MICHAEL Fry is a bit too glib in his gallop through the history of slavery (Dundas helped to end slavery – he should be honoured not condemned, July 8). Paul’s “you are all one in Christ Jesus” is clearly incompatible with slavery. The trouble was that nobody could conceive of any alternative to the existing economic model, and a slave economy was the only show in town.

Rather like Mr Fry’s admiration for advanced capitalism, its permanence seemed obvious, just as – conversely – the Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day’s excoriating “our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system” is incomprehensible to Mr Fry.

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It is a remarkable fact that slavery was not condemned by any of the great philosophers of the ancient world – Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius, or Lao Tse. Nor is it condemned in sacred texts such as the Upanishads, or Dhammapada. Mohammad owned slaves.

Gregory of Nyssa was the first person in the world, in any culture, Eastern or Western, or in any religious tradition, to denounce slavery as intrinsically evil. Many before had expressed indignation at the ill-treatment of slaves, but none had condemned slavery per se. This man – who is utterly forgotten – should be honoured by all humanity. He died in AD 394.

It is salutary to consider the origin of the word slave. This is cognate with the word “Slav”, denoting the peoples of Eastern Europe. “Slav” is in turn is related to the word slovo (“word”), meaning people who spoke a comprehensible language – Russian, Polish, Czech, etc – as opposed to all the rest. Eastern Europe was primarily a vast source of slaves for the Islamic world. It wasn’t just from Tangier or Tripoli that the slave dealers operated, but from the Muslim empires of Turkey and the Middle East.

By the Middle Ages in Europe slavery had been replaced by serfdom. In 1462, Pope Pius II declared slavery to be “a great crime” (magnum scelus). In 1537 Pope Paul III forbade the enslavement of the American Indians (not that anybody listened). Bartolomeo de las Casa was an ardent opponent of their slavery, and the Jesuit Peter Claver was one of the most illustrious adversaries of slavery.

I make these points not to belittle the unique scale and horror of the African slave trade, but to expand knowledge of the history of slavery generally.

Brian Quail

WHATEVER Henry Dundas did or did not do in relation to slavery, few Edinburgh folk nowadays know or care much about him. His statue should leave St Andrew Square. It could be retired to a smaller plinth, perhaps on Calton Hill, with a plaque saying who he was and what he did. The column in St Andrew Square might be removed or could appropriately bear a representation of Saint Andrew or a Saltire (Saint Andrew’s Cross). Or a unicorn could properly adorn one of our capital city’s main squares.

David Stevenson

I WAS pleased to see the issue of the 6000 square miles of Scotland’s water coming up in The National (Rees-Mogg: UK is ‘one country’ with no borders, July 3), and that independence will see them returned to Scotland.

Back in the early years of this century when I was the editor of the Scots Independent newspaper, I kept getting demands to write about this issue but did not know how to go about it. I asked Professor Chris Harvie, a list MSP for Fife, for guidance. He opened up his PC and gave me a list of co-ordinates, which meant nothing to laymen.

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I took them to one of my friends, Alastair Kidd, a retired merchant navy captain, and he went to the Royal Forth Yacht Club and bought the chart for the North Sea which included all the oil and gas installations.

When he plotted the co-ordinates we discovered that six oilfields were in the section – Fulmar, Auk, Clyde, Janice, Angus and Fife. The pipeline ran to St Fergus in Aberdeenshire. The late Ian Goldie published this in his SI column in a special edition of Summer 2010.

The article was also published in The Case for Independence, a book of Ian Goldie’s SI Columns, with a coloured map of the theft.

Jim Lynch

WHO are the people who are on the board of the National Trust for Scotland, and who appoints them? Why are all the goods in the NTS shops not sourced in Scotland and labelled accordingly?

Margaret Pennycook

I WOULD like to say a big thank you to The National for printing all the extra puzzles during lockdown. As a shielded person not being able to get outside until very recently, these puzzles have been amazing and I’m sure have helped me keep my sanity. Again thanks, and keep up the good work.

I also would like to wish you well in these times of job cuts at The Sunday National and The National. I sincerely hope it is not the intention of the owners to axe The National? Scotland needs our only independence paper.

E Anne Smart

(Ed - please be assured there is no plan to axe The National)