Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review group to present recommendations

The findings and recommendations of the independent Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review will be considered by Councillors next week (Tuesday 30 August).

The Policy and Sustainability Committee will be updated on the background and milestones of the work undertaken by the group and consider the ten recommendations and proposed outline action plan for implementation.

In 2020, as part of a wider response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Council commissioned an independent review of the city’s historic links with Slavery and Colonialism in the public realm.

To inform this, the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group sought views of Edinburgh residents and stakeholders about a selection of prominent features which it considered representative of the many aspects of Edinburgh life and society shaped by this legacy. Respondents were asked for thoughts about the most constructive ways that the city could address this history for the benefit of all in the future, and as an active way to address historic injustice as part of the fight against modern-day discrimination

In order to hear and understand the views of a wide range of people before making decisions about recommendations, three distinct methods were used for the public consultation, each engaging different target groups.

  • A 12-week online consultation (October 2021 to January 2022) sought feedback from the Capital’s residents, communities and businesses. 3,346 individuals and 27 organisations took part where 2,811 (84%) respondents were based in EH-postcode areas.
  • Teaching resources were created by Education and Children’s Services who also adapted the online survey for schools’ use. Teachers across 14 primary and six secondary schools supported 654 pupils to engage with the questions and to take part in focus group sessions during January and February 2022.
  • Edinburgh & Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC) was commissioned to develop and deliver a series of in-person, community-based workshops. These were held specifically with people of Black and South Asian heritage living in Edinburgh to ensure greater representation of opinions and reflections on this legacy and its impacts. 86 people participated in nine workshops in total.

Overall, more than 4,000 people and 35 organisations took part in the Review which provided an opportunity for citizens to re-examine this history and acknowledge the effects it has on life in the city today.

Using the findings, the Review Group has put forward ten recommendations for the Council to consider in order to address the Capital’s historical links to slavery and colonialism and how they should be remembered in today’s Edinburgh.

The recommendations:

  • The Council publicly acknowledges the city’s past role in sustaining slavery and colonialism, and issues an apology to those places and people who suffered.
  • Statues, monuments, buildings and street names associated with slavery and colonialism in Edinburgh are retained and re-presented in accordance with a new, dedicated interpretation strategy which explains the nature and consequences of that involvement.
  • City-wide observance of the annual, UNESCO-designated International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition every August 23 is introduced and resourced.
  • Teaching and learning materials are developed and delivered to fill the gap in respect of Scotland’s and Edinburgh’s role in slavery and colonialism
  • Friendship agreements are initiated with cities in countries most impacted by Edinburgh’s historic involvement with slavery and colonialism.
  • Universities and research bodies are encouraged to fund, develop and publish studies into the many under-researched aspects of Edinburgh’s connections with slavery and colonialism, prioritising the objectives of the new interpretation strategy.
  • A significant public artwork is commissioned acknowledging Edinburgh’s links with slavery and colonialism. This initiates the development of a city-wide strategy for public art that fairly represents the diversity of the city and its histories, and capitalises on the creative potential of a multi-cultural city.
  • A positive programme of cultural commissions is established, empowering and resourcing emerging Black and Minority Ethnic creatives in Edinburgh to participate in and shape existing festivals, arts and heritage programmes.
  • The Council endorses the work of the Empire, Slavery and Scotland’s Museums steering group (ESSM) established by the Scottish Government, and commits to exploring how the capital can contribute to the creation of a dedicated space addressing Scotland’s role in this history.
  • An independent legacy stakeholder group is established, supported by the Council, to ensure approved recommendations are actioned, resourced and monitored, and progress is reported annually

Council Leader Cammy Day said:

We commissioned this independent Review because we felt it was an important and useful starting point for a wide-ranging public discussion about the modern-day impact of this legacy, and to acknowledge that race-based discrimination has deep roots in our Capital. It still shapes the life experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic residents today, and that is unacceptable. Racism must be talked about, and action to end it must be supported if it is to be stamped out and we are to be the inclusive and welcoming City that the vast majority of its residents wants and expects it to be.

Thanks to the work of the Group we have 10 recommendations to consider that reflect the opinions and preferences of our residents about this subject. I would like to thank the Group and Chair Sir Geoff Palmer for their time and commitment to undertaking this review. I look forward to the discussion next week and consideration of how the recommendations can be taken forward.

Independent Review Group Chair Sir Geoff Palmer said:

On behalf of the Review Group, I would like to thank The City of Edinburgh Council for its innovative decision to commission an independent review of the City’s links with Slavery and Colonialism. It was a great honour to Chair these Groups. Having spent over 50 years in scientific research I am delighted that the Recommendations of this review are based on sound methodology and that this project has attracted positive attention from different parts of the world. In general, the Recommendations indicate that the racism and discrimination that exist in our society can be changed for the better using education and public engagement.

If approved the action plan will be taken forward. Whilst some will be implemented quickly, proposals for how medium and long-term recommendations will be brought back to committee once they have been further developed.  

Published: August 24th 2022