow Tobacco Lords plied the route to Virginia utilizing the Gulf Stream, becoming the fastest ships on the route to Virginia. The merchants in Glasgow became extremely wealthy. Ship building boomed in Glasgow. Glasgow became the world’s premier tobacco port, dominating world trade. Glasgow rivaled the port of London as to tonnage and value of cargos.
The disparity between the wealth of the merchant classes of the Lowlands and the ancient clans of the Highlands grew. This created a dichotomy between the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Lowlands are still economically tied to and dependent upon England. The Highlands chaffed at the restrictions Great Britain was putting on the Highlands on such things as not being able to burn peat.
After the Battle of Culloden, when Bonnie Prince Charles lost, the English in the person of King George II’s son, William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland went on a bloody pogrom against the Highlands. Highland clans, their chiefs, their castles, their homes, and their members were burned out, killed, and arrested, even churches were destroyed. It is estimated that some 170,000 people died or emigrated from Scotland in the decade after the Battle of Culloden out of a population of about one million. The gulf between Highlands and Lowlands became ever greater. In addition, droughts struck the Highlands leading to starvation.
Thus, the economic disparity between the Highlands and the Lowlands sowed the seeds of the discontent that exists even unto today. Scotland believed itself to be the junior partner in the Union created by the United Kingdom.
The introduction in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher’s government of the Community Charge (widely known as the Poll Tax) one year before the rest of the United Kingdom, contributed to a growing movement for a return to direct Scottish control over domestic affairs.
Following a referendum in 1997, the Scottish Parliament was re-established, but it was a devolved legislature with authority over limited areas of home affairs. The Scottish National Party (The SNP) was formed to support the cause of Scottish Independence. In 2011, the SNP won the election and formed a government devoted to the cause of Scottish Independence. The leader of the SNP, Alex Sammond, was the First Minister of Scotland until 2014.
In the next blog we will discuss the referendum held in September 2014 and the effects of the Brexit vote.