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Rotate Parliament around UK: A Proposal from 1706

The flags of the British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies, outside Parliament. Pic: AFFG.



A Force For Good has always believed that the British Parliament should rotate around the United Kingdom, instead of being confined only to London.

We published the idea in our 40-page magazine "Do More Together: 102 Policies to Keep the UK United", which was issue 4 of our magazine Union Heart available in our Shop here. (1)


We were interested to discover that Sir John Clerk of Penicuik – one of the Scottish proponents of the Union, who sat in the first Parliament of Great Britain in 1707 – wrote to this effect in his 6-volume "History of the Union" in the years following the Union (1724-1730).


He thought the idea of a revolving British Parliament, meeting "alternately, or every so often, on Scottish soil" to be "an excellent proviso".


However, he felt that the judgement had to be left to the Monarch. After all, this was in the day and age where the King or Queen had say over such matters.


Furthermore, he held open the idea that London was not necessarily to be considered "the capital and seat of government" and therefore did not have to be the place where the Parliament had to be located.


In Book 6 of his History, he referred to those who opposed the Union (both English and Scots) and said:


"We detect some grumbling to the effect that parliaments should meet alternately, or every so often, on Scottish soil, so that the wealth of Britain might circulate. That would have been an excellent proviso, we agree.


"But how can one challenge that foremost among royal prerogatives, that of summoning assemblies?


"Think of the injustice of imposing such an unprecedented limitation on our monarchs, who have always been free to call parliaments at need, whenever and wherever they pleased. Had we not been a monarchy, had this union been one of republics, it might have been appropriate to make such a condition, but in a kingdom the case is quite otherwise.


"Nowhere, however, not even in the unions between European peoples that we witness today, have we found it laid down that any single city should be the capital and seat of government. And before going further let us make the point here that in advancing this kind of argument our opponents are being sly; they are not showing thoughtlessness or ignorance.


"For they care little what they come out with, so long as it contributes to their goal of foiling or delaying this union, and they would act more honourably and fairly by showing to this house what their true feelings are than by resorting to arguments which children could refute." (2)


Referring to the Cockpit, the name of the place in Whitehall where the Articles of Union were thrashed out between the Scotland and England Commissioners in the summer of 1706, historian Christopher Whatley referenced this section and noted:


"there were Scots who had expected that meetings would take place in Scotland too, although how hard, if at all, this argument was pressed in the Cockpit is unknown." (3)


It's good to know that the idea has been alive since 1706. For our part, we'll keep publicising it!



It is also available for a discount with our Wee Book for the Union here.


(2) Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, History of the Union of Scotland and England, (Edinburgh: Scottish History Society, 1993), pp.162-163. See our research on Sir John here.


(3) Christopher A Whatley, The Scots and the Union, (Edinburgh University Press, 2007), p.257.


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