Edinburgh's Lord Provost issues public apology for city's links with slavery and colonialism

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‘We cannot deny the benefits Edinburgh has accrued from exploitation’

Lord Provost Robert Aldridge has publicly apologised for Edinburgh’s past role in slavery and colonialism.In a statement at the start of the full council meeting in the City Chambers, he acknowledged 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.

The civic apology comes after an independent review panel studied the Capital’s links with the slave trade and the culture of colonialism. The first recommendation of the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group was that the council publicly acknowledged the city’s past role in sustaining slavery and colonialism and issued an apology to those places and people who suffered.

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Councillor Aldridge said: “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 council plans to create an independent legacy commission to oversee action on other recommendations of Professor Palmer’s review.