Event will reflect on city’s role in colonialism - Cammy Day
The event provides us with an opportunity to remember the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, 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, and honour those who fought for its abolition.
The UNESCO Day is “intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples” and it is in this spirit that the council and ESCLRIG will address these issues going forward.
This is an important issue we have been working on for some time now. Back in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement, I was proud that Edinburgh agreed to address historic racial injustice and stem modern day discrimination by holding an independent review into the city’s historical links with slavery and colonialism.
We have always been clear that this is a process for the whole city and its residents to undertake. Between December 2020 and July 2022, the independent Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Review Group, chaired by Sir Geoff Palmer, undertook a significant body of work investigating the city’s past and present relationship with slavery and colonialism.
In October 2022, the Lord Provost Robert Aldridge opened the council meeting by apologising on behalf of the city for its past role in sustaining slavery and colonialism. The civic apology follows the ten recommendations and an action plan made by the ESCLRIG.
In March 2023, I was pleased to welcome the nomination of Irene Mosota to chair the ESCLRIG, which will take forward these recommendations. In the last month the ESCLRIG has been recruiting for members of the core Implementation Group and for a wider Supporters Network. The results of this recruitment drive will be announced soon, but I know that the response has been excellent and will represent Edinburgh’s diversity and character.
While today’s civic reception fulfils another of the review’s recommendations, and these actions are a good starting point, I am clear that this is a complex process that will take many years to work through.
I am under no illusions that racism and the legacies of slavery and colonialism continue to impact the lives of Black and Minority Ethnic people who live in and visit Edinburgh. This is completely unacceptable, and I am committed to leading an anti-racist council in our actions and unconditional support of the ESCRIG.
I am proud that we are having these difficult conversations and forging the foundations for a more tolerant, just, and equal Edinburgh. It is crucial that as a city and a society we come to terms with our past in order to create a better present and future.
This evening’s civic reception will also be livestreamed on the council’s website.
Cammy Day is City of Edinburgh Council leader