ONE million pounds is a lot of money for anyone, but it’s a small fortune for sex workers.

Regrettably, this amount of money was given to Sacro to fund a “safety app for women involved in prostitution”. Whilst this may sound admirable, the truth is far less pleasant.

Sacro run a service for sex workers called Another Way, aiming at helping to get women out of prostitution. This aim runs in complete contrast to what is actually demanded by groups like Scot-Pep, a Scottish sex worker-led organisation, who demand decriminalisation of sex work, and an end to abuses towards sex workers from police and immigration enforcement.

As a sex worker I’m deeply concerned about this funding decision. I think it is ludicrous that the government is willing to spend £1m on an app, but refuse to fund sex-worker-rights organisations led by actual sex workers. This precedent suggests that the reasoning behind this investment is less to do with a desire to help sex workers, and more to do with a desire to gather data around our lives.

It is no secret that the Home Office get frustrated that data around sex workers is so tightly protected amongst our allies in the service provision area, NHS services and academia, and I certainly worry that this move to push an app out to sex workers is little more than a data-gathering process.

We know that apps are regularly used as methods to gather data, and that installing an app can give it access to our locations, contacts, and even use of our camera. This is deeply worrying when the app will be being built and run by an organisation which in the past has stated that the women in prostitution have no choice, but the punters that buy us have all the choice, alongside sharing articles in favour of criminalising sex buyers highlighting that “prostitution doesn’t promote the status of women”.

When people who seek to see us eradicated under the guise of abolition of our industry get access to our personal data and an overarching ability to track us, and see who we communicate with, I struggle to not foresee that data being used in the push to change legislation in a way that will negatively impact on us as sex workers.

£1m is a life-changing amount of money that could be used for so much good amongst people involved in my industry. To see it spent on an app is maddening when I know so many people for whom even a slice of that money could radically change their lives, and even lead them into alternative employment. As a sex worker who is working to pay off debt that I have built up by working on a masters degree this year, with the hope of moving into traditional employment, this stings even more.

As a member of Scottish society, and as a sex worker, I implore the UK Government to rethink this decision, and to share this money amongst people who will use it to improve their own livelihoods, and not to give it to those who claim to work for us, but from a position far up the societal ladder.

Carly Bell
Address supplied

JUST last week the Scottish Government distributed another £500,000 or so to help combat sectarianism, bringing the total spend in this area since 2012 to a staggering £14 million. However, does anyone think there has been a significant drop in sectarianism in Scotland? It appears not.

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Yet again more sectarian bile is on open display at football matches, so much so that a senior police officer who spent almost 30 years working in Northern Ireland has expressed surprise at the “almost visceral” level of sectarianism in Scottish football. The only legislation which seemed to have had an impact was the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which was repealed thanks to Labour MSP James Kelly. Unfortunately he never thought of introducing anything to replace it and we have seen a rise in trouble at football grounds across Scotland. Hopefully the new legislation proposed by SNP MSP James Dornan will have an impact, but in the meantime maybe someone should look at how the £14m spent tackling sectarianism has worked out and find alternatives that will actually reduce sectarianism.

Cllr Kenny MacLaren