Nowhere to hide for Modern Slavery in our Supply Chains

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.

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.

Removal of Freedom of the City of Dundee from Aung San Suu Kyi

Last week I spoke in the council debate on removing Aung San Suu Kyi from the list of people who have received the Freedom of the City of Dundee.

It was with some sadness that I rose to speak in support of removing the grant of the Freedom of the City from Aung San Suu Kyi.

As an Amnesty International member I was pleased to listen to a deputation from the local Amnesty International group at the meeting on Monday evening.

When Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Freedom of the City I spoke in favour of her receiving the Freedom of the City at the Council meeting that night.

Unfortunately, things have not worked out as we would have thought they would.

The treatment of the Rohingya people is an international disgrace

The world watched in shock as well over half a million people fled an intense campaign of violence in Myanmar that was systematic, organised and ruthless. The Myanmar military killed Rohingya women, men and children, raped Rohingya women and girls, and burnt entire Rohingya villages.

Those who stay behind are still at risk, Myanmar’s authorities are restricting their access to lifesaving humanitarian aid and assistance. They continue to live under a system of institutionalised discrimination and segregation which amounts to apartheid.

The Myanmar authorities are trying to stop the world from seeing what’s actually happening on the ground.

Aung San Suu Kyi may not be able to stop the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people but she could have stood up for them more.

Sadly, therefore, I supported the moves to remove Aung San Suu Kyi from the list of those who have the Freedom of the City of Dundee.

The treatment of the Rohingya people cannot be justified and discriminating on the grounds of creed or ethnicity is deplorable.

I was appalled to hear that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office had not even had the decency to reply to the letters sent to them from the council asking about human rights abuses in Myanmar.

We should also send a clear message that we expect the ethnic cleansing to stop.  Please consider signing the Amnesty International petition against the violence against the Rohingya people. 


Macmillan Cancer Information & Support Service launched in Central Library

I was pleased to get along the launch of the Macmillan Cancer Information & Support Service

People affected by cancer in Dundee now have access to much needed cancer information and support in libraries, following the opening of a new service in the city’s Central Library at the Wellgate Centre.  As the lead trustee for Library and Information services on the Leisure and Culture Dundee board I was pleased to attend this important event.

Macmillan Cancer Support has invested around £200,000 and is working with Leisure & Culture Dundee to provide three new cancer information and support drop in services in Libraries across Dundee. The first to open is the service in Central Library.

The new Macmillan Cancer Information & Support service will be run by a group of highly trained volunteers who can provide emotional and practical advice, access to information materials on various types of cancer and its treatment, or simply a listening ear. As well as specialist cancer information and emotional support, the service can refer people onto other services, including benefits advice and help to get active.

This is an excellent initiative and it is further proof of the great work being done in libraries across Dundee.  I hope that these initiatives from Macmillan in conjunction with Leisure & Culture Dundee make a difference to the lives of people impacted by cancer.