The royal community necessitated a rapprochement between the two countries, and with the uncertainty of the English succession, the foundations were laid for the creation of Great Britain. The English again feared seeing Scotland as a springboard for a Catholic Counter-Reformation, while the Scots, for their part, recognized the commercial advantages of closer ties to England. For a long time, however, the Union had the character of a marriage of convenience. Thus, the Treaty on European Union was aimed only at political integration (i.e. the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament), while the church and the legal system remained unchallenged.

The defeat at Culloden in 1746 marked the end of the clans as a force, but at the same time opened up the possibility for Scotland to be a more equal partner in the union.

The spillover from England was now noticeable in all areas of social life. The introduction of the fodder plant turnips ensured a significantly higher fold yield, which provided the basis for an expansion of the lucrative beef cattle exports. Conversely, the entry of market forces into the highlands meant a massive transition to sheep farming and a depopulation of the old clan area. The Scots gained access to the world market and the infrastructure was expanded.

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From the end of the 1700s, extensive canal construction tied the country together, and with the advent of the railway in the 1830s, even remote areas could take part in economic development. Trade was initially centered on groceries such as tobacco and cotton, but with the large deposits of iron and coal, there was a rapid shift towards heavy industry and shipbuilding around Glasgow and on the Clyde River.