An MP has warned it would be “retrograde and wrong-headed” to change the use of a north-east teacher training fund after it was linked to the slave trade.
Andrew Bowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said the Dick Bequest should be “allowed to continue for the good of the next generation”.
The bequest was established to help train teachers and buy school equipment in Aberdeenshire and Moray following the death of Forres-born merchant James Dick in 1828, and it continues to distribute grants almost two centuries later.
However, there have been calls for the remaining £1.7 million in the fund to be returned to Jamaica, after historians David Alston and Donald Morrison found clear evidence that Mr Dick made his fortune from slavery in the Caribbean.
In the wake of the research, Aberdeenshire Council has said it will no longer support or facilitate the fund, while Moray Council is considering its options.
The Scottish Government is currently considering a letter from the two historians suggesting that the remaining money in the fund be repatriated to Jamaica.
Aberdeen University appoints two of the 10 trustees who oversee the bequest, with another three put forward by Aberdeenshire and Moray councils, and five by the Society of Writers to the Signet.
The university said this week that it must “acknowledge” its place in the legacy of the Dick Bequest, and that the research would contribute to its work on “understanding and addressing” its historic links to the slave trade.
Mr Bowie has now written to Professor George Boyne, the university’s principal, agreeing that “we must acknowledge and highlight” the role played by exploitation and slavery in our history.
The MP said: “I understand the difficult position in which the university and others find themselves.
“However, it seems to me retrograde and wrong-headed to deny funding to train the next generation of educators because of the origins of the James Dick Bequest.
“What better way, surely, is there to atone for the sins of the past than by making the proceeds of that abhorrent trade go towards educating the citizens of the future?”
It seems to me retrograde and wrong-headed to deny funding to train the next generation of educators because of the origins of the James Dick Bequest.”
In his letter, Mr Bowie added: “Of course the university and the trust should acknowledge the roots of the funding but it must be allowed to continue for the good of the next generation.
“Whilst we must learn from our past, we must always be looking to the future.”