Local MSP launches campaign to re-purpose Greenock Sugar Sheds as Human Rights Museum

Stuart McMillan MSP has called for a National Museum of Human Rights to be established in Greenock to educate people about Scotland’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

Parts of Inverclyde, particularly Greenock, have links to the slave trade through the sugar and tobacco industries, with local street names including Jamaica Street, Togo Place, Tobago Street and Virginia Street. Even Greenock’s most famous son, James Watt, has connections to the slave trade.

Inverclyde profited from the trade in human misery just like Glasgow and Edinburgh. The historic Sugar Sheds at the James Watt Dock in Greenock therefore pose an ideal location for a National Human Rights Museum similar to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.

The Greenock and Inverclyde MSP has launched this campaign following the tragic death of George Floyd, the growing momentum of the Black Lives Matter campaign, and the anti-racism debate in the Scottish Parliament on 10 June 2020.

Stuart has written to the First Minister with his suggestion for a museum but also that any such facility should be located in Greenock.

Commenting, Stuart said:

“For too long we have cherry-picked parts of our history that don’t demonstrate the full extent of our nation’s involvement in the slave trade or the Empire. Even the story of the Highland Clearances, amongst others, is often amiss from our psyche when we think back to Scotland’s history.

“Greenock’s historical links as well as the use of a building involved in the sugar trade would therefore be an ideal location for a museum giving a fuller account of our history – particularly the darker aspects that too many of us know little about.

“The debate has started about how Scotland owns and addresses its past. The educational benefits of a Museum of Human Rights would provide an exceptional opportunity for all of Scotland to visit and learn, in addition to the many thousands who visit the area annually from the cruise ships that dock locally.

“There have been many suggestions over the years about how the Sugar Sheds should be used but the current debate provides the perfect opportunity for this historic building to play its part.

“Inverclyde’s history is Scotland’s history, for good and bad. Inverclyde’s links to the slave trade and the merchants who profited at human misery sadly are intertwined with other parts of Scotland.

“If Scotland now wants to own up to and accept this part of our past, as well as events like the Highland Clearances, a National Museum of Human Rights would be a step in the right direction. As well as being of historical significance, it will be educational for future generations and will provide a keynote facility for people to visit.

“I look forward to the campaign progressing and for the suggestion to gather momentum.”

One thought on “Local MSP launches campaign to re-purpose Greenock Sugar Sheds as Human Rights Museum

  1. Alan M Johnston

    Hi Stuart. Mags and I hope all our friends in Inverclyde, even the ‘Ton
    supporters are well. When I was researching an essay for a UHI module I came across a horrendous story of a boat that was absolutely filled to the gunnells with starving refugees fleeing the famine. The report stated that as the vessel approached, those onshore could only make out that the decks were covered in bundles. These were eventually proved to be the passengers. They had been caught in a terrible storm on the way across from Ireland and were in severe distress. When the boat docked the deck passengers were helped off and it was only then discovered that the deck hatches had been sealed closed because of the storm. When they were opened, what was described as a “miasma” rose from the hold. A mist. It was found that the hold was full of people. The sealing of the hatches meant that most of them had suffocated. A little known story.
    Yours Aye,
    Alan.M Johnston.

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