THE Church of Scotland is the custodian of a multi-million-pound fund which can be traced back to compensation paid out to a family upon the abolition of slavery.

A new report which details the organisation’s connections to the transatlantic slave trade has been published and is set to be presented to the General Assembly next month.

The research covers a 131-year period between the Act of Union in 1707, which led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the abolition of slavery in Britain's colonies in the West Indies during the 1830s.

It reveals that some Church of Scotland ministers and elders inherited wealth made on plantations from relatives and some buildings, including Glasgow Cathedral, have memorials to people who profited from the slave trade.

Some church members also received sums of money from plantation owners while the organisation itself is the custodian of a multi-million-pound fund which can be connected to compensation paid out to a family of slave owners upon abolition.

It is hoped the work will encourage the Church to engage in self-reflection and to examine the roots of racial discrimination in Scotland.

A survey of church members found that many felt that physical features of buildings that had links to historic slavery should not be removed but instead used to help congregations and people in the local area learn about this chapter of Scotland’s history.

Up to 20,000 Scottish migrants arrived in the West Indies during the latter half of the 18th century and it is likely that many places of worship were built by enslaved people such as St Andrew’s Church in St George’s, Grenada.

The report recommends to the General Assembly that a statement of acknowledgment and apology should be brought forward in the future.

It also calls for the creation of a dedicated page about the Church’s connections to the slave trade created for its website and recommends the creation of an appropriate artwork to help congregations “start conversations” about the legacy of slavery.

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“We have learned that stories of slavery and abolition are often nuanced and not always clear cut,” stated the report.

“For example, we note that one of the most visually recognisable proponents of abolition, Dr Robert Walker (the 'skating minister') who led the Presbytery of Edinburgh to petition parliament in 1788, was also named eight years previous in 1780 as the residuary heir of the estate of his brother John Walker, a merchant operating in St Lucia.

“We are also mindful of the number of ‘sons of the manse’ who profited, some significantly, from the enslavement of their fellow humans, whilst also recognising the commendable campaigns of many Presbyteries and Synods as part of the abolition movement.

It added: “We have learned that there is architectural evidence of connections to slavery within some of our church buildings, although it is not believed to be as widespread as first thought.

“There are some examples where the Church or ministers can be seen to have benefitted directly from the profits of slavery.

“What we do see are many instances where money was left to ministers and kirk sessions to distribute amongst the parish or to be used for philanthropic causes.”

The report said some Scots who made financial and social gains from enslavement left a portion of their money for philanthropic purposes such as caring for the poor.

“This raises important questions regarding the origins of money from which many people in Scotland, including the Church, benefitted,” it stated.

“If the Church is committed to seeking racial justice then we must seek to acknowledge the origins of such funds that the church either received for its own use, or distributed for others.”