Edinburgh is a player on the global stage – let’s make that a reputation to be proud of

From time to time local politics compels us to both fight global injustices and face our city’s legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Last week I was proud to be at the unveiling of the replacement plaque on the Melville Monument. After the original plaque – designed to add context of Melville as a key player in the continuation of the slave trade – was stolen by a Melville-apologist, my motion ensured that the plaque would be replaced.

Edinburgh’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Group is one of the most positive steps the Council has taken to acknowledge the wealth and status brought to the city from the exploitation of others. Councillors are proud to boast about this progressive step towards acknowledging the city’s past, but not always so happy to take steps to recognise that Edinburgh might still be engaging in human rights abuses.

In August, the Lord Provost will be travelling to China on a trade mission to support links between Edinburgh and Shenzhen. And thanks to the Greens, he will have to seek assurances that the companies he is engaging with in China are not engaged in modern-day slavery through forced labour of Uyghur people.

While we won this argument, we’ve been less successful in getting the council to care about the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli Government. Our motion to investigate the links between Edinburgh Council and firms investing in Israeli military operations was firmly rejected by labour, the liberal democrats and the conservatives. And in March, we were denied the opportunity to talk about how Edinburgh can support efforts for peace, after the Lord Provost refused to even hear our motion. When we compare this to the Council’s instant efforts to support those in Ukraine, we must ask ourselves why some people facing oppression by a foreign occupier are deemed worth supporting, while others are ignored.  

Any time the Council is involved in anything relating to the wider world, we hear calls of ‘stick to fixing potholes’. Greens’ answer to this is always “why not do both?” Edinburgh is an international city; our role is both to serve the city now, and to ensure that what we do contributes to making the world a better place for everyone.

Claire Miller is the Scottish Green Councillor for the City Centre.