Commentary on Articles V and VI

V.-VI. Free navigation and customs union

THAT all Ships or Vessels belonging to Her Majesties Subjects of Scotland, at the Time of Ratifying the Treaty of Union of the two Kingdoms in the Parliament of Scotland, though forreign built, be deemed, and pass as Ships of the Built of Great Britain; the Owner, or where there are more Owners, one or more of the Owners within twelve Months after the first of May next making oath that at the Time of Ratifying the Treaty of Union in the Parliament of Scotland, the same did, in haill or in part, belong to him or them, or to some other Subject or Subjects in Scotland, to be particularly named, with the Place of their respective abodes; and that the same doth then, at the time of the said Deposition, wholly belong to him or them; and that no forreigner directly or indirectly, hath any share, part, or interest therein; Which Oath shall be made before the chief Officer or Officers of the Customs, in the Port next to the Abode of the said Owner or Owners; And the said Officer or Officers shall be impowered to administer the said Oath; and the Oath being to administred shall be attested by the Officer or Officers, who administred the same; And being registred by the said Officer or Officers, shall be delivered to the Master of the Ship for Security of her Navigation; and a Duplicate thereof shall be transmitted by the said Officer or Officers, to the chief Officer or Officers of the Customs in the Port of Edinburgh, to be there Entered in a Register, and from thence to be sent to the Port of London to be there entred in the General Register of all Trading ships belonging to Great Britain.

Before the union there were border gates and custom posts between Scotland and England, and duties placed upon the staple exports of Scotland. Ships of Scotland bore a different flag and were permitted to trade only by sufferance – a privilege withdrawn suddenly in 1705 as the troubles between the two sides approached a climax.

Before the union, the tax base was very different: customs and excise duties were the main source of government revenue, so immediate free trade would hit the treasury hard: at the union with Ireland in 1801, customs duties between Great Britain and Ireland were continued for a limited period of 10 years to absorb the fiscal shock. Nevertheless, free trade it was the Scottish commissioners’ priority and they got it with no delay. In the event, the prosperity resultant on free trade eventually more than compensated for the lost revenue.