Slavery link plaque will be added to Edinburgh monument

A new plaque will give a truthful account of Henry Dundas' role in the 18th-century slave trade.

Melville Monument: Plaque to detail involvement in slave trade.
Melville Monument: Plaque to detail involvement in slave trade.

Edinburgh City Council will install a new plaque on a statue of a former home secretary – detailing his role in the 18th-century slave trade.

The plaque is to be placed at the 200-year-old statue of Henry Dundas which was targeted during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Sunday.

More than 5000 people have signed an online petition demanding the Melville Monument on St Andrew Square is removed entirely over Dundas’ decision to delay the abolition of slavery during his tenure as home secretary in 1792, setting the movement back 15 years.

The Tory party politician, according to the petition, was “responsible” for the kidnap and enslavement of around 630,000 people.

ADVERT

The council has now confirmed a new plaque will be installed at the monument, which is one of Scotland’s tallest statues, “as soon as possible” as they look to “tell the city’s story more accurately”.

Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey said: “Edinburgh is a progressive, diverse and welcoming city and we must continue to fight against racism in all spheres of government and across society.

“I share the anger of people that we are still, in 2020, debating the issue of racial prejudice – something that should be consigned to the history books.”

He added: “I’m pleased to say that we’ve come to a form of words on a plaque at the statue of Henry Dundas – and this will be published tomorrow. It will be finalised and installed at the foot of the Melville Monument as soon as possible.

ADVERT

“This is just one part of Edinburgh’s history and one small change we can make. We should make many more.”

The 150-foot monument was erected in memory of Dundas in 1821.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Council is looking at the city’s links with slavery as it researches street names, statues and buildings.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Late last year, Glasgow became the first city in the UK to commission an in-depth academic study into the city’s links to transatlantic slavery.

“Once complete, the city is committed to a public consultation to determine how the Glasgow should respond to the findings – giving a voice to Glasgow’s people and, in particular, those whose lived experiences are a legacy of colonialism.

“As part of the work, Glasgow has also appointed a dedicated curator to ensure the research and the city’s response to it are reflected in our cultural estate.”

Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been held across the country as part of a global movement kicked off by the death of George Floyd in the US.