$357-m slavery money belongs to Jamaica!

Scotland’s new Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville is being pressured to order the return of a £1.7-million ($357 million) north-east education fund to Jamaica, after the money was linked to profits from the slave trade.

The bequest was established following the death in 1828 of Forres-born merchant James Dick, who left almost £120,000 for educational development in Aberdeenshire, Banff and Moray, Scotland.

Historians David Alston and Donald Morrison wrote Somerville urging that one of her first acts in the job should be to send the remaining money in the fund back to Jamaica, the Evening Express newspaper reported Monday.

Several parliamentarians and a senior councillor from the north-east region have also supported action to review the way the money is spent, after its origins were revealed in a report in the Evening Standard earlier this month.

The newspaper said the proposal has the backing of Jamaican Professor Verene Shepherd, the renowned Jamaican historian who is director of the Centre for Reparation Research and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies (UWI).

Alston said that the £120,000 in 1828 was considerably larger than the £100,000 left to Oriel College in 1902 by the famous slavery investor Cecil Rhodes, after whom the Rhodes Scholarship is named.

“The Dick bequest continues to distribute grants to help teachers in Aberdeenshire and Moray develop their skills through travel or study, and also supports the purchase of school equipment,” the newspaper said.

It said Dick had a business partnership with Robert Milligan whose statue was ejected last year by the Museum of London, amid a wave of anger across the country about the United Kingdom’s enduring links to slavery, in the wake of the killing of black American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The Dick Bequest Trust is run by 10 governors, of which five are elected by the Society of Writers to the Signet, two by the senate of Aberdeen University, and three by Aberdeenshire and Moray councils.

They say they have no discretion to change the use of the fund because its “purposes and procedures” are “directed by central government”, the newspaper wrote.

In their letter to Somerville, the historians said: “We write to draw your attention to the duty of the new Scottish Parliament and Government to find a means of returning to communities in Jamaica the funds held by the Scottish charity the Dick Bequest Trust.

“This is money which was made in Jamaica and directly derived from trade in enslaved Africans. These funds which currently amount to c. £1.7m, could in future provide significant educational benefit for children there.”

The Scottish Government had not responded to Jamaica Observer up to press time.


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