LAST week, I suggested that East Lothian residents might consider what sort of country Scotland should be.

Constituents I meet make me confident that, irrespective of their views on the constitution, East Lothian’s majority, as elsewhere in Scotland, will think that this should be a welcoming country with equality of opportunity and access to employment, education, good housing and healthcare.

The wellbeing that results from a fair, healthy, democratic, civil society is good for the individual and good for the nation.

New figures on economic inactivity due to sickness show shocking disparities. Scotland, north-east England, Wales and Northern Ireland lag up to twice as far behind London and the south-east of England in health inequalities measured by illness-related absence from work, demonstrating links between poor healthcare and the failing UK economy.

Further public evidence of inequality emerged recently from Buckingham Palace, the UK’s symbolic centre. An elite and privileged person made remarks that left the black professional head of a charity feeling that she “didn’t belong” in that setting. Persistent, intrusive questioning as to where this black English woman was “really from” revealed unacceptable ignorance about the UK’s historical role in transporting millions of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, and the resulting global social changes.

I was pleased to learn that East Lothian Council’s local history officer, Dr Hanita Ritchie, is preparing resources highlighting the trans-Atlantic slave trade in general, and also East Lothian’s role in this despicable commercial activity.

For example, after the abolition of slavery, huge sums in compensation were paid not to freed slaves, but to slave owners. That compensation money was re-invested, with some helping to fund the Dunbar to Edinburgh railway line. In the heart of our county, connectivity vital for our 21st-century economy also links us to a terrible historical abomination – this must be acknowledged.

Emeritus Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, appointed as Scotland’s first black professor in 1989, has used his Jamaican background and his wise insights to formulate an ethical position that can guide Scotland’s future: “You can’t change the past, but you can change its consequences”.

Wellbeing rooted in equality should be the foundation for change.