Scotland is nation of drinkers, so-much-so the Scottish government has recently felt the need to implement a National minimum price per unit of alcohol to try and price us out of getting pished – targeting Scottish people's alcoholism with of our other National trait of remarkable tightness is quite inspired. The law aims to target ‘problematic’ drinks such as super strength lager and cider, the sorts of alcoholic drinks where the minimum price was always your soul to begin with. It isn’t overly drastic, 50 pence per unit is unlikely to affect ankle flashing yuppies paying £8 a pint in Edinburgh’s New Town and is nowhere near as shocking as the drastic upturn in price of Freddos. Still, the Scottish government needs to be careful, history tells us that tampering too much with the Nation’s drinking habits can lead to rebellion.
Often after an ‘Act of Union’ one party is left feeling underwhelmed and regretful. The morning after the 1707 Union Scotland expected tea, pancakes, and economic upturn; in reality it would be another thirty years before Scotland enjoyed it’s post coitus economic cuddle. In the immediate aftermath of Union with England Scottish companies were swamped by larger businesses, there was an over-exportation of Scottish grain which led to severe food shortages and there were substantial taxes imposed on Scottish goods, the most significant being the ‘malt-taxes’ which taxed whisky exports.
There are a number of sure-fire ways the English can antagonise the Scots; when English football commentators constantly mention ‘1966’ and the absolute insistence English people have that Andy Murray is ‘British’ and not ‘Scottish’. They seem to regard him as some kind of ‘ultra-Brit’, like the love child of Tim Henman and Mary Berry - the only person Tim could feasibly pump on and off the court – despite the fact Andy has always been more 'square-sausage' than Battenberg. Then there is English people's dismissal of Scottish banknotes. When a London shop keeper surveys a Scottish five-pound note like it’s an improvised explosive jobby-device about to go off in their hand, it takes every sinew in your body to not reach over the counter and scream ‘Freeeeeeeeeedom’ right in their stupid non-leagal-tender-accepting face – Froddo had less bother trying to get the ring to Mordor than spending Scottish money in England. None of these however compare to the fallout you would expect to receive from interfering with our whisky.
Whisky has been Scotland’s biggest export for over 300 years and is incredibly important both economically and culturally. Over a billion bottles of whisky are exported every single year which averages around 34 bottles per second – this also happens to be the rate at which Charlie Sheen consumes them.
The malt-taxes, poverty and hunger that immediately followed the Union, was set against the backdrop of an ascension crisis that saw the discontinuation of the ancient Scottish Stewart line and the impeding implementation of the German Hanoverian line. It meant Jacobinism was at its absolute strongest in the immediate aftermath of the Act of Union.
France was monitoring the situation in Scotland closely. Louis XIV was locked in battle against the Duke of Marlborough in the War of Spanish Succession and French agents in Scotland – presumable here looking at Kieran Tierney – believed the Jacobites could raise an army of 25,000. A Jacobite rebellion would be advantageous for the French as it would ease pressure on the French military fighting the British on the continent.
So, in March 1708 Louis XIV provided James Francis Edward Stuart with an expeditionary force of 5,000 men. They left France planning to land at Burntisland in Fife and march on Stirling Castle to begin a rebellion that would see James recover the thrones lost by his father. The French fleet never made land however. They were shadowed by the Royal Navy as soon as they left port and were forced north into the Moray Firth where bad weather and aggressive bottlenose dolphins forced them to turn back. Just a month after departing James was back in France having not set foot on Scottish soil – the fact James had never set foot in Scotland, was born in England and spent the majority of his life in France, did not stop selectors from the Scottish rugby team from picking him.
On the surface a trip to Scotland ruined by shite weather and aggressive Unionists doesn’t sound all that out of the ordinary, but in 1708 it was a massive setback for James who desperately needed to capitalise on the surge of Jacobinism in Scotland. In 1713 the War of Spanish Succession ended and one of the conditions of the Treaty of Utrecht that followed was that James should be forced to leave France. He was now exiled even further from the thrones he considered his birth right and was isolated further still when Louis XIV died in 1715 and the French crown passed to his 5-year-old grandson Louis XV.
Power in France was assumed by the Regent Phillippe II Duke of Orleans who ruled in name of the infant King. Unlike his predecessor Phillippe was unsympathetic to the Jacobite cause and offered little support to the Jacobites – you can’t really blame the guy, given the Stuart family’s track record giving more money to the Jacobite cause was akin to investing in ‘Trump Vodka’, or ‘Trump steak’, or ‘Trump airlines’, or ‘Trump mortgages’, or ‘Trump casinos’, or ‘Trump Water’, or ‘Trump University’, the likeliness or the venture being a success or getting your money back was as small as ‘Trump hands’.
On the 1st of August 1714 Queen Anne died, her death marked the end of the Stuart Royal dynasty and the beginning of the Hanoverian line with George I ascending to the British throne. Just over a year later on the 6th of September 1715 John Erskine the Earl of Mar raised James’s standard at Braemar in Aberdeenshire marking the beginning of the 1715 Jacobite Rising against the Hanoverian regime.
Mar was a skilled politician and dedicated Jacobite but was in no way suited to leading a military campaign. When he became the unwilling Jacobite leader in 1715 he was inexperienced, overly-cautious, and was up against a far more experienced and battle-hardened opponent John Campbell the Duke of Argyll, leader of the Government forces in Scotland.
After the raising of the Stuart standard at Braemar Inverness and Aberdeen immediately declared for the exiled King. A smaller force in the North West Highlands rose simultaneously and there were smaller uprisings in Northern England and the West Country, these however were poorly coordinated and quickly fizzled out.
Meanwhile in Lowland Scotland, just two days after the raising of the standard at Braemar, a daring raid of Edinburgh Castle was planned by Jacobite plotters. The audacious plot involved scaling the castle’s rock face - thought to be unclimbable - and using specially made ladders to climb over the castle’s defensive walls – this incidentally is now the only way I can conceivably visit Edinburgh Castle without re-mortgaging to afford the entrance fee. Once over the walls the besiegers would quickly take some selfies, then over-run the Garrison and take the unsuspecting troops by surprise. The plan ran into problems however when the conspirators realised the ladders were too short to reach over the castle walls. They begged the engineer who had made the ladders to make the necessary adjustments as quickly as possible, they were on a timescale as the guards on duty at the castle who were in on the coup were due to be relieved. The engineer flat refused to leave the pub and the raid on the castle had to be abandoned – convincing a scaffolder to leave the pub before last orders, even if it is to potentially change the course of Scottish history, remains a nigh on impossible task.
A month later, Jacobite sympathisers succeeded in taking control of the ports on the Fife side of the Firth of Forth, and managed to take the port of Leith just outside of Edinburgh. From there their leader William Mackintosh of Borlum rode south to meet with other Jacobite sympathisers who could offer reinforcements to help him take the city. Unfortunately for Mackintosh while he was away his men raided a ship docked in Leith with a cargo full of brandy. When he returned most of the men were too drunk or hungover to march or fight – although most still drove home.
While Lowland Jacobites were getting pished, Mar’s men in the North had stayed off the Frosty Jack long enough to amass a formidable force. In October 1715 at Perth the Jacobite army numbered over 10,000 and was the largest and most united Scottish army in a generation. The army’s size was particularly impressive considering the lack of French support and the fact James was not even in the country; he was having Brexit-level difficulties trying to get to Britain as his arrival was being blocked by Nigel Farage and the French Regent Phillippe II.
As time continued to drag on any initiative the Jacobite army had gained was slowly being lost. As Mar waited endlessly in Perth, Argyll dug into strong defensive positions at Sherrifmuir between Stirling and Perth. When the battle of Sherrifmuir did eventually commence on the 13th of November 1715 it should have been an easy victory for the far larger Jacobite army. Mar however did not press home his numerical advantage and allowed the government forces to retreat and strengthen.
In the aftermath of the battle Mar once again failed to take the initiative. Instead of pursuing the government forces he allowed time for them to amass reinforcements while he returned to Perth and continued to wait on James. The wait endured by the Jacobite army would not be seen in Scotland again for another 300 years, in Accident and Emergency departments and Lidl supermarkets across the country. Fed-up, most returned to their Highland homes for the winter.
James, travelling under several different disguises, eventually made it to Scotland in December 1715. He met up with the Jacobite forces in Perth on the 9th of January 1716 by which time the cause was all but lost. He set up an entirely pointless court in Perth where he dossed about for three weeks while his army diminished in front of his eyes and his enemies continued to strengthen. He eventually gave up the ghost, and on the 4th of February boarded a ship from Montrose bound for France, he would never set foot on Scottish soil again.
1715 was the Jacobite Rising that should have succeeded. A Scottish side that massively underachieved and returned home embarrassed and deflated, the 1715 Rising was a lot like Scotland’s performance at the 1978 World Cup. An inept leader hampered by players’ substance abuse and a French side that thought they were much better than they actually were; the similarities are uncanny. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie would eventually give the Jacobite cause their brief Archie Gemmill moment of sheer brilliance, but if there’s one thing Jacobite Rebellions and Scottish World Cup performances have in common it’s that they’re both destined to never make it out of the group stages.