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‘Strange Associations’:
The Irish Question and the Making of Scottish Unionism, 1886-1918

Catriona Burness

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Subject: Scottish History
Royal Octavo
Illustrated : b/w
220 pp.
ISBN: 1 86232 194 9
Paperback £20

The Conservative Party in Scotland has often been unpopular, and this electoral unpopularity has conspired to ensure its neglect by political historians. This book helps to plug the gap with its study of an important phase in the history of Scottish Conservatism, the making of Scottish Unionism between 1886 and 1918.

The Scottish Unionist Association was formed in 1912 on the amalgamation of the Scottish Conservative and Liberal Unionist parties. The great Home Rule split of 1886 divided the Liberal Party in Scotland as elsewhere. The repercussions of the split undermined the ascendancy of Liberalism in Scotland. Liberal Unionism proved stronger in Scotland than any other part of Britain except Chamberlain’s Birmingham.

In an electoral pact with the Conservatives from 1886, the Scottish Liberal Unionists tried and ultimately failed to retain a distinctive Liberal Unionist position. The long-term implications of their pact with the Tories made retaining a separate identity ever more difficult, and enthusiastic Liberal Unionist involvement in the tariff reform campaign from 1903 eventually redrew political lines of loyalty.

This analysis of their sometimes prickly but electorally fruitful relationship shows that Liberal Unionism and later Unionism played a vital role in the presentation and rehabilitation of Conservatism in Scotland.

Author: A graduate of the University of St Andrews, Catriona Burness is currently a researcher at the European Parliament in Brussels.