It was Scotland who began Great Britain

The vision of a united Britain and of a United Kingdom was promoted by the Scottish king James VI who was invited to take the throne of England and became king James I – the first king of Great Britain.

In modern terminology, it was a reverse take-over by a Scots king. This does not fit easily with the narrative of the Scottish National Party, which likes to agonize over the union of the Parliaments in 1707.

The Union of the Crowns 1603

In his first speech to Parliament in 1603 James I outlined his vision for one country, one law, one parliament and one king, “to perfect the union in my blood”. He did not get his way, but nevertheless he called himself the king of Great Britain, with more justification than the SNP Scottish executive unilaterally called itself the Scottish Government.

In 1606 James created the Union Flag, flown from British vessels all round the globe, and popularly known as the Union Jack in reference to James.

He minted a pound coin called ‘a Unite’ and even the smaller coinage had an English rose on one side and a Scottish thistle on the other side. He even wanted to remove the term Borders for the area between the two countries.

Scotland was an independent nation in Great Britain and continued to be so at the Union of the Parliaments. The SEUP (aka SNP) claim that it wants to make Scotland ‘an independent nation’ is eyewash, especially, once it is ‘independent’ it wants to change one English-speaking Union with a European multilingual Union. What does it mean by its independence?

The Union of the Parliaments 1707

The Union of the Parliaments in 1707 took place because Scotsmen mismanaged their own affairs. Having invested and bankrupted themselves in the Darien scheme, they were bailed out by ‘English gold’ with the added cost being the Union of the Parliaments, and thereafter the two nations were known as the United Kingdom. The Scottish nation retained its own church, legal system and education. This changed the administration of the two independent nations. It was a mutual benefit. Scotland gained from the international trading opportunities through the English control of the seas and England gained from the input of Scottish military regiments and the Scottish ‘brain-drain’ to the centre of power in London.

Scottish has much to be proud of, but it worth noting that its leadership has had a habit of failing its own people. The Darien scheme is not the only failure. Scottish landowners cleared their tenants off their Highland crofts with the help of the Scottish legal system, and many Scottish investors enriched themselves from Caribbean slavery. It was the Free Church of Scotland which protested against the Highland Clearances and William Wilberforce, motivated by Christianity and encouraged and supported by Christian leaders, persevered against vested business interests to abolish slavery through the UK Parliament. The SNP leader Alex Salmond supported the Royal Bank of Scotland’s disastrous and uncosted take-over of Dutch bank ABN-Amro. This threatened to bankrupt the British economy and it was the Bank of England that bailed out Scotland. Ungrateful SNP supporters want to blame Westminster for their troubles and they choose to forget these and other bail outs from England. Similarly, in current times the deep pockets of the United Kingdom have financed the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and Brexit has enabled the UK to roll out an effective vaccine schedule, while the European Union is languishing in disarray over its vaccine policy and programme. If Scotland was in the EU, it would be far behind in the vaccination of its population. For example, when the UK had vaccinated 30% of its population the EU had vaccinated 5% and frustrated EU member-states broke ranks with the centralised EU Commission to negotiate for vaccines for its citizens.

Scotland is still an independent nation in the United Kingdom. The Scottish EU Party (aka SNP) is happy to ‘pool sovereignty’ with Brussels but it complains that the Scottish relationship with Westminster somehow means Scotland is not an independent nation. If this was so, then England would not be an independent nation either.

Current unrest

The growing sentiment in Wales for national separation from the UK is recent, following the growing SNP sentiment. Being a recent phenomenon, it is astonishing that this massive constitutional issue is considered to be the solution to local and temporary issues, such as the management of the coronavirus pandemic.

The unrest created by the grievance politics of the SNP in Scotland and Wales merits discussion, diagnosis and solution. The separatists will not be appeased by anything less than separation. SNP administrative failures are blamed on Westminster’s restricting them with inadequate powers of one kind or another, particularly fiscal at the moment.

SNP unrest is created by its daily exposure on national television during the coronavirus pandemic, its grievance propaganda at every opportunity, and more insidiously by its propaganda through the school education curriculum. Scottish historian Professor Tom Devine said that the history curriculum in Scottish schools “reads like a simplistic piece of arrant propaganda”, and “self-evidently arrant and dangerous nonsense”.

Solutions do not merit separation

There is a need to consider anew the best form of administration of the United Kingdom in its constituent parts with appropriate power devolved to the appropriate level of administration. Such is the unrest at different levels of government that it seems clear that decision-making power must come closer to the people affected by these decisions, and the ability of large business with deeper pockets than local authorities to keep appealing these decisions is counter-productive, interfering with justice and creating local grievance.

What does it take to separate nations?

Norway separated from Sweden in 1905 after a 99.95% Norwegian vote for separation. Who could argue with this? However, 50% +1 is not enough for the separation of Scotland from England. Even changing the constitution of a local club usually requires a two-thirds majority. If Scotland thinks separation is such a good thing, it should be possible to persuade people over a period of time, like the Norwegians did. Over what period of time? A generation seems a good period of time to test this, during which time the young people from any earlier referendum will grow up and learn more about life.

Quebec’s referendum for separation from Canada in 1995 had a close result. Wikipedia says: “The fast rise of the “Yes” campaign and apparent inability of the personalities of the “No” campaign to counter their message created an atmosphere of great uncertainty, both in the federal government and across Canada.” However, since 1995 it has gone off the agenda but the issue has never gone away because of the dogmatism of separatists who cannot take No for an answer. The French language seems to be central to the Quebec sovereignty movement. Welsh nationalists seem also to fear the loss of their language. This cannot be so with the SNP but the Highland element of the SNP seems to want to enforce Gaelic on the population. The Scottish EU Party (aka SNP) needs to produce better reasons for separation than “we want it”.


12 Mar 2021: this Wikipedia article on Scottish monarchs does not call James VI “King of Scots” but omits it and refers to him as “James VI became King of England and Ireland”. With history like this on the world stage, at least we could have improved education in Scottish schools. The Wikipedia article on the Union of the Crowns in 1603 speaks of ‘realms’ – “the consequential unification for some purposes (such as overseas diplomacy) of the three realms under a single monarch”. Whereas this is a relevant word, it could as easily be ‘the three nations’. Did England cease to be a nation? Did Scotland? Did Wales? Did the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves mean that Portugal ceased to be a nation? It was a form of administration just as the Scottish Parliament administers devolved matters in Scotland and the UK Westminster Parliament administers the United Kingdom on behalf of the monarch. The British Commonwealth compromises independent nations with some elements of administration involving the monarch in order to be a member of the British Commonwealth – this does stop them being ‘an independent nation’ as the SEUP (aka SNP) knows very well, shown by its desire to rejoin the EU as ‘an independent nation’ after its planned separation from the UK. It is a matter of administration. The SEUP wants the Scottish nation to be administered with ultimate authority from the EU in Brussels rather than from the UK in Westminster. In SNP-speak, an independent Scotland means simply ‘independence from the UK’ , not ‘an independent nation’. It is separation, not independence.


20 Feb 2022: Bede promoted the concept of a unified England in his Ecclesiatical History of the English People and the concept of Great Britian was suggested by Scotsman John Major’s Historia Majoris Britanniae tam Angliae quam Scotiae ‘History of Greater Britain, England and Scotland’ Paris, 1521, although Majoris was likely a pun on his own name – ‘Major’s History of Britain, England and Scotland’. As Major taught George Buchanan who was tutor to the young king James VI, this conforms with my hypothesis that George Buchanan put the idea of Great Britain into James’ mind.

5 thoughts on “It was Scotland who began Great Britain

  1. Colin Mansfield

    Hi Donald,
    There is a saying: “Be careful what you wish for”.
    Lots of good points in your article that few people ever know or realised.
    It was Alex Salmond’s wish (when in power) that the history subject be removed from the school curriculum. Presumably he meant Scottish history?
    We could also add in you list the misadventure of Bonnie Prince Charlie, arriving from Papal Rome with 1 chest of coinage and uninvited into the Scottish Highlands, to make war. A man not content with winning Scotland over {except for Glasgow}, he ventured south with his army over the border into England. Why he didn’t stay put in Scotland, secure at Holyrood Palace, we don’t know. Scotland could have remained safe for several years behind its castles, mountains, glens & lochs. England itself was fighting a war in Europe at the time, so the English realm was weakened at home and favourable terms could be agreed for co-existence {according to Lord Murray}.
    Prince Charlie took a major risk and with his army reached as far as Derby, tempting fate to drive on to London {a statue of the Prince on horseback is plinthed in Derby}. 4/12/1745 Lacking local Jacobite support in England, running out of supplies & troops, there were no reports of support of French invasions to assist his army. France had let them down.
    The retreat home was mainly successful, but split the loyalties between the Highland Chiefs council and the Papist, divine-kingship of Prince Charlie.
    The 1746 Culloden debacle is well known, thousands died in the battle and the aftermath. The Scottish Highlands economy ruined, The Prince had been requested to die in battle with his closest followers. But it was not meant to be, he escape ingloriously disguised as a woman away to France. He died years later a drunkard in Rome, uncaring of the fate of the Scottish people crushed under retribution.
    Wales: as regards resurrecting old languages into schools. One of the reasons of late educational attainment in Wales, is that school children are forced to learn Welsh alongside English in their many subjects. Nicely esoteric, but a handicap to quick learning in a fast moving western world.


    1. Donald

      Culloden battlefield is less than three miles from my home and is useful for a walk and a talk, usually on better themes than Charlie’s failed misadventure. Its National Trust Centre has a wall depicting visually the vast disparity in numbers of deaths – the Jacobites were ill-served by their leader.

      On the Welsh language, it is generally conceded that being bi-lingual improves one’s education rather than being a handicap:


  2. Peter Tait

    Peter Tait

    You don’t say much about Ireland Donald, King James became king of four nations, Scotland England, Ireland & Wales.
    The main point that I think you miss is the persecution of Catholics by Henry VIII, bloody Mary and Elizabeth I. This was not the case in Scotland as James Mother was a Catholic and he probable had some difference and respect for his Catholic minority.
    However when he became head of the C of E he continued the persecution of Catholics as his predecessors in England had done.
    The Jacobite rebellions would not have happened if the monarch had stayed Scottish and worn the English Crown and ruled England with a pen.
    In short the Stuart position as head of the church of England eventually threw the Scots Catholics and the Irish into rebellion because the state became bias protestant. And that is still the position to this day.
    I maintain that we still have rebellion and insurrection in our country today because the Monarchy is in the wrong place both politically and geographically.
    Therefore sorting out this anomaly is our greatest national problem.

    Just a short response Donald I am busy.


    1. Donald

      Hi Peter,

      I didn’t say much about Ireland because the current context is the SNP complaining about Scotland’s union with England. The concept of Great Britain began with a Scottish king becoming king of England also. The SNP cannot blame “Westminster” for this, unless it gave King James a larger stage on which to act, which comes close to the emphasis of your post, which is another matter.


      1. Colin Mansfield

        Hi Peter, nearly right.
        Henry VIII was the equivalent of Ivan the Terrible & Louis XIV, our own tyrant king with little regard of Catholics and Protestants whose only interest was himself.
        “Bloody Queen Mary” reversed the religious persecution, Catholics then tortured & burnt leading Protestants. Queen Elizabeth 1st, stopped all religious persecution, until Mary Queen of Scots became the centre of a conspiracy to overthrow QE1, this was tied in with the Spanish Armada debacle 1588. In fact the Pope placed a Papal Bull (fatwah) on QE1 to encourage the assassination of the protestant Monarch, with the guarantee of a heavenly free pass to glory for whoever carried out the deadly deed.

        The Papacy meddling in the affairs of the 2 kingdoms didn’t stop there, as Bonnie Prince Charlie (then living in Rome) was encouraged with finance, weapons & ships to usurp the current order within the United Kingdom with disastrous results. This reckless event I think, became the source of the current underlying animosity of Scotland against England. {Culloden?}

        England has a greater respect for Scottish people their culture and ingenuity; Glasgow built the great shipping fleets; an initial abundance of Scottish Universities led the way in education of many subjects. In 1815, the battle of Waterloo was won early on by the charge of the heavy Highland cavalry. So we all speak English not French. The British Empire was built on the steadfastness of Scottish military leadership and high government positions overseas.
        Kind regards from someone who has lived & worked in Inverness for 32yrs,
        Colin Mansfield.


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