Britain owes Caribbean nations £205bn in reparations, claims Cambridge academic

Britain owes more than £200 billion in slavery reparations to Caribbean nations, a leading academic has claimed.

Revd Dr Michael Banner, dean of Trinity College Cambridge, said that the UK was once “the leading slaving nation in the world” and that the modern-day descendants of slaves deserved compensation.

In a new book, Britain’s Slavery Debt, the theologian and clergyman said he had calculated that Britain owes £205 billion, which he based on the compensation claims made by slave owners when the trade was abolished.

While the UK Government has repeatedly rejected the case for reparations, Dr Banner called on the Scottish Government to “show leadership” on the issue and begin repaying its £20.5 billion share.

The academic has previously claimed that the British Government has a moral obligation to pay reparations for the slave trade in a bid to undo the “original injustice” of slavery.

Seize the initiative 

In an interview with a Scottish Sunday newspaper, he claimed that given Scotland portrays itself as more liberal than the rest of the UK, it should seize the initiative.

A spokesman for the SNP-run administration did not rule out doing so, saying the country was prepared to “reflect on our colonial history.”

“It’s well-known Scots played an outsized part in growing and sustaining the British empire, and Glasgow was in particular closely tied up with Caribbean trade,” Dr Banner said, in an interview with the Herald on Sunday.

“Scotland now has an opportunity to show leadership once again on the side of right, by recognising the compelling case for making reparations to the nations and people of the Caribbean.

“The British government has consistently failed to face up to this responsibility. Scotland can show the way.”

Dr Banner based the amount he believes the UK should repay on more than £40 million of compensation slave owners claimed they were due when the trade was outlawed in 1833, even though they received only £20 million.

He calculated that the figure put forward by slave owners valued each slave at £60 at the time, with 2.3 million transported from Africa to the Caribbean between the 17th and 19th Centuries.

‘Those who were wronged’ 

Taking account of compound interest and other factors, he arrived at the figure of £205 billion in today’s money.

He added: “We know the people living in the Caribbean now – the people asking for reparations – are the inheritors of those who were wronged.

“And we in Britain are broadly the inheritors of the wealth that came our way. It’s not a long time ago, and in a sense, it’s still active.”

Caricom, an organisation which represents 20 Caribbean states, has issued a 10-point plan for “reparatory justice”.

A UN judge, Patrick Robertson, claimed last year that the UK is likely to owe more than £18 trillion in reparations for its role in slavery involvement in 14 countries.

Institutions such as the Church of England, the University of Glasgow, as well as some prominent British families, have agreed to set up funds to pay slavery reparations.

‘Non-financial reparations’ 

NHS Lothian, Scotland’s second-largest health board, last year unveiled a controversial plan to make “non-financial reparations” after uncovering its slavery links in Jamaica.

However, others have pointed to Britain’s role in ending slavery and Rishi Sunak has dismissed claims that the UK should be financially liable.

Stephen Kerr, the Scottish Tory MSP, said Dr Banner’s reasoning “may have its place in the ivory towers of Russell Group universities” but did not “speak to the real-world challenges we are facing.”

He added: “As a serious proposition in terms of public policy, it is frankly a ludicrous suggestion. People in Scotland have other pressing concerns.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people waiting for hospital appointments. A newly declared national housing “emergency”. Falling education standards. Record low numbers of police officers. And on and on.

“We need to deal with the real priorities of Scots and not be concerned with yet more academic virtue-signalling.”

Asked about Dr Banner’s suggestion, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We can never, and should never, ignore or seek to hide the difficult aspects of our country’s history and we acknowledge Scotland’s past and willingness to reflect on our colonial history and its complex legacies, including our involvement in the slave trade.

“We welcome the increasing awareness and public recognition of that role, as well as the recognition of those who opposed slavery and campaigned against it.”

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