SCOTLAND is being urged to formally acknowledge its “moral obligation” to Jamaica over its slave heritage with the Caribbean island and the economic riches that followed.
A campaign is being launched to recognise the fortunes many Scots made from the “slave economy” and to make the island a “priority country” for Scotland in terms of trade and development.
The extent of the links between the countries remains relatively unknown, campaigners say. Some 60 per cent of names in the Jamaican telephone directory are Scottish in origin
A petition has now been lodged at the Scottish Parliament on the issue by Ish Lennox of the Flag Up Scotland Jamaica campaign.
“I believe we in Scotland do have a moral responsibility towards Jamaica,” he said.
“I’m calling on the goodwill of Scottish people to do all we can to improve the lives of ordinary Jamaicans and to encourage righteous ways of trading now.”
The campaign has the support of Glasgow North East MP Anne McLaughlin and Sir Geoff Palmer, Jamaican professor emeritus at Heriot-Watt University.
Scottish slave ownership was higher than in any other part of the UK, recent research has shown. The petition highlights that between 1760 and 1830 the Scottish economy grew from one of the weakest in Europe to become one of the most powerful.
Profits were made from vast amounts of Jamaican sugar, as the old sugar sheds that still exist in Greenock today testify. Other industries in Scotland profited in unexpected ways. The import of linen to clothe slaves in Jamaica increased tenfold between 1765 and 1795.
Graham Campbell, a Jamaican activist living in Glasgow, said: “My nation of Jamaica is now the second-poorest Caribbean island after Haiti. It’s 96th in the Human Development Index while Scotland, as part of the UK, is 14th. I’d like to see a special relationship which helps to lift Jamaicans out of poverty and which will also be culturally enriching for Scotland.”
Scotland’s links with Jamaica began with Scottish prisoners of war from the Battle of Dunbar and the Jacobite Rebellions being exiled to Jamaica.
Along with the Scots who came to make their fortunes in the slave economy, it meant there was a greater frequency of Scottish surnames in Jamaica than in countries such as Canada or New Zealand. A large number of towns in Jamaica have Scottish names, including Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Elgin, Roxborough and Culloden. In 1962, a Scottish missionary in Jamaica, William McGhie, was responsible for the inclusion of the saltire in the Jamaican flag.
Famous islanders with Scottish names include Robert Wedderburn and William Davidson, Jamaican-born radicals in the early 19th century. The leaders of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, both had Scottish surnames.
Mary Seacole was a famous Jamaican/Scottish nurse during the Crimean War.
Two famous athletes with Scottish names are the Olympic 100-metre gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and her fellow sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown.
The Scottish Government has two priority country lists. The first is a list of priority countries for trade and includes the United States, Canada and China. The second list of priority countries is related to the International Development Fund and includes Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The campaigners now want the Scottish Government to include Jamaica on both priority lists. They also want to see the creation of a formal bilateral partnership with Jamaica along similar lines to that already created with Malawi through the Scotland Malawi Partnership, which was launched in 2004.