New slavery plaque at controversial Melville Monument installed by council

The plaque was removed by members of the Melville Monument Committee in September 2023.

New slavery plaque at controversial Melville Monument installed by Edinburgh council SNS Group

A replacement plaque at Edinburgh’s controversial Melville Monument has been installed after it was removed in September last year.

The original brass plate, which was added following Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations, claimed delays to abolition advocated by Henry Dundas resulted in “more than half a million enslaved Africans crossing the Atlantic.”

In September 2023, a monument group led by a descendant of the politician, in whose honour the statue was erected in 1827, claimed the plaque was “cartoonishly inaccurate” and removed it.

The replacement features the same wording as the original plaque and the council said it provided “historical context to the role of Henry Dundas”.

Council leader Cammy Day said “we will not allow the actions of a minority to derail the important ongoing work to address the legacies of slavery and colonialism in our city”.

He added: “Following the refusal of the Melville Monument Committee to return the original plaque, we filed an official report with Police Scotland in October. This investigation is ongoing, and our legal team will continue to monitor the situation closely.

“We’ll also be seeking to recover the costs of this replacement plaque from the Melville Monument Committee.”

Edinburgh Council

The plaque states that the 1st Viscount Melville was a “contentious figure, provoking controversies that resonate to this day”.

It had been installed following an independent review chaired by Scotland’s first black professor, Sir Geoff Palmer.

It states that Dundas was “instrumental in deferring the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade”.

“As a result of this delay, more than half a million enslaved Africans crossed the Atlantic.”

It adds that the plaque is dedicated “to the memory of the more than half a million Africans whose enslavement was a consequence of Henry Dundas’s actions”.

Chair of Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Implementation Group, Irene Mosota said: “Today is a really significant milestone for our city, with the return of the plaque to the base of the Melville Monument.

“It’s only through properly acknowledging and exploring our collective past that we can address the challenges of the present and putting ourselves in a strong position to shape a positive future.

“This is a very exciting time for ESCLRIG as we now look towards implementing the recommendations of the independent review. Together, I’m confident that we can forge the foundations for a more tolerant, just, and equal Edinburgh that we can all be proud of.“

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