SCOTLAND must pay its historic 'slave debt' to Jamaica by declaring the Caribbean island a priority for trade and development.

That is the call made in a new petition to go before Holyrood this week as the campaign mounts for the UK to make amends for Empire-era slavery and colonial exploitation.

The petition is not demanding slavery reparations - Prime Minister David Cameron rejected them last month after announcing new aid for Jamaica.

It simply wants the Scottish Government to treat the island - which has more citizens called Campbell per head than Scotland due to the legacy of slave-ownership - in the way it does Malawi.

Successive Holyrood administrations have prioritised aid and economic development in that African state, which also has strong Scottish connections dating to the age of British imperialism.

Petitioner Ish Lennox of the Flag Up Scotland Jamaica campaign explained: "I believe we in Scotland do have a moral responsibility towards Jamaica. I’m calling on the good will of Scottish people to do all we can to improve the lives of ordinary Jamaicans and to encourage righteous ways of trading now."

Many Scots have an image of Jamaica as a beautiful holiday island, as pictured below. But that is only part of the nation's story. 

 

HeraldScotland: Jamaica offers gorgeous beaches and lush vegetation

 

Graham Campbell, a Jamaican activist living in Glasgow, pictured below, 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.”

 

HeraldScotland: Graham Campbell 1 SA : Campaigner Graham Campbell, Scotland Jamaica Peitition.

Graham Campbell on the South Portland Street suspension bridge looking back towards Glasgow.

Picture by Stewart Attwood (41534474)

Flag Up Scotland Jamaica was launched last year to highlight the connections between Scotland and Jamaica.

The campaign has initiated schools partnerships and brought Jamaican artists over to participate in the Glasgow MELA Festival.

Scotland until now has prioritised the southern African nation of Malawi in its aid work.

Championed by former first minister Jack McConnell and his two SNP successors, the Malawi policy has seen lots of non-governmental organisations follow Holyrood's lead and focus on the country.

Scotland's modest aid budget has grown from £3m in 2005 - all focused on Malawi - to £9m now with a broader range of African projects.

Nicola Sturgeon, writing in this paper in July, said: "Scotland’s relationship with Malawi is perhaps unique - with almost every town or village in Scotland having some connection."

HeraldScotland: NEW VISION: Nicola Sturgeon says the previous executive made great strides in health improvement, but not on inequalities. Picture: Graham Hamilton

Lennox's petition addresses why Malawi and not Jamaica has had so much focus in Scotland: because Scottish involvement in the Caribbean, thanks to slavery and the slave trade, makes for less comfortable remembering.

Some 60 per cent of names in the Jamaican phone book are Scottish. The Jamaican flag is a saltire. 

Read David Pott of the Flag Up Jamaica Scotland campaign on some of the remarkable links between the two countries.

HeraldScotland:

Lennox said: "In the light of these significant connections, it is surprising that there is so little awareness in Scotland when compared with the much more frequent mention of links with countries like Canada, New Zealand and Malawi.

"One possible reason is that on the whole the Scottish contribution in Canada, New Zealand and Malawi is generally regarded in a positive light but clearly, although the Scottish involvement in Jamaica has some positive features, a major aspect was certainly the immoral trade in, and exploitation of, those of African descent during the period of the slave trade.

"In order to further these aims we are calling upon the goodwill of all people in Scotland to recognise our responsibility to do all we can to improve the lives of ordinary Jamaicans."

HeraldScotland: Jamaica

Scotland rarely likes to remember its history of slave trading, slave owning and its wider collusion in the exploitation of the British Empire. But Scotland has left its DNA in the West Indies. Literally.

Extra content: Novelist Louise Welsh stresses the ties of blood between Scotland and Jamaica and much of the rest of the Caribbean.  

The petition calls for parliament to:

  1. acknowledge that trade with Jamaica contributed significantly to the foundations of economic growth and prosperity in Scotland during the industrial revolution;
  2. recognise that Scotland should now seek to advance the prosperity of Jamaica.
  3. support the development of cultural links (ie town and village twinnings, schoolspartnerships etc) through Flag Up Scotland Jamaica
  4. establish Jamaica, like Malawi, as a Priority Country for Scotland in terms of both trade and development.

 

There are those coming to term with Scotland's shame of slavery. Read Rosemary Goring's review of the latest historical research on the subject. 

Also, for those who missed it,  here is a closer look at some of the stories of Scottish slavers and their victims from Prof Sir Tom Devine from last week's Herald Magazine.