MARGARET Taylor’s informative article on the Scottish involvement in the slave trade (“Glasgow can’t blame slavery shame on the British Empire”, The Herald, November 12) casts a welcome light on to one aspect of our historic past that may benefit from such exposure. Whether there is any realistic way of providing reparation at this distance of time is another matter.

Scots and their historic dealings have usually been celebrated in our national narrative. The less acceptable aspects have usually been ignored or deliberately hidden. The contribution to human misery created by the slave trade could be compared with the contribution to the drug trade by the Scottish merchants in opium and its derivatives. Their fortune funded some of the city’s major finance houses still bearing their names. Buying expensive Scottish art is surely not enough recompense.

Our American brethren are probably unaware that their Civil War was initially promoted by a Scottish racist or the role of Jacobite exiles in maintaining slavery or the Scottish roots of the Ku Klux Klan – first the Catholics, then the Jews, then the “people of colour”– all to preserve the divine purity of Scottish blood. Our Polish friends and fellow citizens may be unaware that the Scottish merchants in the Hanseatic League based in Poland had to be stopped because they created a monopoly that excluded Polish citizens from participating in the lucrative business.

On the other hand, as Sir Tom Devine has pointed out, in the 17th and 18th century Scottish investment overseas – principally in the East – was greater than that of England or the other nations of the United Kingdom. We have always been internationalist – not always successfully. Unfortunately we cannot always compensate for our failures, and changing street names or pulling down statues does not do it. Better to remember the Scots who fought the slave trade, the Scottish judge who changed the debate by proclaiming in a judgement against a former Jacobite slave owner that whatever happened elsewhere Scotland was a Christian country and as our maker had made all men, equal keeping slaves in Scotland was not only illegal but blasphemous. Wilberforce may have helped restrict the trade in slaves but that Court of Session decision left the slavery supporters in other Christian churches with an impossible position to defend. We can also celebrate the Scottish Parliament’s opening with Hamish Henderson’s Come All Ye – and pace Margaret Taylor – the fact that Robert Mugabe’s Constitutional adviser at the Lancaster House talks was none other than the Dean of the Faculty of Law of Dundee University, Walter Kamba, a Zimbabwean citizen, a few years before 1989.

The only pertinent current response to our guilt over our past is to support the fight against modern slavery, either here in the workplace (the gig economy?) or through more resources to fight people trafficking, living off prostitution or the erstwhile Scottish speciality, drug dealing. Symbols and statues are static, action is not.

LDM Mackenzie, Argyll.

I NOTE Margaret Taylor’s article on the involvement of Glasgow in slavery and how a number of the city’s merchants made their fortunes, largely through the use thereof.

If we are contemplating re-examining history by the application of today’s ethical values and standards, then why stop at slavery? Let us consider Scotland of the 19th century and the general level of living and working conditions of the majority in our country at that time.

Professor T C Smout wrote of that time in the following terms : “The age of great industrial triumphs was an age of appalling social deprivation … I am astounded by the tolerance ... of unspeakable urban squalor, compounded by drink abuse, bad housing, low wages, long hours and sham education. "

Scotland, as part of the UK, played its role within what was known as the workshop of industry. However, there was a price to be paid by those who worked to make it so. Many of them lived and worked in truly shocking conditions of multiple deprivation while owners took home massive profits.

The remit of the study commissioned by Glasgow City Council is stated to include the audit of historic bequests made to the previous town council and the examination of the pasts of all the men whose images and names feature prominently in various ways in the city. If we are disposed to revisit our history in this way and to apply today’s standards in judgment, then why stop at slavery? For many years during the Industrial Revolution and thereafter workers in this country toiled in dire conditions without a proper wage and decent housing while many of their employers were amassing fortunes. To what extent did Glasgow benefit from the largesse generated by such pronounced exploitation of labour?

After all, man’s inhumanity to man has had many practitioners over the years and has taken many forms.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.