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Scotland must remember slave trade past, says professor

'It's part of our culture', Sir Geoff Palmer said as Black History Month comes to a close.

Reporting by Kaye Nicolson

Some of Scotland's uncomfortable connections with the transatlantic slave trade have been laid bare by an Edinburgh professor.

As Black History Month draws to a close, Professor Sir Geoffrey Palmer wanted to highlight the capital's links with slavery.

The Heriot-Watt University academic said that while the past cannot be changed, it is important to remember and learn from it.

Over the past year, the controversial history of Henry Dundas, who is immortalised in the 150 foot statue in St Andrew Square, has been much debated.

Dundas, otherwise known as Viscount Melville, opposed the abolition of slavery and was successful in delaying it for 15 years, leaving some to question whether the statue is appropriate.

Across the New Town which he helped to create, there are more subtle echoes of the wealth incurred by Scottish slave owners.

Edinburgh: It has many connections to the slave trade.
Edinburgh: It has many connections to the slave trade. STV

The names of streets such as Jamaica Street underline the deep links with the Caribbean island, where many of the sugar plantations were operated and owned by Scots.

A building sandwiched between Harvey Nichols and the Dundas House Royal Bank of Scotland branch is the former headquarters of the British Linen Company, which exported clothes for slaves to wear.

And a few streets away on Forth Street, there are several signs of affluence at addresses which were listed for compensation after slavery was abolished across the British Empire in 1833.

At number 24, there is a balcony and more elaborate railings; while at number 12, there are two doors.

Professor Sir Geoffrey told STV News: "There were individuals who were very wealthy and benefited greatly from slavery and the slave trade. They were all getting over two thousand pounds.

"Sir John Gladstone, the father of the famous prime minister, got about £83m in today's money for his slaves. History, we can't change, but we can change the consequences."

Nicholas Hotham of Edinburgh World Heritage said: "I don't think we can expect people from black or minority ethnic communities to feel engaged or connected to Edinburgh's world heritage sites unless we're honest.

"That's a sign of a healthy society that's developing and is balanced, and is willing to ask difficult questions about its past."

https://stv.tv/news/scotland/1428447-graphic-novel-examines-history-of-slavery-in-scotland/ | default

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