Should Glasgow rename the city centre streets bearing the names of merchants who profited from slavery?

Perhaps we should have a permanent reminder of the period and practices that saw such wealth accumulated.

Thousands of feet walk on the streets every day.

Many people work in the shops and offices that line them but are unaware of where the names come from.

How many of us know why Buchanan Street, Ingram Street or Gordon Street for example are so called?

A debate which arises every so often has been reignited as the Black Lives Matter campaign is highlighted in the USA and in the UK.

Many of our streets are named after men who made a fortune in the tobacco, sugar and cotton trade which, of course, was wealth accumulated from slavery in plantations.

In addition to those mentioned above, Glassford Street, Cochrane Street, Wilson Street and Dunlop Street can be added.

Slavery, for many, was something that happened in America but it is unequivocally our history too.

Scots and Glaswegian merchants played a major role. If there was money to be made a Scotsman was never far away.

Many owned plantations in America and the West Indies hence Jamaica Street and Virginia Street in Glasgow.

The wealth built streets, like Buchanan Street, and prominent buildings including what is now Gallery of Modern Art, the former mansion of William Cunninghame, a tobacco lord.

The Mitchell Library, one the city’s finest buildings and assets, was originally created with a bequest from a tobacco baron, Stephen Mitchell.

The debate is, should we change the names to remove men who profited enormously from either the capture and trading of other people, or from their enslaved labour on their plantations.

It is reasonable to conclude that because these people were involved in one of the most shameful practices in history we should not recognise them by walking on streets named in their honour.

It would therefore be legitimate to rename the streets.

But to do that, some would argue, would be to airbrush a significant period in the history of Glasgow.

Like it or not these men and the wealth they amassed has had a role in the development of the city.

If we are to leave the street names as they are it should be clear it is not as a monument to great men who made a fortune from the degradation and subjugation of others.

Instead, as a reminder of , as a recognition of the exploitation many prominent families from our our city’s past were involved in and an acknowledgement of the savage deeds these men were complicit in, in pursuit of their wealth and power.

And let’s not forget for all their grand gestures and buildings while they made staggering sums of money on the back of slavery they also presided over appalling conditions for workers in Glasgow in the tobacco and textile industries.

During that time while great wealth was coming into Glasgow poverty was rife and inequality in terms of income and living conditions was also shameful.

While the workers here were not slaves, and no comparison should ever be attempted, the wealth they amassed was not shared out equally among their fellow citizens.

We cannot and should not wipe this period from history and we can certainly make a greater effort to learn from it and to make it clear what they were involved in was wrong.

We can honour those who campaigned to end slavery. The Glasgow Emancipation Society could be one place to start.

Names like William Smeal and Jane Smeal, the brother and sister notable in the Glasgow Anti-Slavery society.

Or James McCune Smith, an African American doctor who graduated from Glasgow University and member of the Glasgow Emancipation Society.

How about walking along Smeal Street or McCune Smith Avenue

Other cities have recognised their role in the slave trade, with museums dedicated to slavery in London, Liverpool and Bristol.

Glasgow could do the same as a civic statement.

And could perhaps house it in one of the buildings that was originally built with money from one of those merchants.

That way, if it is decided we keep the names, we can tell the story that instead of being great capitalists and philanthropists they were a class of men who traded in misery and death.