Bank of Scotland

Bank of Scotland was founded in 1695, by an Act of the Scottish Parliament - making it Scotland's first and oldest bank.

A lot has changed during the 300 year history of our brands and while we have much within our heritage to be proud of, we can’t be proud of it all. Like any institution that is so interwoven with our country’s history, we must acknowledge and learn from our past. 

What we know

  • Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville was Governor of the Bank of Scotland from 1790-1811. As well as governor, he was also Home Secretary in William Pitt the Younger’s government. During this time, he was instrumental in deferring the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. It is estimated that more than half a million Africans were enslaved as a result.
  • George Watson (Bank of Scotland’s first Accountant, 1696-1697), invested in a London-based venture for trade with Africa that included enslaved people.
  • Sir William Forbes, James Hunter & Co. - bank had mortgages on properties in Tobago, including some with enslaved people. Customers had connections with plantations with enslaved people.The firm’s origins stretch back to 1723. They merged with the Glasgow Union Bank in 1843, which became part of BoS in 1955.
  • Ship Bank (founded 1749 in Glasgow, successor bank taken over by BoS in 1955). Five of the six founding partners were wealthy Glasgow merchants involved in the tobacco and West India trades, which depended on slavery and the slave trade. One, William McDowell II, inherited a vast commercial empire in sugar and rum, and estates in the West Indies with enslaved people.
  • Thistle Bank (founded 1761 in Glasgow, successor bank taken over by BoS in 1955). Five of the six founding partners were wealthy Glasgow merchants involved in the tobacco trade, which had strong links to slavery. One, John Glassford, was a prominent Glasgow tobacco merchant. He owned tobacco plantations in Virginia and Maryland, which used enslaved people.
  • Glasgow Bank (founded 1809, successor bank taken over by BoS in 1955). James Ewing of Strathleven, one of the bank’s founding shareholders, was a substantial West India merchant, He received compensation for 286 enslaved people on an estate in Jamaica.
  • Glasgow Union Banking Company (founded 1830, successor bank taken over by Bank of Scotland in 1955). A number of its early founders and directors were involved in the West India trade, with links to slavery. James Anderson, the bank’s first manager, acted as an executor for an estate owner in Jamaica.

Click on any of the companies listed below the family tree to discover more about their individual histories.

If you would like to see a larger version of the tree, click on the graphic to open a PDF copy.