Award win for historic links to slavery work

INVERCLYDE Council has won a Scottish local government excellence award for its work examining historic links to slavery.

The council scooped the Strengthening communities and local democracy’ prize at the 2023 COSLA Excellence Awards last night, Thursday 28 September 2023.

The local authority gave a commitment to investigate the area’s history and address the legacy of slavery following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Since then, the council has been working with a range of partner organisations, community groups and individuals to examine Inverclyde’s historic links to the transatlantic slave trade and how they should be remembered.

A dedicated group was established to take forward the project, examine key themes in closer detail, and investigate appropriate reparations.

Councillor Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, said: “This is worthy recognition for the excellent work done by various council services alongside individuals and external organisations to examine and explore the extremely important issue of the area’s historic links to slavery. 

COSLA Excellence Award 2023
Inverclyde Council staff, depute council leader Councillor Natasha McGuire, and members of the Historic Links to Slavery Group receiving their COSLA Excellence Award 2023 for 'Strengthening communities and local democracy' alongside representatives from COSLA and host Sally Magnusson. 

“There is no doubt Inverclyde has a rich history and produced people who revolutionised the world and that should never be forgotten but we are also acutely aware of another side to our heritage that equally must be remembered and acknowledged appropriately.

“The historic links to slavery project and steering group are working to that end and should be commended for their efforts to date.

“Congratulations to all involved for winning this COSLA Excellence Award.”

Collaboration on the historic links to slavery project was crucial to ensuring that the project was approached in a sensitive, representative, and progressive manner.

Support was sought from individuals, groups and organisations with experience in this area, including other councils, universities, Museums Galleries Scotland, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Beacon Arts Centre, and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights.

Councillor Shona Morrison, COSLA president and chairperson of the awards, said: “What really shone through for me from this year’s entries was the sheer creativity and passion for their local communities – seeing people turn their local knowledge into incredible partnerships and projects to benefit the people living in their communities and generations to come is truly heartwarming.

“So, huge congratulations to this year’s finalists and winners – it has been a pleasure to celebrate your hard work and dedication.”

To date, there has been various public consultations, including listening events, an extensive audit of places and buildings with features or links to slavery, and greater focus on education about black history, culture and anti-racism messages in schools and the wider community.

The very strong message coming back from the community was that the focus should be on education and ensuring that the community is fully informed about the issues that have influenced Inverclyde past and present.

The council-run Watt Institution, incorporating the McLean Museum & Art Gallery, Watt Library and Watt Hall, has played a key role in the project and also secured a £230,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the de-colonisation of the museum collection.

The historic links to slavery project has also seen work done around the Gourock Coat of Arms, which is regarded as having racial imagery, greater support for Black History Month during October, and development of a new heritage trail and abolitionist plaque.

The full list of winners at the COSLA Excellence Awards is available on the COSLA website via the link in the Other Websites section of this page.