A HISTORIAN has accused Labour of contributing to Scotland’s “amnesia around slavery”, saying the party should not try to “politicise” the country’s reckoning with its imperial history.

The row broke out after the Scottish Labour branch in Rutherglen criticised Mhairi Black’s speech at the SNP independence convention on Saturday.

Black invoked the history of Commonwealth countries who declared their independence from the UK, saying that of the 62 who had done so since 1939 “not a single one has ever asked to come back”.

Labour’s Rutherglen branch responded: “Implying that Scotland is a colony is an insult to those who suffered at the hands of the British Empire.

“Scotland was not an innocent by-stander here; it was significantly involved and reaped the rewards.

“Take a walk around Glasgow and see streets named after slave owners.”

Stephen Mullen, who tweets under the name of his 2022 book Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy, said SNP and Green councillors had done more than Labour in Scotland to address the country’s imperial past.

The Glasgow University academic said: “SNP local administrations have contributed to Scotland’s imperial reckoning with two slavery investigations (Glasgow and Edinburgh).

“The Labour Party contributed to Scotland’s amnesia around slavery, naming ‘The Merchant City’ in 1990.

“I’d sit this one out.”

Mullen, a research associate in history, wrote a report for Glasgow city council in 2022 which detailed the city’s connections with the slave trade and which resulted in an official apology from the local authority’s SNP leader Susan Aitken.

Edinburgh undertook similar research under its previous joint SNP and Labour administration. Under Labour’s Cammy Day, the city council last year accepted recommendations put forward by Geoff Palmer, which included an official apology.

Turning his attention to the Scottish Parliament, Mullen said Scottish Labour had “remained generally silent” in contrast to the SNP on the country’s imperial past.

READ MORE: Glasgow won't 'rush' to change street names linked to slavery

He added: “SNP politicians were also the most critical of Scottish/British involvement with slavery in Scottish Parliament 1999-2019.

“Scottish Labour remained generally silent, consistent with the party’s British Nationalist ethos.

“Scottish Labour MSPs have a tentative  record in supporting motions aimed at addressing Scotlands slavery past, exemplified by lukewarm support in votes. Compare and contrast with SNP and Green Party.

“In other words, Labour activists shouldn’t be attempting to politicise issues around Scotland’s imperial reckoning with Empire.

“Scottish Labour have a demonstrably weaker track record compared to the SNP and even the Scottish Green Party.”

Mullen also criticised Glasgow Labour MSP Paul Sweeney, an architecture and history buff, who recently proposed rebuilding the Tower of Empire from the 1938 Empire Exhibition, during an interview with The Herald.

Sweeney replied: “Your assertion that rebuilding one of Scotland’s great lost art deco icons somehow reflects my endorsement of imperialism is quite far-fetched and polemical. I would support its critical interpretation if it were. That doesn't mean its architectural merit can't be appreciated.”

He added: “Those recent investigations were supported by Labour. The naming of Glasgow's Old Town as 'Merchant City' over a generation ago was promoted by officials at the Scottish Development Agency rather than by politicians.”

Scottish Labour were approached for comment.