Council agrees plaque wording for slave trader statue

The monument has been dedicated to the memory of more than half a million Africans enslaved through Dundas's actions."

Monument: A plaque will be placed at statue.
Monument: A plaque will be placed at statue.

Edinburgh City Council has agreed wording for a plaque on the statue of slave trader Henry Dundas.

At a policy and sustainability committee on Thursday, Edinburgh councillors agreed on wording to highlight Scotland’s history with slave trade.

The history of Dundas came under fire during the Black Lives Matter protest, due to his postponement of the abolition of the slave trade.
Protesters have been calling for more people to be educated about his history in relation with the slave trade, including more education in schools.

The agreed wording for the Dundas statue said: “On the plinth at the centre of St Andrew Square stands a neoclassical column with a statue at the top.
“This represents Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742 – 1811). He was the Scottish Lord Advocate and an MP for Edinburgh and Midlothian, and the First Lord of the Admiralty.

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“Dundas was a contentious figure, provoking controversies that resonate to this day. While home secretary in 1792 and first Secretary of State for War in 1796 he was instrumental in deferring the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.

“Slave trading by British ships was not abolished until 1807. As a result of this delay, more than half a million enslaved Africans crossed the Atlantic. Dundas also curbed democratic dissent in Scotland.

“Dundas both defended and expanded the British empire, imposing colonial rule on indigenous peoples. He was impeached in the United Kingdom for misappropriation of public money and although acquitted, he never held public office again.

“Despite this, the monument before you to Henry Dundas was funded by voluntary contribution from officers, petty officers, seamen and marines and erected in 1821, with the statue placed on top in 1827.

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“In 2020 this was dedicated to the memory of the more than half a million Africans whose enslavement was a consequence of Henry Dundas’s actions.”

The location of the plaque will be agreed with owners of St Andrew’s Square, but the council noted that positive discussions had been had so far.