This article argues that the political radicalism which developed in Perth, in the 1790s, had its roots predominantly in earlier opposition to local social and political conditions. It highlights the continuity of support for reform across three decades, and it explores why a political opposition emerged in Perth and how it manifested itself. Perth radicals drew on what they had learnt by their involvement in the campaigns against Catholic relief and in support of burgh reform, demonstrating significant involvement in both issues. It also argues that the pre-1790 reform movement encompassed a broad class base emphasising the fact that reform agitation did not suddenly erupt with the French Revolution. It considers the connections between developments in Scotland and England, highlighting important differences which affected the reform movement after 1795, it provides evidence supporting the contention that the authorities’ concerns about stability were justified, and adds to the growing body of work which challenges the view that Scottish society in the 1790s was overwhelmingly stable.