Briefing – Consultation on Edinburgh’s links to slavery and colonialism.

Below is a briefing from the Council on the work of The Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, chaired by Professor Sir Geoff Palmer OBE. As Black History Month draws to a close, the Group has launched a survey to allow people in Edinburgh to inform its work.

We have a duty to be open and honest about Edinburgh links with slavery and colonialism, and to understand what the perception is now and what could make it better. This need not be about destroying our heritage, but we have to reflect on how it is funded and ensure everyone feels valued, welcomed and safe in our city.

Citizens are being encouraged to have their say on the Capital’s historical links to slavery and colonialism and how they should be remembered and addressed in today’s Edinburgh.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement brought international attention to important issues relating to ongoing racism in society.  As part of a wider response to the movement, the City of Edinburgh Council committed to ensuring that commemorations of Edinburgh’s history are appropriate for society today – and future generations. The Council therefore commissioned an independent review of the City’s historic links with Slavery and Colonialism in the public realm.

As part of its work, the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group is seeking the views of Edinburgh residents and stakeholders about a selection of prominent features which it considers representative of the many aspects of Edinburgh life and society shaped by this legacy. It wants to hear thoughts about the most constructive ways that the City could address this history for the benefit of all in the future.

Whilst there are a significant number of monuments, buildings, street names and other features in the public spaces of the Capital today which could be considered, this consultation does not try to reference every one of these. Instead, it provides a representative selection of 41, separated into different themes or relating to a particular aspect of this history. For example, international trade and the profits from slavery and colonialism, the role of the military in sustaining slavery and colonialism and inspiring individual stories.

The Group hopes that this approach will help to illustrate the many different elements of Edinburgh life which have been touched by the legacy of slavery or colonialism.

The online consultation is hosted on the Council’s website here. It is open for 12 weeks from 27 October 2021 to 19 January 2022.

8 thoughts on “Briefing – Consultation on Edinburgh’s links to slavery and colonialism.

  1. Wouldn’t it be of much greater benefit if secondary school kids were taught about modern day genocide in countries like China and taught about how the folk making their £3 T-shirts are working on illegal pay in sweatshops in places like Leicester. We’re so focussed on issues that happened in the past, but it would be of much greater good to focus on issues that are happening in Britain today. Tearing down statues achieves little and is divisive. I’m sorry but if you get offended by a statue you really need to take a look in the mirror and realise how much of a privileged life you live. We’re so focused on the past, but we need to be more focussed on the issues facing Britain and the world today. There isn’t a single country in the World where it is illegal to be black, yet in dozens of countries it is illegal to be gay and some countries even have the death penalty for homosexuality. Whilst the England football players get down on one knee at the start of every game, they’ll be off to Qatar next year where being gay can land you a prison sentence and even death. Stop focussing on the past. Focus on the present and the future. And as for the councils consultation, could it be any more lengthy and boring?


    • We should not have to choose between talking about the injustices of yesterday, and the injustices of today. Nobody is suggesting we tear down statues, but we do have to be honest about what they represent.


      • The thing with slavery and colonialism is that it wasn’t ‘yesterday’. It wasn’t like the decriminalisation of homosexuality that didn’t happen in Scotland until the 1980’s. You’re talking about stuff that happened hundreds of years ago. Well before both World Wars. And as for tearing down statues, the councils consultation specifically mentions the removal of monuments.


      • Nobody is actually calling for pupils to be taught about things like Indian Independence though, are they? For all their faults, BLM have been an incredibly effective organisation at getting everyone to focus solely on black people. Embedding black history into every part of the secondary school curriculum, tearing down statues, putting plaques on monuments etc is all as a result of BLM. Who cares about the genocide in XinJang and the folk working on illegal pay in sweatshops on U.K. soil to make clothes for fashion brands. Let’s all focus on stuff in the past. No. Focus on the future. Focus on the here and now. When George Floyd was murdered, the world goes crazy. Yet if a gay person was killed by the Saudi authorities tomorrow, nobody would bat an eyelid. Across the world, gay people have things worse off than black people, and I make no apology for saying that. In this country, we have LGBT inclusive education that focuses on the present rather than the past. Yet with Racism it’s the other way around. Everything has to be focused on the past. Why? Forget statues, forget monuments, move on from stuff that’s happened hundreds of years ago. The past cannot be changed. The future can.


  2. Much like Black Lives Matter this “Group” is making a political economic statement rather than a moral or racial one. The fact that Adam Smith and David Hume are on their list is sick! These men played a significant role in developing the case for abolishing Slavery!!!!!! – with Britain being the first country in the world and in history to do so. Anyone including their names is doing so purely out of an political and economic perspective and not a moral or ethical one!


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