SCOTLAND should atone for decades of slavery in sugar plantations in Jamaica by launching an economic and educational link-up between the two countries, an expert has claimed.

Sir Geoff Palmer, a professor emeritus at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh who himself is the descendant of Jamaican slaves, said Scotland could replicate its approach to Malawi in its relationship with the Caribbean country.

His comments come as a new book is published detailing Scots links with the trade.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in Jamaica earlier this week, has dismissed calls for reparations for Britain’s role in the slave trade and has instead urged Jamaican countries to “move on”.

Sir Geoff said: “In terms of reparation to Jamaica, I think Scotland should consider doing what it has been doing in Malawi for years.

“Some sort of economic and educational link-up between Scotland and Jamaica would be important, because it would help to build up Jamaica’s infrastructure, which is something we should have done 200 years ago.”

Tomorrow's Herald Magazine has an interview with Scotland's most prominent historian, Sir Tom Devine, who has edited, and contributed to, the new book, Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past: The Caribbean Connection.

Sir Tom said: "The book confirms without a shadow of doubt Scotland was as fully involved in the Caribbean slave systems over two centuries as England, and that connection had a potent impact on Scottish economic development.

"Amnesia has ensured, however, that the nation has never featured in the current debate on reparations for slavery. This may now change with the evidence presented in the book.

"For me, 'reparations' would not mean financial compensation but rather the spreading knowledge of our slavery past and acceptance of it, a place for the subject in the school curriculum and future extension of educational links with the Caribbean countries which whom we share a joint but painful history."

Research suggests only 4,500 Africans were on ships that actually embarked from Scotland and sailed across the Atlantic via Africa.

“But the Scottish role, in a sense, was indirect,” Sir Tom said. “Many Scottish merchants, skippers and surgeons migrated to English ports and were very active there.

“Secondly, Scots who were actually in the Caribbean were highly active in the direct slave trade from West Africa to the West Indies. And of course the whole economic system of both the Caribbean and the north American tobacco colonies would have been impossible without unfree labour.

“Despite the minuscule evidence of direct trading, the evidence in the book argues it might well be that in relation to population size, the Scottish involvement in the entire slavery system was greater even than that of England. It was certainly much greater than that of Ireland or Wales.”

Sir Geoff, who is himself the descendant of Jamaican slaves, said: “The new book is important in view of the national amnesia. I have been giving lectures to the Scottish people on this history since 2007 and their universal reaction has been, ‘Why has no-one told us about this before?’

"They are annoyed the Caribbean has been excluded from their education. Their education has tended to focus on such things as Africa, and missionary work, which is why I think that anything that anyone has done to educate people about the reality of the slave trade has been positive.”