Race and Heritage in Scotland: Reflection & next steps

As we ring in the New Year here at the Scottish Civic Trust , we’re reflecting back on our 2020 conference about Race and Heritage in Scotland, and renewing our commitment to inclusive heritage.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter and anti-racism movements threw the consequences and legacies of the past into sharper focus. In Scotland, buildings, monuments, public spaces and street names have become a touchstone for discussions and action on racism, slavery, empire and colonialism. As a sector, we can struggle to find a way to approach such contentious topics.

Scottish Civic Trust responded to these pressing issues by organising a Race and Heritage in Scotland conference. The conference formed part of our work to advocate for a more diverse Scottish heritage, and part of our recently released Strategy to Address Racism Against People of Colour.

The conference, held on Zoom on 2nd December 2020, attracted over 100 attendees. The day opened with talks about Scotland’s links with Black and Traveller history, and how that is or is not expressed in our built heritage. Then our keynote speaker, Brent Leggs, joined us from Washington D.C. to share an international perspective on dealing with race and heritage. We spent the remainder of the afternoon taking inspiration from those in the sector who are already tackling histories of racism. You can view videos of the presentations and question & answer sessions on our 2020 conference webpage.

Feedback about the conference was overwhelmingly positive, and attendees found the talks informative, enlightening and insightful:

  • “Excellent – really memorable; varied but key themes explored throughout”
  • “One of the best conferences I have ever been to. It felt authentic, and I felt a lot of work had gone into planning it and sourcing the speakers.”
  • “The talks I attended were great! I thought that they all covered different themes and enabled me to meet new organisations that I knew little about before”
  • “I already knew quite a lot about Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade but I added a bit to that knowledge. Learnt about the traveller community; different ways of tackling reparation; and community projects to include minority groups. Also, reflecting on my reactions to some of the presentations and recognising my own bias and thinking that through.”
  • “One of the best online conferences I’ve attended, covid or no covid!”

Although the conference has come to a close, we will continue to address racism within Scottish heritage. To support the sector’s transformation, with the help of our speakers and attendees we have developed a Scottish heritage anti-racism reading list. We will be updating this list regularly as part of our ongoing Strategy to Address Racism Against People of Colour.

In addition to raising awareness about racism within Scottish heritage, we run a Diverse Heritage project to work with marginalised people to undertake heritage projects. Co-creating heritage projects with marginalised people is a key way to build a more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist future for Scottish heritage. Our Diverse Heritage project particularly welcomes project ideas from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) – please get in touch with our Diverse Heritage Officer Nicky Imrie at Nicky.Imrie@scottishcivictrust.org.uk.