MORE than one million acres of land purchased for landed estates in the Highlands was bought using money from slavery, researchers have claimed.  

A fresh investigation into Scotland's links to the slave trade has found that from the 18th century to early 20th century around one in every three acres purchased in the West Highlands and islands was paid for funds derived from the Atlantic slave trade.

The research, which will be featured in a BBC documentary tomorrow, also examined how towns such as Inverness became dependant on the trade. 

The stories of Highlanders who profited from colonial slavery are now coming to light and are investigated in the first of a new series of BBC ALBA’s European current affairs programme Eòrpa.

READ MORE: Sir Tom Devine - Scotland's role in slavery must be acknowledged

Reporter Ruairidh MacIver asks how the history and legacy of slavery should be marked in the Highlands in the light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, in an attempt to get wider acknowledgement of this history.

The Herald:
A Black Lives Matter protester 

The research was carried out by Dr Iain Mackinnon from Coventry University and Dr Andrew Mackillop’, a Scottish History lecturer at Glasgow University.

Historian and author Dr David Alston from Cromarty has been also probing the issue for over two decades, and will feature in the programme.

His painstaking research has shed light on the lasting, complex connections between the Highlands and slavery and has exposed how Highland towns became so dependent on the trade.

Most of the profit came from where Guyana is now - the three British colonies of Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo. 

READ MORE: 'Without slavery Glasgow wouldn't ​exist.'

Dr Alston said: “The more I’ve studied this I think that you really don’t understand the history of Scotland or the history of the highlands unless you understand the importance of the slave trade in that history.

“The history of the highlands in 1700s and 1800s isn’t complete without mentioning slavery – it’s where the money was made.

“There was a flood of young men to Berbice they were creating new cotton plantations along the coast and there are about 40 place names from Inverness to Helmsdale that are replicated along the coast that were replicated along the Berbice coast – Nigg, Alness, Inverness, Kildonan which is such a marked sign of Highland involvement in Guyana."

The Herald:

The funds came from the trade in the 18th and 19th centuries 

He added: “Whatever the wrongs of the ways people have been treated in the Highlands and elsewhere in Britain it is not the same as chattel slavery and it’s a profoundly misleading parallel. The horrors of slavery are so terrible that people want to distance themselves from it and I think that’s one of the ways people distance themselves but it’s really something we have a moral obligation to resist – it’s false.”

 “There was a strong interest in this part of Scotland in not seeing the abolition of slavery, some of that was because Scottish salt herring was being shipped to the Caribbean as a cheap protein for slaves. 

“It was also the export market for the hemp bagging that was being produced here and rough linen cloth, known as slave cloth, so there were petitions from places like the Black Isle and Cromarty opposing the abolition of slavery because there was a direct financial interest here.”

Eòrpa airs this Thursday, November 12 on BBC ALBA at 8.30pm.