HISTORY is part of national pride. It is now well known that the history of Scotland in linked to the history of British slavery.

Since 2007 I have given many lectures on Scottish-Caribbean slavery connections. One of the frequently asked questions by the audience is: “Why has no one told us of our involvement in this slavery before?”

Some of our historians are responsible for this omission … some even claim that Scotland abolished slavery. Why this deception? I believe that, in some quarters, “false national pride” has been responsible for this omission. There is the misguided belief that the Scottish people need protection from their history.

An historian has called this failure to acknowledge Scotland’s involvement in black chattel slavery as convenient “amnesia”.

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Henry Dundas (1st Viscount Melville, above) has a 150ft high statue in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh. He was a powerful politician. The name Dundas is linked to place and street names in Scotland and abroad. He played major roles in Scottish history. For example, he delayed the abolition of the slave trade for 15 years (1792-1807) which caused the enslavement of about 630,000 Africans and as war secretary lost about 40,000 British troops in Haiti fighting a pro-slavery war.

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Some historians, because of “false national pride”, have tried to defend Dundas’ role in a slavery which was chattel slavery, where a black slave “had no right to life and was property”. This historian said that Dundas was a “gradual abolitionist” knowing that Dundas used the word “gradual” to prolong the slave trade because the life span of a field slave was less than 10 years and the trade provided replacements.

Politicians at the time knew that “gradual” meant “never” and one described it as “gradual murder”. Henry Dundas is the last British politician to be impeached. He was tried for taking money from the navy but was freed by his supporters in the House of Lords (1806). This falsehood that Dundas was a “gradual abolitionist” stopped the revision of Dundas’ plaque because we believe that Dundas’ terrible role in slavery must be included.

The terrible killing of the black man George Floyd in Minneapolis has reopened discussions about the historical link between slavery, financial benefits and brutality against black people. Scots owned about 30% of British slave plantations. About 70% of the surnames in the Jamaica Telephone Directory are Scottish. Many historical buildings in Glasgow (GOMA), in Edinburgh (Headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland) and in other parts of Scotland have links with chattel slavery. Jamaica Street has links with slavery. It was opened in 1763. Racism is a consequence of chattel slavery.

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The Scottish philosopher David Hume said that black people were inferior to white people. This baseless prejudicial view led to people being described as different races on the basis of skin colour. White Europeans then used skin colour to enslave black people during the Enlightenment.

In 1964 I was told at an interview that I should “go home and grow bananas”.

Slaves were enslaved by British-made slave laws. Slave owners were compensated financially for losing their slaves (1833-34). They received a total sum of about £23 billion. Sir John Gladstone received £83 million for his 2508 slaves. He was the father of the prime minister, William Gladstone, whose statue stands in George Square in Glasgow.

The basis of this compensation was “entitlement”. White slave owners were legally “entitled” to the “life and work” of their black slaves. I am a descendant of Jamaican slaves and I have some white genes because slave owners had children with their slaves. My experience of racism has been minor compared to those of other black people. However, in 1964 I was told at an interview that I should “go home and grow bananas”. My response was that “it was difficult to grow bananas in Haringey”. Not long after moving into my house in Scotland in 1977, a little girl told me that her father said that the price of his house has gone down because of me.

After reassuring him that I knew the previous boss, he asked without hesitation, “Were you his chauffeur?”

Last year I arrived at a venue to give a lecture. When I told the attendant that I was lecturing at 2pm, she said that was not possible because Professor Sir Geoff Palmer was lecturing at that time. My request to charge my phone was rejected by the janitor of a large institution. After reassuring him that I knew the previous boss, he asked without hesitation, “Were you his chauffeur?”

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Last year I made a video for the Scottish Government entitled, “We are Scotland”. I said that we are all part of the history and heritage of Scotland. One humanity … nothing less. Racists work to break this sense of belonging, some do it with “a knee”, others do it with racist attitudes that limit opportunities.

Education reduces racism and our history must be taught honestly in schools and other institutions. To its credit, Glasgow University has acknowledged its financial benefits from slavery and has set up a reparative justice scheme to assist the education of black students. We cannot change the past but we can change consequences such as racism for the better.

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Geoff Palmer is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a human rights activist