FEW Scots today will be familiar with the name of the explorer Angus McMillan. He was born in Glen Brittle on Skye in 1810, in harsh circumstances, and emigrated to Australia where he became a notable explorer and landowner in Victoria. A federal electoral division is named after him in the Gippsland region of the state. Like many colonists, he used brutal means to clear the indigenous peoples off the best agricultural land, and there are a number of well-documented atrocities with which his name is associated. When one of his colleagues was murdered by a local aboriginal leader, McMillan organised a massacre of up to 150 natives in Waarigal Creek in 1843. Now, 150 years after his death, there is a move to wipe McMillan's name from the federal district to atone for this dark past.

However, it isn't as easy as that. The removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from an Oxbridge college does not erase the excesses of British imperialism in Africa, and nor would removing the Duke of Sutherland's monument from Ben Bhraggie atone for the Highland Clearances. Many of Glasgow's streets are named after prominent tobacco barons like Buchanan, Glassford, Ingram, and Oswald. Changing the names would not erase Scotland's collective guilt in the slave trade which enriched them. Better that their names remain so that future Scots will remember that this country's wealth was originally founded on slavery.

Many of the Scottish adventurers who participated in the British Empire were Scots. But the crimes against the aboriginal people of Australia cannot be hung around the neck of any one of them, however brutal McMillan's individual behaviour. It was a collective act of the colonial peoples. Change the names by all means, but don't think it changes history.