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Jun 1, 2020-2020

United Kingdom

Scottish Streets Name Change



Various anti-racist campiagners


Civic authorities of Glasgow


Racially insensitive street names should be changed.


Issue and Opposition: Glasgow has several streets that were named after slave owners and tobacco lords. One such street was Cochrane Street named after Andrew Cochrane (1693-1777). Cochrane served as the Lord Provost of Glasgow three times. At that time, no one else had served that office more times than Cochrane. Apart from this, he was a successful businessman and one of the founders of a Virginia-based trading company named Cochrane, Murdoch, and Company. Racism in Scotland is a major challenge for the minority population. According to the estimates of “Show Racism the Red Card”, from 2019 to 2022, Scotland witnessed 2251 incidents where racists targeted a minority member. Racist incidents have been reported in Scottish schools. Scottish schools now have specially designed teaching materials to help teachers imbibe anti-racist sentiments among children. However, despite these reports on racism, the civic authorities in Glasgow continued with street names that carried names of slave owners whose fortune grew through the slave trade. Anti-racism campaigners protested against this and wanted their discontent to be known to the city authorities of Glasgow.
Dilemma Action: Of the streets that still carried Scotland’s racist legacies through their names, the protesters chose Cochrane Street and renamed it after Sheku Bayoh who lost his life in 2015 after he was restrained by police officers on the streets of Glasgow. The protesters painted Bayoh’s name on a black background with white paint, on a street sign, and placed it beside the sign that indicated Cochrane Street. The renaming by the protesters followed a petition carrying thousands of signatures that justified the renaming of the city streets because “… [I]t’s important to take these tobacco lords off the pedestal they seemingly stand on and instead recognize other Scottish activists who are deserving of such esteem.”
Outcome: The renaming of streets to show protest has many instances worldwide and has both external and internal replications. For example, in 2020, Muriel Bowser, the Mayor of Washington DC, recruited local artists and got the words Black Lives Matter painted in large yellow alphabets on the streets leading to the White House. Renaming streets to embarrass or taunt officials or diplomats is not new to Wahington DC. In 1980, the street on which the Soviet Embassy was situated was renamed after an arrested dissenter and Putin critic Andrew Sakharov. In 2018, the street on which the Russian ambassador’s residence stood was renamed after Boris Nemtsov, a slain Putin critic and dissenter. More recently, in 2021, the street outside the Saudi Embassy was renamed after Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Washington Post journalist who was allegedly killed by Saudi state actors for criticizing his government. In Glasgow itself, the anti-racism protesters have renamed a few other streets. For example, anti-racist campaigners renamed two Glasgow streets after Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, both of whom made major contributions to the US civil rights movement. In the examples from the US, the renamings were done by the Mayor or the civic authorities of DC, thus giving permanence to the new street names. In Glasgow’s case, the protesters hung alternate signs with the names of anti-racism activists and the victim. While the official addresses of these streets still adhere to their original names, this dilemma action was successful in drawing international media attention and creating awareness about racism in Scotland. None of the reports mention whether the Glasgow city authorities removed the signs bearing new street names. This was a big win for the activists.


Civil Rights and Equality


New signs and names



10 / 12

(EREP) Dilemma action got replicated by other movements

(MC) Media Coverage

(MSYMP) Media coverage was sympathetic to the activists

(OR) Opponent response

(PS) Dilemma action built sympathy with the public

(PUN) Punishment favored the activists

(REFR) Dilemma action reframed the narrative of the opponent

(RF) Dilemma action reduced fear and/or apathy among the activists

(SA) Dilemma action appealed to a broad segment of the public



3 / 3

Activist group continued working together after the action

Encouraged more participants to join the movement

Internally replicated by the same movement


Project documentation

Dilemma Actions Coding Guidebook

Case study documentation


CC BY 4.0 Deed, Attribution 4.0 International


PA Media. 2020. “Glasgow ‘slaver’ streets renamed by anti-racist campaigners,” The Guardian. Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/06/glasgow-slaver-streets-renamed-by-anti-racist-campaigners).

Sullivan, Rory. 2020. “Anti-racism campaigners rename Glasgow streets linked to slave trade,” Independent. Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/antiracism-campaigners-renamed-glasgow-streets-slave-trade-a9552616.html).

https://news.yahoo.com/glasgow-streets-rename3716115.html. Accessed April 15, 2022.

McEwen, Alan. 2020. “Edinburgh’s slavery street names ‘changed’ by anti-racism campaigners,” Daily Record. Retrieved July 23, 2023. (https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/scots-street-names-changed-anti-22257180).

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