Malt Tax Riots Begin
There is something ‘Whisky Galore’ about the starting point of what became known as the Shawfield Riots in Glasgow in 1725, but given nine died in what could justifiably be called a local uprising they merit more than a condescending smile.
After the 1707 Union a malt tax (i.e. on brewing) had been proposed, but been talked down. In 1724 the idea was revived, and backed among others by Glasgow MP Daniel Campbell. The duty, at 3d per bushel of malt, was to begin on June 23 1725, but a mob occupied Excise offices and prevented its imposition. Soldiers led by one Captain Bushell arrived but held off at the request of town officials.
Rumour spread next day that Campbell had called for the army, and his house at Shawfield in Rutherglen was attacked and its interior wrecked. When the soldiers lined up in a show of force they were stoned by the mob, and fired into it. Bushell’s troops escaped to Dumbarton Castle , chased by large numbers and forced to fire again, killing and injuring more.
The upshot of the affair was that Bushell was charged with murder but never tried; Glasgow’s Lord Provost and others arrested and sent to Edinburgh for complicity, only to be bailed and return as heroes; two rioters were banished from the city, several were whipped; and Campbell was well compensated the money raised by... a tax on Glasgow’s ale, which enabled him to buy Islay .
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