By the Act of Union 1707 the crown was under oath to maintain the Kirk. Crown interest in the Kirk was channelled through the Secretaries of State until 1782, thereafter through the Home Secretary.
Since the last decade of the seventeenth century, the General Assembly of the Kirk had been meeting annually. It consisted of commissioners from each presbytery, royal burgh and university, and of kirk elders. It was convened by a High Commissioner, invariably a Scottish nobleman, under royal authority, who acted as president and supplied the instructions which formed an agenda.
The battle over patronage of kirk livings, which was abolished in 1690, but restored after the Union by the Patronage Act of 1712, when religious toleration was also enacted, continued. As over nine-tenths of the benefices were under crown patronage, it was inevitable that the Crown's right of presentation, usually exercised through recommendations from well-born commissioners in Scotland, should sometimes be challenged.
In 1732 the Assembly ruled that if a patron failed to supply a vacant living, the heritors and elders of that kirk were entitled to do so. This, though a modification of the Act of 1712, was among matters that did not meet the wishes of the Seceders of 1733, who were expelled in 1740. They joined the Cameronians, in the south-west, and the Episcopalians, in the north-east, as Protestant dissenters from the Kirk establishment.
There was a gradual waning of religious animosity probably encouraged by judicious patronage, in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Appointments to kirk livings under Crown patronage were made by the Secretary of State's presenting the King with a royal warrant to sign, procuring a letter of presentation to be passed under the privy seal of Scotland.