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Let’s not let Modern Slavery become Scotland’s new shame

Shan Saba, director at Brightwork


Scotland cannot hide from its links with slavery as the BBC programme Slavery; Scotland’s Hidden Shame made clear in last week’s episode. 


My home town of Glasgow has all too many such links which have resulted, ironically, in lots of splendid buildings, architectural gems all, as well as such street names as Jamaica Street, Virginia Street, Tobago Street and more.


The moral crimes committed by Glasgow’s business class before the industrial revolution were made clear in the programme.


History, however, is just that, history and although we must all learn from these horrors of the past the important thing is to appreciate that there are right now, right here, human beings being owned and exploited by other humans right. This is the modern slavery that every citizen of Scotland must play a part in eradicating.


Modern Slavery is on the increase in Scotland: 207 victims, men, woman and children, were rescued by the authorities last year. This was up by 38 per cent on the year before. 


This human tragedy is not going to go away. Migrant Help, the charity that assists and rehabilitates victims in Scotland has referred 5 individuals to my colleagues on the team at Brightwork, the Scotland-wide recruitment business in the last month alone. Our commitment is to help them find work to allow them to rebuild their lives in Scotland.


Exploitation, being held and forced to work for little or no financial return whilst being controlled by another person or gang, has been on a sharp increase in Scotland. Business leaders, managers, supervisors and colleagues all have a part to play in identifying victims. 


These crimes are not just being committed in the car washes and nail bars dotted around our country but also in in the warehouses, construction sites, kitchens, farms and facilities all over Scotland.


Acknowledging the past errors and horrors of our country are important, but not letting this happen here now is of far more importance. Simple steps go a long way: adopting Government’s guidance to businesses on spotting the red flags that can be warning signs of modern slavery, working with ethical suppliers, ensuring that their supply chains are transparent and that they are willing to be audited. 


We have a wealth of knowledge, training and resources within the Scotland Against Modern Slavery Movement that is free and that can be delivered by specialists in the legal, law enforcement, and regulatory fields. History can be horrifying as last night’s programme showed us, but we must all learn to never repeat those mistakes of the past, staying silent or doing nothing is simply not good enough.



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