Midlothian Council signs up to charter against modern slavery

Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith
Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith

Victims of modern slavery need a “Jamie Oliver” to champion their cause and bring an end to the practice, a local councillor has said.

Midlothian Councillor Russell Imrie made the claim as he said the biggest challenge in the fight against the abhorrent trade was convincing the public it was real.

At a meeting of the local authority, Cllr Imrie said: “Modern slavery is very different from the old days when we think about individuals in chains. It is less visible and it tends to be psychology first – break the spirit and then break the body.

“However while everyone would say that slavery is a bad thing people do not believe it is happening in this country.

“That is a big challenge for all of us in the public to accept it is here. We cannot keep saying it is not, perhaps we need somebody like a Jamie Oliver to champion the cause.

”The public have got no idea what to look for, they don’t understand what it is about and we certainly need to do better.”

Cllr Imrie was speaking as he brought a motion to councillors urging them to sign up to the Charter Against Modern Slavery, which sets out how the council as an employer should act.

His motion was seconded by fellow Labour councillor Margot Russell who admitted it was not a subject she had been familiar with before the motion was raised.

And it received cross party support with SNP councillor Kelly Parry praising Cllr Imrie for bringing the motion forward.

Mr Imrie said everyone had to take the issue seriously.

He said: “I certainly believe it is one of the great evils of our time and it’s been happening right under our noses in nail bars, car washes, farms factories and indeed restaurants.

“It is estimated throughout the UK tens of thousands of people can be victims.

“The term modern slavery captures a whole range of types of exploitation, many of which occur together.”

Referring to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has launched high profile campaigns to tackle childhood obesity by targeting cheap school meals and junk food, Cllr Imrie said that while he acknowledge Midlothian Council has taken steps to meet the Charter’s requirements, more needed to be done.

He said: “The Modern slavery act came in on 2015.  I just don’t think throughout the country we’ve addressed it in the proper manner and I sometimes think there is a need for a refresh.

“I hope we can do that little bit more to end what I think is an appalling situation in 2018.”

The motion was adopted unanimously.