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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 March 2007, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Events mark slave trade abolition
Campaigners in England
Campaigners in England walked 250 miles in yokes and chains
A number of events have taken place in Scotland to mark the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade.

Church leaders and politicians joined a walk from Musselburgh to Inveresk Lodge, the former home of plantation owner James Wedderburn.

Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery featured lectures and music while an art exhibition began in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh council leader Ewan Aitken gave a speech at St John's Church.

He described the slave trade as "one of the most inhuman enterprises in history".

"I speak as leader of the City of Edinburgh Council but also as a Christian minister, I am ashamed that the clergy and the church in Britain made significant profits from plantations in the West Indies during the slave era," he said.

200 years on from the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, we should remember the vital contribution they (Scots) made
Rhona Brankin
Communities Minister

"The involvement of the Church serves to illustrate just how institutionalised, and widely accepted, slavery was."

He said he had mixed emotions about celebrating the 1807 Act which banned the trade in the British Empire because slavery was "still a dark stain on our world".

The service also heard contributions from the Sikh and Muslim communities and human rights organisation Amnesty International.

Action of Churches Together in Scotland (Acts) organised the walk which retraced the steps an illegitimate son took to confront his Scottish slavemaster father.

Acts, which unites nine denominations, asked its members to express "regret" at Scotland's involvement in slavery by taking part in the event.

The walk followed the route taken by Robert Wedderburn, the son of a Jamaican slave and her Scottish master James Wedderburn, who arrived at Inveresk Lodge in 1795.

Anti-slavery campaigner

James Wedderburn refused to acknowledge him and Robert later became an anti-slavery campaigner in England.

Communities Minister Rhona Brankin took part in the walk, alongside Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, a descendant of Robert Wedderburn.

"From our modern, 21st Century perspective, the decision to abolish slavery looks like a simple choice between right and wrong that was easily made," she said.

"But that would overlook the courage and conviction of many people who faced down the vested interests of those who sustained the evil trade in human lives.

Some of Scotland's prosperity comes from the slave trade
Tom Moyes
Acts

"Many of those were Scots, and 200 years on from the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, we should remember the vital contribution they made."

However, she added that the role some Scots played in the slave trade during a "shameful period" should also be acknowledged.

Tom Moyes, from Acts, said: "It's important to make people aware Scotland has a history of involvement in the slave trade.

"Some of our prosperity comes from the slave trade - we weren't just a location for ships coming and going."

The exhibition in Edinburgh's City Chambers focuses on members of the black community who played a key role in the abolition of slavery.

Glasgow's Kelvingrove event featured music and poetry, as well as a series of talks looking at Glasgow's relationship with the slave trade.

The Scottish Executive has produced a new Scotland and the Slave Trade booklet that looks at the country's historical ties with the trade and the role Scots played in consigning it to history.


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