SCOTLAND must acknowledge its role in the slave trade with a memorial and museum, say leading anti-racist campaigners and academics.

The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER), which is organising Black History Month in Scotland, claims that an increasing body of research uncovering Glasgow and Edinburgh’s links to the transatlantic slave trade has underlined the need for a national memorial.

The call comes as work by academics and activists continues to highlight the country’s link to slavery. Nearly 30 per cent of slave owners in Jamaican estates were Scots, with some of them bringing slaves back home. Others brought back profits from sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations, and used them to found Scottish industries, schools and churches.

“There is a great connection between Glasgow and slavery and there really should be something appropriate that marks that fact,” said Jatin Haria, chief executive of CRER. “We are looking for a memorial, but we have a longer-term ambition for a museum of migration, which would tell the story of Scotland’s role in the slave trade.

“It is really only in recent years that people have realised that Scotland was a key player. We have started a new tour of the statues in George Square, for example, and it is striking how many of those are connected in some way to slavery. More and more is uncovered all the time.”

He said that while the design and location of a memorial should be widely consulted on, with the views of Scotland’s African community sought, it would be fitting for it to be funded by the Scottish Government. He added: “We accept that it take time, but we would hope that the lack of action is not a sign of reluctance.”

As part of Black History Month, running throughout October, numerous talks will take place at Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), the former home of William Cunninghame, a Scottish tobacco merchant who came to dominate and profit from the transatlantic slave trade. Last July research by University College London revealed the identities of 46,000 Britons who owned slaves, mainly in the West Indies, on the day slavery was abolished in 1833 – and around 30 per cent were believed to be Scots.

The need for a memorial was last raised after the Commonwealth Games, when the city council and Glasgow Life agreed to consult on the need to mark the connections. The issue was also explored by the Empire Cafe, a discussion space and cultural programme examining the links that was founded by author Louise Welsh and Collective Architecture director Jude Barber.

Barber said Glasgow Museums had offered “a commitment to the process” at their final event and expressed surprise and disappointment that two years on it was not yet clear how the city planned to move forward on plans.

Dr Michael Morris, of Liverpool John Moores University, who will be leading walking tours of George Square on October 15, added: “Across Europe, cities like Amsterdam, Nantes and Bordeaux have begun to formally acknowledge their slavery past. In the UK, there are museums and memorials in Liverpool, London and Bristol. There are also universities with dedicated research centres into slavery in Hull, Nottingham and Preston. Scotland has nothing, and Glasgow is particularly conspicuous in its absence.

“While a specific memorial would be very appropriate, it is also possible at the same time to reinterpret our existing public monuments to highlight their slavery context.”

Dr Stephen Mullen, who is working on a book about runaway slaves in Scotland agreed. “Glasgow has the Merchant City," he added. “The name is a celebration of the past. There is no acknowledgement of how it came to be. Scots benefited disproportionately from compensation payments after the abolition of slavery.”

Leading academic Professor Tom Devine, who last year edited a collection of essays titled Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past, also called for action. “Scotland and slavery should certainly be part of the school curriculum, as it has been in England for some years,” he said. “I would also like to see the National Museum of Scotland and Kelvingrove in Glasgow feature the subject more prominently in their displays but in the context of the broader history.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Life said it had an ambition “to tell the story of Glasgow’s links to the slave trade” and ensure “there is a deeper understanding of the part that slavery played in the narrative of Glasgow and how important that it is not only to the past but also to the future”.

He added: “In the last two years we have sought and received funding for research into Glasgow’s collections and how objects are linked to slavery, we’ve enabled new curatorial research that has led to the delivery of the Blockade Runners exhibit at Riverside, and developed new materials for schools relating to GoMA and the People’s Palace. An exhibition at St Mungo Museum, funded by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, currently explores Glasgow’s role in the slave trade.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland has many different aspects to its history and we acknowledge its complex past. We are keen to look to the future and progress our work to tackle racism and modern-day slavery to ensure that all our citizens can achieve to their fullest potential.”