Temporary signs installed at Melville Monument

Melville monument plaque

Temporary signs containing the agreed wording for the new plaque at Melville Monument have been installed today (Monday 13 July).

They will be in place whilst the permanent plaque is being created. 

Council Leader Adam McVey said:

It’s right that a more accurate description was agreed for the plaque at the statue of Henry Dundas and we were keen to act quickly. These temporary signs will be in place for the next 6-8 weeks while the permanent plaque is created and goes through the planning and listed building consent process.


It’s important that a more appropriate and factual description is in place so that we can all get a better understanding of Edinburgh’s history, and particularly an honest acknowledgement of our City’s role in the slave trade. By more accurately reflecting our past we can more accurately accept our present and lingering racism which still haunts our society which must be stamped out. The voices of ethnic minority residents are key to that progress.

Depute Leader Cammy Day added:

There is no place for racism, prejudice, discrimination, intolerance and hate in Edinburgh and we will continue to nurture and enhance the Capital’s globally renowned reputation as a safe, welcoming, inclusive city for anyone, from anywhere, to live, work, study, and visit.


Whilst we await the permanent plaque being installed, I’m happy to see that from today, visitors will be able to read the updated wording and the QR code on the temporary sign will take users to Edinburgh World Heritage’s web page on Henry Dundas and his story.


The form of words was proposed following a meeting of Council Leader Adam McVey, Depute Leader Cammy Day, Edinburgh World Heritage, Prof Geoffrey Palmer and an expert from the University of Edinburgh with a view to agreeing a new form of words as quickly as possible and then formalised by Councillors last month.The new plaque will read: 

“On the plinth at the centre of St Andrew Square stands a neoclassical column with a statue at the top. This represents Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742 – 1811). He was the Scottish Lord Advocate and an MP for Edinburgh and Midlothian, and the First Lord of the Admiralty. Dundas was a contentious figure, provoking controversies that resonate to this day. While Home Secretary in 1792 and first Secretary of State for War in 1796 he was instrumental in deferring the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. Slave trading by British ships was not abolished until 1807. As a result of this delay, more than half a million enslaved Africans crossed the Atlantic. Dundas also curbed democratic dissent in Scotland. 

"Dundas both defended and expanded the British empire, imposing colonial rule on indigenous peoples. He was impeached in the United Kingdom for misappropriation of public money and although acquitted, he never held public office again. Despite this, the monument before you to Henry Dundas was funded by voluntary contribution from officers, petty officers, seamen and marines and erected in 1821, with the statue placed on top in 1827.   

"In 2020 this was dedicated to the memory of the more than half a million Africans whose enslavement was a consequence of Henry Dundas’s actions." 

Published: July 13th 2020