A row over the removal of a plaque accusing an 18th century Scottish politician of prolonging British ties to African slavery has intensified with council leaders demanding it be returned.  

City of Edinburgh Councillors are at loggerheads with Bobby Dundas, the 10th Viscount Melville, who took the brass panel from the foot of his ancestor Henry Dundas’s statue in St Andrew Square. 

Council leader Cammy day, has said that he is “actively on this” issue, and that Police Scotland have been contacted.  

He has demanded that the current Viscount Melville bring back the plaque, and also pay for any potential damage incurred during its removal.  

Responding to a question from SNP councillor Finlay McFarlane on Thursday, Mr Day said: “We have reported this matter to Police Scotland and just this week have sent a legal letter to Viscount Melville asking for the plaque to be returned, replaced and that any damage to the structure paid for by him and his group.” 

The inscription on the plaque a controversial history. It accuses Henry Dundas of being “instrumental in deferring the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.” 

It goes on to say that as a “result of this delay, more than half a million enslaved Africans crossed the Atlantic.” 

It was crafted by a committee comprising of city councillors, Scotland's first black professor, Sir Geoff Palmer, and another academic and was based on Dundas's time as home secretary when he introduced the word ‘gradually’ to a motion by William Wilberforce calling for the immediate abolition of the slave trade. 

However, the panel did not include any historians. 

That led to Professor Sir Tom Devine, the former Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History at Edinburgh University, comparing the task force to a "kangaroo court." 

READ MORE: Police called in row over Edinburgh slavery plaque removal

Mr Dundas has insisted he and fellow members of the Melville Monument Committee had acted lawfully. They also suggested that it was the council who had "proceeded contrary to law" in multiple ways.  

The Viscount has argued that his ancestor was against the slave trade, saying: “‘Henry Dundas was an abolitionist. He was for the abolition of the slave trade. That has been written about by countless people. But you have to understand in the current climate, what was UK politics and the British Empire. 

“There was one failed attempt to get it through Parliament and the realistic and pragmatic approach that Dundas took was the only way - which many historians have written about - to make sure that the vision and final goal was achieved.” 

The Herald: The plaque-less monument 

Earlier this year, the Melville Monument Committee applied for and received listed building consent to have the plaque removed. 

They described the description as “cartoonishly inaccurate." 

While that meant that technically the panel could be removed, the final decision was for the landlords of the buildings around St Andrew Square, who are the owners of the monument. 

READ MORE: Questions for council over slavery plaque on Dundas statue

At the time, Councillors suggested that was unlikely. However, the Melville Monument Committee contacted the owners and their lawyers and received no objection when they asked if they could take the plaque down. 

They also suggested the local authority may have breached the terms of their sub-lease concerning St. Andrew Square, as they had never properly sought permission from the owners to install the plaque in the first place.