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Uncovering the Untold Stories Behind Our City's Statues

Henry Dundas Statue


The statue of Henry Dundas, located in the heart of Edinburgh, has been controversial for many years. While some view it as a tribute to a man who played a significant role in the history of Scotland and the United Kingdom, others see it as a symbol of the country's colonial past and the slave trade. This article aims to provide an overview of the statue's history, the debate surrounding its continued presence, and potential solutions to address the issue.


The statue of Henry Dundas, also known as Viscount Melville, was erected in 1827 in St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh. Dundas was a prominent figure in Scottish and British politics during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, serving as the first Secretary of State for War and later as the Home Secretary. He was also a key figure in delaying the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, which continued for almost 15 years after the British Parliament initially voted to end it.


Dundas's statue has been controversial for many years due to his role in the slave trade. In recent years, there have been calls for the statue's removal or relocation, with some arguing that it symbolises Scotland's complicity in the slave trade and a reminder of the country's colonial past. Others say that Dundas's contributions to Scottish and British history merit the statue's continued presence.

In June 2020, a petition was launched calling for the statue's removal, which gained over 10,000 signatures. Edinburgh City Council established a working group to investigate the statue's history and consider potential solutions. The group, which included historians, community representatives, and political leaders, released its findings in September 2020.


The working group made several recommendations, including installing new plaques or markers to provide a more comprehensive history of Dundas and his role in the slave trade. They also recommended the creation of a new public artwork, possibly a statue or monument, to commemorate the contributions of people of colour to Scottish history.

The group did not recommend the statue's removal, citing the cost and logistical challenges associated with such an action. However, they did suggest that the statue's interpretation be reimagined, adding a new context that acknowledges and explains Dundas's role in the slave trade.


The controversy surrounding the Henry Dundas statue in Edinburgh highlights the ongoing debate over how to address the legacy of colonialism and slavery. While some view the statue as a tribute to a significant figure in Scottish and British history, others see it as a symbol of the country's complicity in the slave trade. The recommendations made by the working group provide a potential way forward, focusing on adding new context and creating new public artworks that acknowledge the contributions of people of colour to Scottish history.

"History should not be deleted, but rather contextualised and learned from so that we may better understand and confront the present and future challenges." - SEMPER Scotland Executive team.


This video explains how Henry Dundas delayed the abolition of slavery for fifteen years and supported slavery as a means to ensure the economic benefit of the UK. Sir Geoff Palmer challenges the arguments that the descendent of Henry Dundas, Robert (Bobby) Dundas gives to defend his ancestor. Palmer then supports the petition submitted to Edinburgh City Council to change the wording on the plaque to make a more balanced truthful description of Dundas's actions. Palmer states that this should prevent Bobby Dundas stating that his ancestor helped abolished slavery and to ensure a sense of belonging for descendants of those who were forced into slavery. Produced, directed, filmed and edited by Parisa Urquhart, Urquhart Media Limited

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