JOANNA Cherry QC, MP, with impeccable timing, has called for Scotland to establish a “black heritage centre” (No room for complacency in quest for racial equality, July 9). I made a similar suggestion about 10 years ago in a letter to your sister paper The Herald that the old sugar warehouses in Greenock should be turned into a Scotland And Its Atlantic History Centre that would provide a genuine, frank and honest narrative of the less than honourable role that too many Scots played in African enslavement in the Caribbean as well as America.

Now such a centre must do more. The black experience must not be restricted to the near genocide of chattel slavery. The centre should celebrate the substantial achievements of African cultures both historically and currently in the diaspora. Enslavement must not be allowed to define the African experience.

Yet this idea of a centre of and for “black culture” would need to address, and indeed evaluate, the wider role of Scotsmen (and it was almost all men) in the exploitation of the African and indeed of all the peoples of the empire. (Please note, I do not refer to “Scotland’s role” for as a subordinate participant within the Union after 1707 Scotland had no statal responsibility for the often atrocious actions against native populations in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Indian sub-continent as well as in sub-Saharian Africa. However prior to 1707 is very different matter.)

This centre would also need to include Scottish emigration both “transported” prisoners, as well as the Highland Clearances with its narrative of injustice. For without diluting the focus on the African experience, there is a dire need to re-examine the peculiar dialectical Scottish experience as crude exploiter of the “other native” while being the exploited native. Professor Tom Devine has opened many an eye in his erudite writing on Scottish imperialism, for the truth must be told, now.

As we seek to build a new future free from our subordinate constitutional status, we must at the same time seek to bring a fresh understanding and honest acknowledgement of our own imperialist past.

Thom Cross


I COULD not disagree more strongly with Kathleen Nutt’s article (Scotland should consider black heritage centre, July 9). Given the present political climate, all that such a centre would become would be a target for graffiti artists and vandals. Let us not forget that very recently the statue of Robert the Bruce in Bannockburn was defaced.

If money exists to create a black heritage centre, then would it not be much better spent helping to develop the education systems in African countries? One of the most upsetting TV adverts is the one depicting African children having to drink dirty water because they have no choice. I wonder if any of these children are from countries whose governments receive UK Government “aid” in the form of armaments. How many millions of litres of clean drinking water would be the equivalent of one fighter plane?

If Scotland decides to provide aid to African countries, than what better way than to work with the governments of these countries to develop their indigenous education and health services?

This could be achieved by offering additional scholarships to Africans to come to study in Scotland. In addition, they could have the opportunity to obtain a period of professional and/or industrial experience. To achieve this, industry and the professions would need to be involved and if this is to be a truly a Scottish initiative, then why not leave room for a contribution from crowdfunding?

Scotland’s universities and industries have a proud history of participating in these types of initiatives, but alas it is not widely publicised.

I would suggest that such an initiative would be forward-looking and would help both the up-and-coming and future generations of Africans to develop, whereas a black heritage centre would be focusing on the past.

Thomas L Inglis