The University of Edinburgh has seen its donations slump by almost £2 million after it “cancelled” the philosopher David Hume over his slavery links.
The institution said that 24 donations and 12 legacies had been “cancelled, amended or withdrawn” in response to the September 2020 renaming of a prominent campus building dedicated to its former student, one of the leading figures of the Scottish enlightenment.
While he argued against the institution of slavery, Hume was condemned by student activists largely for a footnote in a 1758 essay in which he said he was “apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites”.
The David Hume Tower was rechristened 40 George Square with the university claiming that while Hume’s opinions were “not uncommon” when he wrote them more than 250 years ago, they “rightly cause distress today”.
While it refused to say how much money had been withdrawn by donors directly due to the renaming row, overall donations to the university fell from £23.2 million in 2020-21, to £21.3 million the following year.
A small number of those to cancel donations also cited the treatment of the academic Neil Thin, who was investigated and later acquitted after wrongly being accused by students of expressing racist and other “problematic” views.
Dr Thin, a senior lecturer, was a vocal critic of the campaign to rename the tower.
Pam Gosul, the Scottish Tory spokesman for higher education, said: “The reduction in donations will offer university bosses the chance to reflect on decisions they have taken.”