By Duncan Bick (July 5 2008)

IT was a long time coming, but the world’s first public monument to pioneering Scots economist Adam Smith has gone on show in the Capital – more than 200 years after his death.

Hundreds attended yesterday’s official unveiling of the statue, which pays tribute to the man credited with being one of the leading thinkers of the eighteenth century before he died in the Capital in 1790.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon L Smith removed the statue’s grey cloth cover in front of the crowd gathered on the High Street.

Among those watching was former Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie.

The Edinburgh Pentlands MSP said: “It’s a most impressive piece of work and a fine addition to the Royal Mile. Adam Smith was the most influential Scotsman that has ever lived and his work has now got the recognition of our city.

“It shows how much the political debate has moved on, as a few years ago a statue of Adam Smith being put up would have been seen as highly political.”

Born in Kirkcaldy in 1723, Smith studied in Glasgow and Oxford before moving to Edinburgh.

He began lecturing in the Capital before completing his hugely influential work, The Wealth of Nations.

Credited with being at the forefront of the outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments known as the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith’s statue stands in Parliament Square across from his contemporary David Hume.

Created by Edinburgh-born artist Alexander Stoddart, who also sculpted the Hume statue, the monument looks down the Royal Mile to Smith’s Fife birthplace. Former Lord Provost Eric Milligan said: “It is a very, very impressive statue and it is a very impressive location for it.”

The statue, which was financed entirely by private donations, shows Smith dressed in 18th century clothes with a lecturer’s gown draped over his shoulder. Smith’s right hand is hidden to signify his belief in the “invisible hand” that guides the economy.

Eamon Butler, director of the London-based Adam Smith Institute, said: “It has taken a long time for Scotland to honour the most influential person that it has ever produced.”

Not everyone was impressed by the latest addition to the Royal Mile, however.

One onlooker joked: “I think it presents an excellent task for the people of Edinburgh – to get a traffic cone on top of it.”

 

Published by The Scotsman here

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