Readers' Letters: Scotland’s slavery shame went beyond race

An engraving showing two young girls working in a coal mine in East Scotland, circa 1840 (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)An engraving showing two young girls working in a coal mine in East Scotland, circa 1840 (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
An engraving showing two young girls working in a coal mine in East Scotland, circa 1840 (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Further to the correspondence about Scottish Government plans to embed anti-racism and equality into children's education, including Scotland's links to the slave trade, in your issue on 28th August, 2021, it would seem that the current plans do not reflect the full history of slavery in Scotland. If a much deeper understanding of the history of slavery in Scotland is not made known to our young people, they will have a biased view of our past, what is happening now and what will happen in the future.

Between 1662-65 Edinburgh judges ordered the enslavement and shipment to the Colonies of rogues, beggars and vagabonds. The polite term for this slavery was "endentured servitude". State papers from 1701 record 25,000 slaves in Barbados, 21,700 of whom were white slaves. The term, "Redlegs" or "Redshanks" was used to describe Scots whose fair skin would burn in the tropical sun.

In The Scotsman on 14 August you printed an article and photograph of 100-year-old Agnes Fleming who was crowned Queen of the Bo'ness Children's Festival. Your report notes that the Bo'ness Fair began as a celebration of coal miners' freedom. Until the end of the 18th century all Scottish miners were the property of the pits they worked in, as were their wives and children. In 1779 an Act of Parliament released them.

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On 14 September 1897 James Barrowman a mining engineer, presented a paper entitled, "Slavery in the Coal Mines of Scotland" to the AGM of The Federated Institution of mining engineers and introduced it by stating, "Not a hundred years ago a system of servitude still existed in Scotland by virtue of which colliers and their families were fixed to the soil almost as effectively as if they had been bought in the slave market of New Orleans. This servitude was legalised for so many years because of the profits Scottish landowners and pit owners could make from Salt making.”

It is to be welcomed that the topic of slavery should be taught in schools but not if it is presented only as a racial issue.

Lovina Roe, Perth

Sort today’s issues

I'm delighted the SNP administration claims it is to embed anti-racism learning in the Scottish education curriculum, including discussion of Scotland's active role in the slave trade. It seems, though, that Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville makes no specific mention of the shocking sectarianism pervading some sports here and anti-English racism viciously promulgated by a conspicuous minority of Scots, principally on social media. Why not? Yes, address and learn from the shortcomings of our forefathers but don't brush under the carpet current day societal failings.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Mutual damage

So the “principled”, environment-loving Greens are now in bed with the SNP. The 14-year independence-driven, shameful demise of Scotland will up a gear with this anti-economy, anti-business, anti-capitalist, anti-UK, anti-personal freedom, extreme left-wing cabal of eco-warriors. With Scotland already well down the road, this arrangement will hasten the downfall of our wonderful country to join the same club as North Korea, Cuba, Laos and China.

How can Scotland possibly succeed with this recipe for disaster? The people of Scotland should be very concerned about what is ahead. The only saving grace is that the SNP and Greens will damage each other.

Douglas Cowe, Newmachar, Aberdeenshire

Nicola outflanked?

Most of the 880 members of the Green Party in Scotland have rubber stamped the SNP /Green coalition. These few folk have theoretically given Nicola Sturgeon free rein to introduce policies that might suit the ideals of their two parties but are potentially rather unpopular to most of the rest of us.

Ms Sturgeon wanted this deal but her problems, however, are about to increase, not decrease. Such a small power base for the Greens cannot be a truly democratic influence on controversial Scottish policies. Ms Sturgeon has been, so far, reluctant to push for Indyref2. Will the Greens seize their chance to become the front runner on this topic? The Gender Reform Act is also not universally popular either so the Greens might take the vanguard here too.

Intriguingly, we are also witnessing the Tories angling for a long duration 60 per cent poll lead being required prior to another referendum. This position cannot be challenged as Ms Sturgeon herself suggested it. Is Ms Sturgeon in real danger of being outflanked on both sides?

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Green shelving

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The Scottish Greens are totally wrong to claim that 88.5 per cent of their membership supported the deal with SNP. In 2015 they claimed a membership of 9,000. That is probably more now, but 715 votes out of 9,000 is 10 per cent , not 88.5 per cent. I was a founder member of the Scottish Greens and the rule was that constitutional and other big matters required the approval of a large majority of the entire membership, not merely those who attended conferences and extraordinary general meetings – something quickly and cheaply achieved today thanks to the internet. The reason was, we found, that conference priorities were too rarely also membership ones. Sadly, that constitutional requirement has been quietly shelved. One can guess why!

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

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Carbon inflating

In his article (Perspective, 28 August) Ross Greer itemises all the green actions his party will pursue in their “coalition” with the SNP, each intended to cut Scotland's carbon dioxide emissions. Is he, or indeed, any politician or Scottish eco warrior, aware of the fact that Scotland's CO2 emissions comprise a mere 0.13 per cent of such worldwide emissions and much of that is not due to humans? Adding perspective, China emits nearly 30 per cent of worldwide emissions, and this is growing rapidly. Even if Scotland eliminated all carbon emissions it would have negligible climate impact and it would be replaced by China's additional emissions from new coal-fired power stations they are presently building.

It's time to replace economy-destroying hyperbole and hype with facts and reality

GM Lindsay, Kinross, Perth and Kinross

Shot in foot

Ross Greer MSP says that the climate threat is now so imminent that we need Government action immediately. He refers to the recent floods in Germany as yet another example of extreme weather events which climate scientists tell us are due to the high levels of CO2 which people everywhere are pumping into the atmosphere. If we keep on burning fossil fuels at present rates then we are in danger of unleashing climate chaos which will destroy agriculture and devastate whole countries.

I agree that the situation is grave, but in that case why are the Scottish Greens involving themselves in the pointless distraction of independence? Splitting this island in two with an unnecessary border will only hinder our collective efforts to meet the threat of climate disaster. We need an energy policy for this whole island and we need to cut CO2 emissions across the whole island. Cutting ourselves off from the rest of the UK would be a pointless, counterproductive thing to do at a time when all our energies and our resources should be directed towards tackling the real problem facing us.

For years the Scottish Greens have consigned themselves to the margins of politics by parading under the separatist banner. They have never achieved the vote they deserve because they allowed their cause to be tied to the SNP bandwagon. They think that they are on the right track with the SNP now but all they have done is alienate thousands of voters who agree that climate disaster is upon us but reject the foolish notion that separatism could be part of the answer. Independence will not solve problems; it merely adds to them.

Les Reid, Edinburgh

Trashed skyline

David Kettle enlightens us with informative details about the forthcoming Lammermuir Festival in the Scotsman Magazine (28 August). The Scottish Government’s contribution to the area has been, to say the least, immense!

Despite an overwhelming number of local objections, a further 11 giant, industrial wind turbines, with aviation lights, will be added to Crystal Rig IV wind factory. 100 turbines trashing the East Lothian skyline.

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Will this year’s Festival be featuring a new Tragic Opera called Lucia di Windfarm?

George Herraghty, Elgin, Moray

Son of Trump

Boris Johnson tells is that the vast majority of those who should be helped by the UK to escape from the Taliban have done so. Does he have evidence for this claim? According to a Foreign Office whistleblower there are 5,000 unopened e-mails voicing concerns about those unable to leave. Each e-mail refers to more than one individual. We can construe that a huge number, around 10,000, of cases are outstanding, although lack of attention to detail by the government makes assessing difficult.

And yet so many voters still admire this government despite their constant finessing. How has it come to this that the light that needs to be shone into government actions if the spirit of democracy is to prevail, is now growing faint? Ever since we joined with Americans in a common Neiliberal culture we have moved towards US-style politics in which politicians use rumour and innuendo and so undermine democracy, health, unity, wealth, and freedom. We all know how bad American democracy is but we don't all seem to be equally concerned that Boris Johnson is more a son of Trump than of Thatcher.

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

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