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17 June 2015

Progress for Human Trafficking Bill but much more to be done…

Progress for Human Trafficking Bill but much more to be done…

This week saw the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill go back to committee as it reached Stage 2 of the Holyrood parliamentary process.This, of course, was following the unanimous support the Bill received at the recent Stage 1 parliamentary vote.Stage 2 is as important in the Scottish Parliament system as the first stage, it's where detailed amendments can be submitted to the legislation and so the committee spent most of Tuesday morning considering a vast number of amendments to the Bill.

As part of the Abolition Scotland coalition there have been three asks that we have sought in improving the bill and all were debated on Tuesday morning.They were:

  • the criminalisation of the purchase of sex to tackle the demand for prostitution and by extension, human trafficking;
  • a statutory commitment to a minimum level of survivor support;
  • the provision of Child Trafficking Guardians for children rescued from human trafficking 

We are grateful to Rhoda Grant, Jenny Marra and Christina McKelvie for submitting these amendments respectively.

On the criminalisation of demand, Scotland is making slow but undoubted progress to having a real debate on this issue.Outlining the Scottish Government's position, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson is now commissioning independent research into the effect of a ban on the purchase of sex to report early in 2016, so at this stage would not support the amendments to include this in the current bill.Although disappointing for the current bill, this research is a welcome development and indicates the Scottish Government's new openness to consider following Northern Ireland in dealing with the demand for paying for sex.

Similarly on survivor services, the amendments to guarantee a minimum time period of help for victims of trafficking was not taken on board by the government.Although the government believes the current provision is robust enough we hope they will consider again how to improve provision for survivors ahead of the final Stage 3 vote after the summer recess.

However there was very good news on the provision of Child Trafficking Guardians with amendments brought forward by Christina McKelvie accepted by the government.This is a very welcome step and one Abolition Scotland has been promoting for many months.We will continue to look at the possibilities to improve this aspect of the legislation still further but we are grateful to God for this development and to all our supporters who have prayed and contacted their MSPs or the Scottish Government about this issue.

The final stage for debate will take place after the summer recess, sometime in September.In the meantime we would encourage you to keep praying about the development of this bill and writing to your MSPs asking them to improve it still further ahead of it becoming law.For further information about this bill or any other in the Scottish Parliament please contact the EA Scotland office.

For further information about the Abolition Scotland campaign please visit the Abolition Scotland Facebook page or contact info@abolitionscotland.org