The chair, Sir Geoff Palmer CBE, is widely respected and was an ideal choice to lead the work, and as the only publicly identified member of the group the focus will inevitably fall on him.
Given there is virtually no community the United Kingdom ─ or indeed France, Spain and Portugal – with a history going back to the 18th century without some connection to wealth generated through slave labour, it’s a massive and unavoidably controversial subject.
It’s important that Sir Geoff takes people with him, so to dismiss Edinburgh University historians who disagree with the assessment of Sir Henry Dundas as a defender of slavery as members of “an academic racist gang” has done nothing to strengthen the work of his group.
One of those he attacked, Sir Tom Devine, has written extensively about the slave-based business interests of Scottish companies in Georgian times, most notably that of William Cunninghame, the tobacco lord who built what is now Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art.
No-one except the group knows how the work is going, but the work of people like Sir Tom should be an integral part of the research, and I would respectfully suggest that insulting those whose knowledge of the history of the time is deep will only undermine its aims.
John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston