McConnell calls for statues debate amid racism protests

The former first minister said 'discussions need to be had'.

Former first minister Jack McConnell has said a discussion needs to be had around statues in Scotland after anti-racism campaigners removed a monument of a slave trader in Bristol.

McConnell made an appearance on Drivetime with John Beattie on Tuesday, where he said that those “who shout the loudest” should not be in charge of which statues come down.

He added that he would like to see a public debate around the matter, adding that he did not think “Scotland’s relationship with slavery” was fully understood.

Protesters in Bristol ripped down a monument to slave trader Edward Colston as part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Beattie asked Mr McConnell if he agreed with taking down statues and renaming streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

McConnell responded: “My initial reaction is to say we should have a public debate but I understand we have had a debate for a long time, and I understand people’s frustrations that there’s not been the kind of action that would signal the kind of grievance that is felt.

“I have a couple of worries about this.

“I don’t think it should be up to those who shout loudest in the street to decide which statues stay up and which statues come down.

“I don’t think Scotland’s relationship with slavery is fully understood in our country, and I think that is a real issue.

“We also have real issues as well about the sectarianism in our past and present.”

He added that while he did not think a “long” debate was needed, there should still be some public involvement in the decision-making process.

McConnell said: “We have some good aspects in our Scottish history on this as David Livingstone learned about slavery at Glasgow University and went off and worked tirelessly in Africa to try and end the slave trade in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

“Whether we take down statues or change street names, what we do about that – there needs to be decision making about the best way of recognising those grievances from the past and present.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code