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19 December 2013

Tackling Scottish slavery

Tackling Scottish slavery

Modern slavery has been a lot in the news recently. This week saw the launch of the UK government's Modern Slavery Bill (which although a Westminster Bill may end up having profound impacts on Scotland) and there have been a number of high profile cases recently in London and Wales. In Scotland trafficking has been in the news less, with less high profile cases in the courts, and less public profile from the Scottish government. It must be because bad things like trafficking just don't happen here. This is Scotland after all.

Sadly that is the view perpetuated in Scottish society that has been backed up by a shockingly low level of criminal convictions in Scottish courts (you can count them on one hand). Indeed there are currently more victims of trafficking confined to Scottish jails than perpetrators. Whilst the Modern Slavery Bill is a very welcome development there is perhaps an even greater option on the table for the Scottish parliament and Scottish government to consider, one not currently available to the rest of the UK.

The Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill was launched by Jenny Marra MSP in September 2013 and is currently out to consultation until 6 January 2014.This Bill aims to make Scotland the hardest destination in the world for human traffickers to operate and has been hailed as a 'gold standard' in legislation by human rights experts and lawyers. It adopts standards based on the recognised Palermo Protocol into Scots Law, as well as defining for the very first time the offence of human trafficking, tackling the criminalisation of victims and placing obligations on the Scottish government and other public sector bodies to raise awareness and enforcement of these offences. Given that a victim of human trafficking is found in Scotland every four days, it does not seem too much to ask.

The Evangelical Alliance in Scotland has been heavily involved with partners in this area as part of the Abolition Scotland (www.abolitionscotland.org.uk) coalition and we are encouraging supporters to respond before the closing date which falls immediately after the Christmas holiday.

As Christians we believe that human trafficking is one of the biggest offences to human dignity currently in operation in Scotland and the Church has a wonderful opportunity to take up our evangelical heritage as those who fight against slavery in our land. To help campaign for this we've set up a web portal on the Abolition Scotland website to help provide easy access to the consultation and are encouraged by the number of responses from Christians across Scotland so far. Please do respond to the consultation by 6 January, and if there are any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with Kieran at info@eauk.org or the Evangelical Alliance Scotland Office on 0141 548 1555.

The Evangelical Alliance is also part of a coalition of fifteen organisations encouraging the Church to respond to the Modern Slavery Bill, calling on the UK government to add stronger measures to ensure it is effective and reduces trafficking and slavery. Find out more about this coalition and read their briefing for the Church.