I AM sure I am not alone in my disappointment in reading of Tom Devine’s views on acknowledging Scotland’s role in the slave trade as expressed in Andrew Learmonth’s article in Sunday’s edition (Devine: We should own up to our role in slavery but an apology could cause problems, July 21).

READ MORE: Devine: 'Scotland apologising for slavery could cause problems'

Professor Devine is quoted as saying: “An apology on behalf of the modern nation, which had nothing to do with slavery, could form the basis for reparation claims.” This of course begs the question of whether reparations are justified. Given that at the time of the emancipation, slave owners and others linked to the trade were handsomely compensated, while the freed slaves were left destitute, there is obviously a moral case for reparations.

Secondly, it is wrong to say that we ‘have nothing to do with slavery.’ The Scottish industrial revolution was founded on the proceeds of the slave trade and the related tobacco industry, so we owe our present comfortable standard of living to our slave-owning ancestors.

READ MORE: SNP conference: Scotland urged to apologise for historic slavery role

Professor Devine suggests various ways in which we could absolve ourselves without admitting liability, such as encouraging our universities to form ties with their counterparts in the Caribbean. I would propose a more radical step. I urge the Scottish government to consider levying a tax on the income from landed estates that owe their prosperity to the slave trade. The resulting revenues could form the basis for a reparation fund. The goodwill that this would generate would be inestimable.

Douglas Currie

PROFESSOR Devine is right to raise this issue. If the question of reparations arises then the question has to include who from?

You can be certain that it would not be from those who benefited the most – or their descendants. It would be a case of “privatise profit and nationalise debt” writ large.

The actions of almost every empire throughout history have included wars of aggression, genocide, slavery, theft and corruption.

There is a huge problem applying modern ethics retrospectively to history.

The only exception is when those alive today actively identify and revel in past misdeeds by seeking to repeat them and glory in continuity with the evils. Empire 2.0 springs to mind.

Much better if we get on with tackling the modern equivalent of slavery that exists today in the form of unequal, coercive trade facilitated by corruption of governments by the powerful.

An independent Scotland taking a lead on solving this evil would be much more meaningful than token apologies for the actions of ancestors.

Douglas Deans
via thenational.scot

ON Friday night Algeria beat Senegal to win the prestigious Africa Cup. Hardly a word in the still colonial-centred UK press!

At the same time, Algerians continue to demonstrate across the country in huge numbers for change in the political regime, clocking up 22 weeks of peaceful demonstrations calling for a “democratic, civilian non-military state”, for an “independent justice system” and for transparent elections.

They have made important gains: the present incumbent agreed not to stand for election for a fifth term in office, then resigned in April, being replaced by an acting head of state Abdelkader Bensalah. A number of corrupt politicians are facing justice. The protestors are now demanding that those imprisoned under censorship laws should be released.

One striking development is that the demonstrators have deployed groups of young people to clear up the litter caused by the marches. This must help to keep public opinion on side and suggests that environmental issues are becoming salient.

It remains a hang-over from the colonial spheres of influence that the Anglophone world hears too little of what is going on in places like Algeria. Their political struggle is not over even after nearly 60 years of independence. We can identify with their aims and their persistence in pursuing full self-determination.

Cathie Lloyd
Letters, Lochbroom

IT is reported that the probable cost of England’s flagship rail project HS2 is about to rise from £56,000,000,000 to £86,000,000,000 (£56 billion to £86bn). As the project is not expected to be completed until 2033, no doubt this guestimate will continue to rise.

Scotland’s share of the current estimate will be about £8,600,000,000 I suppose (assuming a 10% share to make the arithmetic easier). More than £1700 per head if you assume 5,000,000 residents in Scotland and I have worked it out correctly.

You will of course be able to travel from London to Sheffield in 90 minutes instead of the current 120 minutes, assuming no other delays.

There will be very little benefit to anyone travelling to Scotland.

The cost of the Union is becoming unsustainable.

Brian Lawson