Slavery row over St Andrew Square plaque for Melville

A DIRECT descendant of controversial historical figure Henry Dundas has backed plans for a new plaque explaining the 18th century politician's significance '“ but wants to leave out his role in prolonging the slave trade.

Monday, 18th December 2017, 2:06 pm
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 2:10 pm
The 150ft Melville Monument at St Andrew Square. Picture; TSPL

Dundas (1742-1811) was the 1st Viscount Melville and the most powerful Scottish politician of his day.

He is remembered with the Capital’s tallest statue, the 150ft Melville Monument in St Andrew Square.

But last year the city council agreed in principle to replace the plaque on the monument to give a fuller picture of Dundas’s life. The move came after Green activist Adam Ramsay superglued an alternative plaque to the monument to highlight his less-than-admirable record.

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Dundas was variously known as “the uncrowned king of Scotland” and “The Great Tyrant”. He prolonged slavery by amending the legislation to make abolition “gradual”, used troops to enforce the Highland Clearances and was the last British politician to be impeached, though he was narrowly acquitted.

Now Bobby Melville, the 10th Viscount Melville, has come up with his own suggestion for the wording of the new plaque, hailing his ancestor as “the first Scot to occupy high office in the British state not from royal favour but on his own merits” and saying he “encouraged economic development in both Lowlands and Highlands while ensuring Scots enjoyed their full share of opportunities opening up in the Empire”.

But Mr Ramsay said: “Bobby Melville’s proposed plaque ignores Dundas’s key role in stopping the abolition of the transAtlantic slave trade for more than a decade – an act which destroyed the lives of countless black people.”