Report commissioned by city council says blood of enslaved people is ‘built into the very bones’ of the metropolis
Glasgow authorities have apologised for the city’s role in the Atlantic slave trade, saying the “tentacles” of money from the practice reached every corner of Scotland’s biggest metropolis.
The apology comes as Britain increasingly reckons with the legacy of its colonial past in the wake of global Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests.
It follows the release of an academic study Glasgow city council commissioned about the city’s connections to the trade in human beings.
“Follow the Atlantic slavery money trail and its tentacles reach into every corner of Glasgow,” council leader Susan Aitken told colleagues at a meeting on Thursday.
“It’s clear what this report tells is that the blood of trafficked and enslaved African people, their children and their children’s children is built into the very bones of this city.”
One of the report’s main findings was that 40 out of 79 lord provosts or mayors from Glasgow were connected to the Atlantic slave trade between 1636 and 1834.
Some sat in office while owning enslaved people.
At least 11 buildings in Glasgow are connected to individuals who were involved with the trade, while eight implicated individuals have monuments or other memorials to them in the city.
A total of 62 Glasgow streets are named after slave owners who built their fortunes on tobacco plantations.
These include Buchanan Street and Glassford Street, named after the “tobacco lords” Andrew Buchanan and John Glassford.
James Watt, whose improvements to the steam engine drove the Industrial Revolution, was personally involved in trafficking a black child for sale to a family in north-east Scotland, the report said.
“It can no longer be ignored and the amendment that I am moving today asks us to do three things: to acknowledge, apologise and to act,” Aitken said.
Glasgow council’s chief executive, Annemarie O’Donnell, said the city acknowledged that black, Asian and minority ethnic citizens wished the council to “recognise the historic legacy of chattel slavery based on the exploitation of enslaved Africans”.
The report, by the University of Glasgow academic Stephen Mullen, who has written extensively on the city’s links to slavery, was “a step towards healing the anger and frustration” felt by these citizens, she added.