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SCOTLAND’S political parties are also divided on their approach to sex work. The LibDems and Greens support full decriminalisation, while Labour and the SNP support Nordic model-style policies.

A resolution to mirror the Scandinavian law in Scotland was passed at the SNP’s 2017 spring conference. It was originally proposed by Community Safety Minister Ash Denham, who argued the law would help tackle gender-based violence and human trafficking.

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said they were “focussed on preventing vulnerable individuals entering prostitution, reducing the harm associated with the selling of sexual services, and supporting those who wish to leave.

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“The law is clear that no one can be forced into sexual activity without their consent, and we encourage the prosecution of those who seek to exploit others.

“We are working in partnership with criminal justice agencies and support organisations to make Scotland as hostile an environment for trafficking and exploitation as it can be, and to ensure victims receive the support they need.”

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In 2012, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant lodged a bill to criminalise the purchase of sex, which did not pass. She said the law had “led to the reduction of street prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden and that has to be celebrated.”

“Essentially it is a three-pronged approach; decriminalising those in prostitution, criminalising buyers and those exploiting people in prostitution and essentially providing support to exit,” she said.

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“The Nordic model also makes it easier for women to report violence because they have been decriminalised and the buyer has already committed a crime by buying sex, making it easier to prosecute.”

The Scottish Greens’ justice spokesperson John Finnie MSP said that the law “should not put the safety, health, and wellbeing of sex workers at greater risk”. He said the recent Irish stats “reinforce longstanding concerns that the Nordic model doesn’t offer sex workers the protections they need”.

READ MORE: Sex workers urge SNP to overturn conference support for ‘dangerous’ new prostitution laws

The Scottish LibDems overwhelmingly rejected the Nordic model at the party’s conference in February.

“The current law is failing in its duty to protect sex workers,” a party spokeswoman told The Ferret. “Numerous international agencies and charities hold up a model of full decriminalisation of sex work as best practice.”


NADINE Stott, the chair of sex worker charity SCOT-PEP, said that it was “sadly not surprising that the Nordic model makes sex workers less safe”.

“This is something sex workers themselves have known since the law’s inception,” she added.

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Stott explained that a client is able to “use their worry about criminalisation” to dictate the place of meeting. Men can also pressure sex workers to get into their car before discussing “services, prices and condom-use”.

“The implications for the sex worker’s safety are obvious”, Stott said.

She continued: “The other huge problem with the Nordic model is that it doesn’t decriminalise sex workers.

“In Ireland, it actually increased the penalties sex workers face for working together, while in France, local authorities retain the ability to fine street-based workers.”


DR Anastacia Elle Ryan, the director of a sex worker support charity in Glasgow called Umbrella Lane, said the Irish statistics showed that “any form of criminalisation of sex work has the effect of reducing sex workers’ ability to report violent crimes, exploitation and abuse.”

She claimed that making some elements of the industry illegal in Scotland had deterred sex workers from approaching “agencies that work in partnership with police”.

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Ryan called for “a ‘Scottish model’ of regulating sex work that would decriminalise the industry”. 

She also urged authorities to strengthen “laws against actual and not perceived coercion and exploitation”.

She said that an approach “designed with sex workers and sex worker-led organisations at the policy-making table” would show that the Scottish Government is serious about ensuring that women’s rights are protected by law.


THE Women’s Support Project are a group leading End Prostitution Now, a campaign to make the purchase of sex illegal in Scotland. 

A spokeswoman for the group said it supports approaches that do not criminalise sex workers, and which “hold to account those who profit from the sexual exploitation of others” while reducing demand.

She added: “We share the Scottish Government’s view that prostitution is not compatible with gender equality, and it therefore follows that we do not support calls to decriminalise those who profit from the exploitation of others, such as brothel owners.”


GLASGOW’S Violence Against Women Partnership, another group involved in End Prostitution Now, said it supported the decriminalisation of sex work. 

A spokeswoman commented: “Those who create the demand by paying for sex should be targeted by the law, along with those who profit from human misery, such as pimps and human traffickers.”

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