The Restoration period in Scotland signified the separation of the kingdoms and independence. However, this had major implications for the Scottish economy. This essay will examine Herman’s claim that the Scots were starting to establish a stronger position in commerce. 1 Several aspects will be examined which directly affected the economy and the consequences of them. The main emphasis will be on English protectionist policies regarding trade links and how Scotland reacted. Both economies of Scotland and England will be compared.
Examining the development of new industries will provide an insight into how this signified an upward trend in the economy despite the limitations placed on Scotland. Traditionally, Scotland’s economy relied on agriculture. Crops were the mainstay of the Scottish diet and food shortages were still a common occurrence. 2Farming never fully recovered from the 1623 famine, which culminated in thousands starving to death. This was reflected in the instability of food prices. 3 In looking at the consequences of the Restoration in monarchical terms, Charles II demanded financial compensation for his exile.
His debts and his father’s (Charles I) were to be honoured by Parliament. 4 The sum demanded was astronomical in modern day terms. This further weakened Scotland’s meagre economy. According to Lee (1997), ‘the country was impoverished by the ordeal through which it had passed’. The economic weakness could be felt on social terms as at the time of the King’s payment; Scotland’s poverty level was already high. Parish handouts had reached in excess of £1 million. 5 In comparison, England’s economy continued to prosper.
Her trade links with the new World and Asia were profitable. Ships not only exported goods, butt adopted the role of ‘middle-man’ in trade by re-exporting to the rest of Europe. The growth of England’s naval fleet and the Navigation Acts protected these trade links. The clauses of the Navigation acts demanded that goods from the colonies were to be transported exclusively by English ships with a predominately English crew. Thus, Scotland was economically dependent on England, relying on English imports for survival.
Furthermore, the development of new organisations such as the Bank of England and the board of Trade supported the increasing wealth and business. According to Arthur Herman (2001), ‘England was emerging as Europe’s new superpower’. 7 In contrast, Scotland’s exports and trade links were insufficient to sustain a healthy economy. The capital benefited from free trade, which was its right as a royal burgh. By 1670, Edinburgh’s share of the total burgh tax assessment was 33%. 8 Overseas trade mainly consisted of cheap goods such as wool and grain.
However, England’s Navigation Acts hindered further development of Scottish trade by restricting access to other markets. 9 In addition, England’s hostile conflict with the Dutch over fishing rights, trade and colonies, erupted in war by 1664. 10 Scotland’s meagre trade links now suffered from the Anglo-Dutch warfare. Rosalind Mitchison (1979) suggested that ‘… no Scot would have recommended fighting Scotland’s best customer. War dried up the Scottish Customs… 11 This demonstrates the view that England’s merciless approach to trade had sabotaged Scotland’s efforts to expand on trade. 2Scotland took revenge with her own protectionist policies with a view to getting concessions from England. However, Scotland was not in a strong economic position to force any kind of compromise from either England or France.
As demonstrated by Rosalind Mitchison (1970),’… she lacked both the skills and commodities which would be valuable in a free market. 13 A contributing factor in the limitations of the Scottish economy was migration numbers. Many Scots moved to Ulster and the English colonies. Some went into military service abroad. E. g. ‘Poland attracted thousands of soldiers, pedlars and merchants’. 4 According to Houston & Knox (2001), the search for better opportunities affected Scotland’s population and would have a major impact on her economy for centuries. 15 However, not all immigrants did so voluntarily.
Thousands were transported to the colonies, labelled as ‘thieves, beggars or victims of lost causes’. 16 Politically, many ministers from both Scotland and England supported the theory of an economic union based on free trade, but England’s protectionist policies and Scotland’s distrust resulted in the failure to secure any kind of agreement. 7 Although the evidence does tend to suggest that Scotland’s economy was in extreme difficulty, there were small signs of improvement in certain areas. The foundations were laid for relatively new industries to flourish. Some improvements were made in agriculture. E. g. areas such as Fife and Lothian incorporated a crop rotation system, partial enclosure and liming of the soil as new farming methods. 18 In turn, this encouraged a migration of young people who were seeking employment. 19
One of the factors which strengthened the Scottish economy, was the 1672 Act Anent Trade of the Burghs. This relaxed the monopolies of the royal burghs allowing smaller competitors to capture opportunities in the market, which their larger counterparts may have ignored. 20 Subsequently, another sign of economic strength was the wave of new manufacturing outlets which became apparent during the Restoration, providing optimism within the Scottish economy. Soap and sugar factories opened in Glasgow in 1667 and 1669, earning Glasgow the title of the ‘boomtown’ of the 17th century.
The coal industry steadily increased its production and signified the beginning of private enterprise industry, ’employing workers in a stable and structured environment’. 22 The volume of coal exports had doubled by the 1680’s. 23 Glasgow was particularly significant in the upward trend of the economy. Investment in a new dock in 1663 indicated ‘a vision of a more commercially expansive role for the city’. 24 Alternatively, as suggested by Mitchison (1979), ‘Scottish ships could trade illegally with the English colonies’.
In other words, Scotland was steadily establishing alternative trade routes. 25 In conclusion, England’s economy would appear to be flourishing in comparison to Scotland’s, which faced many challenges in its attempt to reverse its fortunes. Despite the Navigation Laws still being in place, it can be argued that Scotland made entrepreneurial moves which predicted the abolition of these laws. On the other hand, it can be proposed that Scotland refused to accept economic dependence on England and was willing to resort to smuggling to bypass the Navigation laws.
There had been some improvements, which could signify an upturn in the market, particularly in Glasgow. Steady progress was being made towards ‘more coherent organisation and increased productivity’. 26 The evaluation of Herman’s claim that Scotland’s economy was in recovery, implies that the Restoration was a time for re-structuring as ‘Scotland was on the threshold of the modern world’. 27 Nonetheless, as the economy was in recession, any sort of progress would have suggested some indication of improvement.