Edinburgh apologises for the city’s past role in sustaining slavery and colonialism

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Robert Aldridge opened today’s meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council by apologising on behalf of the city for its past role in sustaining slavery and colonialism.

The civic apology follows ten recommendations and an action plan made by the independent Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group which were accepted by the Policy and Sustainability Committee in August.

The first recommendation made by the review group was that 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.

Statement by the Lord Provost in full:

The decision of the Policy and Sustainability Committee on 30 August 2022 provides a welcome opportunity to reflect on the city’s role in the rise of colonialism and the part played by some of our forefathers in slavery and the economic benefits of it.

It is impossible to look out from this building across the city and not see how the landscape of the city was shaped by the wealth generated from colonialism and slavery.

The effects of colonialism and slavery are deeply embedded in the fabric of our city, in the buildings, in the institutions and even in the way that Edinburgh is laid out.

We cannot deny the benefits that the city has accrued over the years from the exploitation of others and in particular the continent and peoples of Africa.

Coming to terms with our past and recognising the detriment our ancestors have wrought through colonialism and slavery is very difficult for us all.

But try we must to reconcile our past with the generations of today in order that we can move forward, united in our common goals of equality, fraternity and liberty.

Through the establishment of the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review, led by Professor Geoff Palmer, Edinburgh is aiming to fill the gap in knowledge and understanding about the city’s past.

I wish to thank Geoff and his team most sincerely for producing a world leading piece of work on the subject which will help shape policy and engagement in our city for the foreseeable future.

It is appropriate to start this process with a formal apology.

So as Civic Leader of the city and Convener of the Council, I apologise to all those who suffered profound physical and mental abuse from the City’s past involvement in colonialism and slavery.

Following the apology, the next action will be the creation of an independent Legacy Commission, supported by the Council. This group will oversee prioritisation and co-ordination of the remaining actions, liaise with the many stakeholders in addressing this legacy across the city and beyond and provide regular updates on progress.

Published: October 27th 2022