IN 1707, the Act of Union was ratified in the Scottish Parliament uniting it with the Westminster Parliament. Instrumental in this was John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar.

The Treaty of Union had been concluded in July 1706 and Erskine believed the terms of it were ‘reasonable, fair and advantageous’.

The Treaty was delivered to Queen Anne that same month 'which was done fairly solemnly’.

She summoned those concerned to meet her at the Council Chamber at St James's Palace in London.

They entered the room where the queen received them, surrounded by her ladies in waiting, courtiers and foreign ambassadors. One Scottish representative and one English delegate walked side by side as they made their way to the queen, the Scottish representative on the left-hand side but on the queen’s right side.

The keeper and the chancellor made a speech when they delivered the books, then the queen made a speech to the assembled audience. Apparently, people in the city were beginning to wager on the Union’s proceeding or not but the odds went with the first, and of course it did.

In early August, Erskine received the ‘green ribbon’ – the Order of the Thistle – from the queen, showing that he along with Hugh Campbell, 3rd Lord Loudoun, who was also to receive it, were in favour with her for all their hard work. Both men were the last secretaries of state for the Kingdom of Scotland.

Among those who were pro-Union were Patrick Hume, the Earl of Marchmont, George Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Cromartie, Alexander Erskine, and Sir Robert Stuart, Lord Tillicoultry.

However, not everyone agreed.

Andrew Fletcher of Salton described the Act as ‘damn’d villainous’, while Erskine believed the Episcopalians ‘pretended’ to be in favour. The Rev John Wylie of Hamilton even wrote a small book against it.

The Rev John Logan of Alloa wrote to Erskine on August 27, 1706, expressing local ‘discourse’ on the matter. He stated the established Church of Scotland had remained silent until then as church ministers did not want to interfere in business of state.

He called on Erskine to use his ‘power and influence and give effectual concurrence for hedging and fencing it against after infringements and incursions that may be made thereupon’. He was looking for reassurances.

Queen Anne wrote to Erskine on March 4, 1707, following its ratification at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, thanking him for the good news he had sent her. She wrote: "I can now in return tell you with great satisfaction that the treaty is concluded here."

Queen Anne

Queen Anne

IN HER letter to Erskine, the queen continued: "I intend, as it please god, to give my assent to it on Thursday. The pains you have taken in bringing this great affair about deserves more thanks than I am able to express.’

On March 20, Erskine replied to the queen’s letter, informing her his wife was dying but that he was grateful that she had taken notice of his work and contributions to the treaty. The Act of Union was passed that day. He believed the great and good work had been ‘happily concluded'.

On May 1, 1707 the term Great Britain was born. The Saltire and the St George’s Cross flags were amalgamated, trade was secured and taxes on liquors were standardised, with some exceptions, as the Scots pint was different from the English one.

It is interesting to note that duties to be paid in England on windows and light, would not be chargeable in Scotland, with coal consumed in Scotland also not taxed but if it were to be exported, it was.

The Scots were to be personally taxed in line with their counterparts south of the border. Sixteen Scottish peers made sure they were safeguarded and assured their seats in the House of Lords.

On May 2, Erskine received news that his wife Margaret Hay had died. The following day he wrote to the treasurer from Whitehall that he had been expecting her death for some time, but it hit him hard, and he asked for some time to grieve. He described his wife’s death as his ‘misfortune’ and he did not care for living at home the way he had done when she was alive.

In the same letter he continued that he believed the queen would be thinking of how to dispose of her old Scottish servants as he did not know in what shape she would put the office which he had held. He went on: "If I can be of any use in it, I confess it would be my greatest ambition to serve near her person, but if that be not thought for her service, I freely submit."

In later years, Erskine began to have doubts about the Treaty of Union – when the Old Pretender James Francis Edward Stuart made a claim on the throne following the death of his half-sister Queen Anne, Erskine supported him, even leading an army against government forces at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715.

Following Stuart’s defeat, Erskine fled to France where he remained until his death in 1732.