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Maggie Chapman wants slavery-linked education cash sent to Caribbean

A teacher and her class at a primary school in Jamaica.

Newly-elected Green MSP Maggie Chapman has backed calls to send a £1.7 million north-east education fund to the Caribbean, after it was linked to the slave trade.

Ms Chapman, a former Aberdeen University rector who has just secured a seat at Holyrood on the north-east regional list, said slave trade profits should not be used to help Scottish schools.

The former co-convener of the Scottish Greens spoke out after we revealed the truth about the origins of the Dick Bequest, which has been used to support teacher training and the purchase of school equipment in Moray and Aberdeenshire for almost two centuries.

The fund was established following the death of Forres-born merchant James Dick in 1828, but two historians have found evidence that he made his money as a slave trader in Jamaica.

Maggie Chapman education fund
Maggie Chapman.

The researchers, David Alston and Donald Morrison, have called for the money to be returned to the West Indies, and have already won backing from Aberdeenshire East SNP MSP Gillian Martin. 

Now, Ms Chapman has supported the move, saying: “Instead of our schools being funded by Scotland’s slave trade profits, Scottish Greens believe young people should be taught the reality of our imperial past and the legacy that it has had on the world.

“Only then can future generations start to right these wrongs, and that can start by redirecting these funds to improve the education and life chances of children in the Caribbean.”

Mr Dick had a business partnership with Robert Milligan, whose statue was removed last year by the Museum of London from its plinth in London’s Docklands, amid a wave of anger across the country about the UK’s enduring links to slavery.

Workers prepare to take down a statue of slave owner Robert Milligan at West India Quay, east London.

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 have said they have no discretion to change the use of the money because it is “a statutory scheme established by statutory instrument with purposes and procedures directed by central government”.

A spokeswoman for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the nation’s largest teaching union, said pupils must be taught the truth about our links to slavery.

‘It’s important that Scotland fully acknowledges and atones for its role in the slave trade, the injustice of which continues to be felt deeply by our black and minority ethnic citizens,” she said.

“In order to move forward as a society towards racial justice and equality, Scotland’s colonial past as a beneficiary of slavery must be reflected within the curriculum and wider education system.’

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