Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame is presented by David Hayman, who takes a very personal and impassioned look at a subject which has often been overlooked.
Says Hayman: ‘This is a story I have wanted to tell for so long, painful as it has been. It is important we get this out there, start a discussion across the land. The history is heavy and darkly compelling, but this is an issue for today and the future.’
Filmed across three continents, it demonstrates the many and intricate ways in which Scotland and the Scots were embroiled in the trade – contrary to the generally-held view that much of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade lay elsewhere in the country. As the series reveals Scots were plantation and slave owners, merchants, ship owners and crew, surgeons, investors and bookkeepers.
The legacies of Scotland's role in the slave trade
The two one-hour programmes also show the legacies of Scotland’s role: how the money generated funded agricultural and industrial progress; how it shaped a huge proportion of the nation’s built environment; and the influence of the slave trade on the lives of people of colour in Scotland today.
BBC Two say that Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame is something of a breakthrough, unveiling for a popular audience what has been 'a history neglected by all but activists and academics'.
Within the programmes, the reasons behind the hiding of this shameful period in Scottish history are contemplated, not least the threat these truths pose to our nation’s self-identity as egalitarian, and the ethos of ‘we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns’.
Slavery: Scotland’s Hidden Shame sees Hayman travel across Britain, to Sierra Leone, and to Jamaica. Fuelled by a long-held anger at his beloved home city and country for sweeping the story under the carpet, David Hayman talks to a wide range of people dealing with the trauma of this past, and looking at ways to ensure this story – the shame and the legacy – is not swept aside or forgotten.
Nowhere is that anger and sadness seen more than in Sierra Leone, where David Hayman visits Bunce Island, once a slave-fort run by Scots.
In the second episode, Hayman goes to Jamaica with Glasgow Councillor and slave descendant Graham Campbell and discovers Scottish links at every turn, from the phonebook to vast plantations named ‘Hampden’ or ‘Glasgow’.
Closer to home in Liverpool and Bristol, places often associated with the slave trade and the wealth it generated, he finds modern-day amends to marking and acknowledging the toll of slavery.
At the heart of the series is the question of redemption and how can Scotland, if not atone for its role, suitably and fittingly acknowledge it?
Slavery : Scotland’s Hidden Shame
Tuesday, 6 November
BBC Two Scotland, 9.00-10.00pm