I was very happy to move the motion at the Policy & Resources Committee meeting this week committing Dundee City Council to sign up to the Co-operative Party's Charter Against Modern Slavery. I was delighted that the council spoke with one voice on this very important issue.
This is an area where there has been broad cross-party agreement. The main piece of legislation in Scotland, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act started life a members’ bill promoted by my friend and colleague Jenny Marra MSP, it was then taken on by the Scottish Government and passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament.
This charter supported by the council has been agreed to across the United Kingdom and was previously unanimously passed by the City of Edinburgh Council.
I know that some people might say that this is not an issue here. That there are no modern day slaves in Dundee. The truth is that we do not know that. What is clear is that police and other agencies are giving this area of work greater scrutiny and this has led to a dramatic rise in the number of referrals. In the last year where figures are available there was a 42% increase in referrals to Police Scotland.
I know that many people think of people trafficked for sexual exploitation when discussing this issue but the biggest increase in the Police Scotland figures are a 64% increase in the number of people involved in suspected labour exploitation with over half of those victims being male.
Police Scotland and the Scottish Government are seeking to raise the profile of this crime and protect people from exploitation.
This is what this motion which I put forward sought to do. Some of the actions are already done by the council but the aim of the charter is to bring this work together and raise its profile.
Fundamentally, we all have a duty to show a concern for how things are produced whether in our daily shopping or in the council letting contracts. I hope that we are clear that the bottom line should not be the sole deciding factor in letting a contract we should be wary of contracts that are too low and we need to be as certain as we can that our supply chains do not include modern slavery.
You can also read my colleague Georgia Cruickshank, who seconded the motions, views here, find out more about the campaign and the Co-operative Party's Month of Action Against Modern Slavery here.
I was delighted that there was unanimous cross-party support for the charter and that the City Council sent a very clear message that there is no hiding place for modern slavery in our supply chains.