Great Britain: an island that grows together

England? Scotland? For many today, the question does not even arise where the difference is – everything is Great Britain, or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as the official name of the country is. But in reality, the two countries were two separate kingdoms for centuries. Even the Romans, who ruled England and Wales from 43 to about 440, were unable to penetrate the far north of the island. Instead, they built Hadrian’s Wall, a fortress that shut down their empire.

On May 1, 1701, Scotland and England formed the United Kingdom with the “Act of Union” – after both countries had been ruled by a king in personal union since 1603. The unification of both was politically controversial even at the time: about 45 percent of Scottish Parliament members voted In favor of the union – but the mood among the people was to the contrary. However: with the Consolidation Act, Parliament in Edinburgh was dissolved and the north of the island was henceforth governed jointly by London. In return, Scotland sent representatives to the new Commons and Lords.

Scotland was broke

Although the now vacant Scottish politicians were promised all kinds of jobs in the common capital, the reason for the merger seemed to be of an economic nature: Scotland was somewhat bankrupt at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The country’s attempt to establish its own trading colony in Central America with the Scotland Company failed mercilessly and destroyed about a quarter of Scottish capital. Attacks by rival Spaniards and several epidemics brought an end to colonial efforts. In the new common state, the Scots were now free to act, and England paid reparations claims and allowed the North to maintain, among other things, its own system of education and the Reformed Church.

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Birth of Union Jack

The Union Jack, in fact the Union flag, became a symbol of the Union early on. King James I introduced the first version shortly after the Royal Personal Union in 1606. The flag is an overlay of the English Cross of St. George and the Scottish Cross of St. Andrew. In 1801 the Irish Cross of St. Patrick was added and the Union Jack appeared in its present appearance.

The Scots then found it difficult to accept government action from London. British Prime Minister Tony Blair did not give them more sovereignty in 1998: under his administration, the Parliament of Edinburgh was revived, and since then it has restored a number of rights.

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