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Plan to ‘decolonise’ plants may violate UK law – report

Strategy to confront ‘racist legacies’ at Kew Gardens risks violating legal obligations, think tank warns

A controversial plan by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to “decolonise” its plant collections has been slated in a new report that accuses the taxpayer-funded UK body of engaging in “non-scientific” political activities.

In the report, titled ‘Politicising Plants’, published on Wednesday, the Policy Exchange center-right think tank warns that Kew’s campaign could violate its legal charter obligations under the National Heritage Act 1983. The legislation defines and sets limits to the responsibilities of any entity designated a heritage asset.

The report, which is said to have the backing of Downing Street, urges Environment Secretary George Eustice to launch an investigation into whether Kew was straying from its statutory duties by having conducted alleged “forays into non-scientific, and indeed politically charged, activities.”

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Noting that the plan had “attracted significant media attention,” the authors claimed the campaign was “part of a wider change in Kew’s self-perception and planned activities, which envisages campaigning, promoting ‘transformative societal change’, and ‘decolonising science’.”

This change, affecting the use of public money, threatens to undermine Kew’s distinctive and invaluable reputation as a non-political, rigorously scientific resource.

In March, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, published a widely panned 10-year ‘Manifesto for Change’ that pledged to “decolonise our collections,” “address any exploitative or racist legacies,” and “develop new narratives around them.”

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FILE PHOTO.
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Among these plans was an update of its signage for plants like sugar cane and rubber, in an apparent attempt to place them in a wider historical context, such as the role they played in the slave trade.

Following the report’s publication, Kew told The Telegraph that the plans were “within the remit of our charter under the Heritage Act.” An unnamed spokesperson said the 10-year “roadmap” had been “created following extensive consultation and is, as with the reporting of all Kew finances, fully transparent and published online.”

However, an anonymous senior government source told the paper that, in their view, Kew’s alleged “variance” from its charter duties was “shocking.” They added that there was no indication to suggest that “visitors want or support this kind of change.”

https://ift.tt/3sIkGS0 29, 2021 at 10:19PM
from RT – Daily news

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