Residents’ help sought to shape the way Edinburgh addresses its past links to slavery and colonialism – consultation launched by independent Review Group today

Issued on behalf of the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group

Citizens are being encouraged to have their say on the Capital’s historical links to slavery and colonialism and how they should be remembered and addressed in today’s Edinburgh.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement brought international attention to important issues relating to ongoing racism in society. As part of a wider response to the movement, the City of Edinburgh Council committed to ensuring that commemorations of Edinburgh’s history are appropriate for society today - and future generations. The Council therefore commissioned an independent review of the city’s historic links with Slavery and Colonialism in the public realm.

As part of its work, the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group is seeking the views of Edinburgh residents and stakeholders about a selection of prominent features which it considers representative of the many aspects of Edinburgh life and society shaped by this legacy. It wants to hear thoughts about the most constructive ways that the City could address this history for the benefit of all in the future.

Whilst there are a significant number of monuments, buildings, street names and other features in the public spaces of the Capital today which could be considered, this consultation does not try to reference every one of these. Instead, it provides a representative selection of 41, separated into different themes or relating to a particular aspect of this history. For example, international trade and the profits from slavery and colonialism, the role of the military in sustaining slavery and colonialism and inspiring individual stories.

The group hopes that this approach will help to illustrate the many different elements of Edinburgh life which have been touched by the legacy of slavery or colonialism.

Independent Review Group Chair Sir Geoff Palmer said:

I would like to thank all members of our Independent Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group for their careful and dedicated work in selecting prominent historical features of the city of Edinburgh which reflect the City’s involvement in chattel slavery and colonialism. This survey is a critical part of this review and the Review Group thanks everyone that contributes to this important part of the review which will show that the city of Edinburgh is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. We cannot change the past but we can change consequences of the past such as racism for the better using education and greater public awareness.

Council Leader Adam McVey, said:

Edinburgh prides itself on being an inclusive, diverse and welcoming city but we must all continue to work to challenge and eradicate racism and prejudice from our City. The work of the independent Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group has given us an opportunity to have an open and honest conversation with ourselves and with our communities.

We have a responsibility to face up to our City’s past, the good and the bad. While this review is about the story of our City, it’s not only about the past, it’s about people who live here now and their experience. I would encourage everyone to take part in the consultation so Edinburgh can improve its shared understanding of our Capital’s history and make sure we share the true stories with future generations. I very much look forward to hearing the Review Group’s findings.”

Council Depute Leader Cammy Day, said:

We want to make sure that commemorations, monuments, statues as well as names of streets and buildings are representative of a modern and inclusive Capital city.

I would like to thank Sir Geoff Palmer and the members of the review group for their dedication and hard work, getting us to the consultation period.

Hearing from people through this consultation about what’s important to them will help us achieve this and I would encourage our diverse communities to take part.

The Review Group will use the findings from the consultation to inform their report and recommendations to bring back to the Council in the new year.

In addition to the online consultation, The Review Group will host a number of sessions with Edinburgh networks and community groups directly impacted by this legacy in the present.

The online consultation is hosted on the Council’s website at: City of Edinburgh Council - Citizen Space. It is open for 12 weeks from 27 October 2021 to 19 January 2022.

Published: October 27th 2021