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 and some historians argue that he was partly responsible for delaying the enactment of the bill to abolish the transatlantic slave trade by 15 years. In his legal career he successfully represented Joseph Knight a former slave, seeking his legal freedom in Scotland (1778).  

    After the case was won, runaway slaves were protected under Scots law if they wanted to leave service or attempts made to remove them from Scotland to the slave system in the Caribbean. His political career ended in disgrace with his impeachment for misappropriation of state funds. His statue in Edinburgh has been a focus of recent protests. There is a large portrait of him in the Mound by Henry Raeburn that is being relocated and a new caption added to explain his role in the slave trade.
  • Sir William Forbes, James Hunter & Co. – we know that four partners of the firm were compensated for owning slaves. The firm’s origins stretch back to 1723. They merged with the Glasgow Union Bank in 1843, which became part of BoS in 1955

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.