Prostitution Law Reform – an extra week to have your say!

Find out more and have your say: visit prostitutionreform.scot.

Women from the Sex Workers' Open University demostrate with red umbrellas and placards reading 'Solidarity with sex workers'.
Photo: Sex Workers’ Open University
Scots now have until Tuesday 8 December to give their views on Jean’s proposal for a new law to protect the rights and safety of sex workers by decriminalising activities associated with the buying and selling of sex, and by strengthening measures against coercion.

The public consultation on the proposed Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill was due to close on Tuesday 1 December, but Jean has extended the deadline by seven days in response to a late flurry of submissions, and after receiving requests from some important stakeholders for extra time to finalise their comments.

Jean has launched a new website, prostitutionreform.scot, to provide easy-to-understand information and evidence on her proposals, and to guide you through the process of submitting your response to the consultation. You can also download the consultation document, which includes full details on how to contribute your views.

Jean worked closely with sex workers’ rights charity SCOT-PEP in the development of her proposals, which are based on successful reform in New Zealand, and are also backed by HIV Scotland and NUS Scotland.

The new law would:

  • Permit small groups of sex workers (up to four) to work together from the same premises, and for larger premises to be licensed. Currently, even two sex workers who work together for safety are criminalised for brothel-keeping – forcing sex workers to work alone increases their vulnerability to violence.
  • Scrap laws against soliciting and kerb-crawling. Evidence shows both measures reduce the amount of time sex workers have to assess their safety and agree services, which again increases their vulnerability to violence.
  • Extend protection against coercion, which only applies to female sex workers under current legislation, and make those provisions more robust – in line with what sex workers say they need.
  • Permit sex workers to have joint finances with their families or flatmates. Currently the partners and family of sex workers are criminalised, which is isolating and stigmatising, and assumes coercion rather than tackling coercion directly.

Jean said:

“We’ve had a great response to the consultation so far, with a huge diversity of viewpoints from across Scotland and as far afield as Canada and Namibia.

“As the initial deadline nears we’ve had a rush of responses, but there are also some important Scottish stakeholders who have told us they are still developing their submissions.

“I think it’s essential we give everyone the maximum possible opportunity to have their say, so we’ve decided to extend the deadline for responses by a week. You can now contribute to the consultation up until Tuesday the 8th of December.

“I urge everyone to read the proposal and give their views. None of it is in technical language and it’s been prepared in partnership with people with direct experience of sex work. You can give your views entirely in your own words and there’s no need to produce a long response – whatever you want to say is valuable.

“Despite the support for decriminalisation offered by organisations from Amnesty International to the World Health Organisation, I know these proposals will be controversial. Some think sex work is simply immoral, or cannot be made safer, or that punishing clients can be done without harming sex workers. Others claim that sex workers are somehow themselves responsible for the problems of a sexist society.

“I hope everyone will take this opportunity to take a look at my proposals, make up their own mind and have their say.”

Nadine Stott, co-chair of SCOT-PEP, said:

“We are incredibly grateful to Jean Urquhart for bringing forward the first comprehensive set of proposals designed to allow sex workers to work safely in Scotland. The purchase and sale of sex is currently legal, but in general, the law prevents sex workers from being able to work safely, and that must end. There is no reason why sex work should only be permissible if a single person works alone in their flat, for example. That law leaves sex workers vulnerable to violence and exploitation, as do the current laws on street-based sex work, which also seriously hamper sex workers’ ability to move onto other work.

“The evidence from New Zealand, where similar proposals were passed in 2003 in close consultation with sex worker-led organisations, is that putting safety first works. The New Zealand model reduces violence, enables sex workers to have greater confidence in reporting crimes to the police. It has also not led to an increase in sex work.

“We look forward to supporting this process through Parliament, to seeing responses to the consultation, and to working with MSPs to put sex workers’ safety at the heart of the debate for the first time.”

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Congratulations to Scotland’s new UNESCO geoparks

Kayaking round Achiltibuie. Photo: North West Highlands Geopark
Kayaking round Achiltibuie. Photo: North West Highlands Geopark
Scotland’s two Geoparks, in Shetland and the North West Highlands, have been awarded the new UNESCO Global Geopark status, and Jean has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to congratulate the teams behind the success.

Representatives of UNESCO’s 195 member states created the Global Geopark designation at their General Conference, which was held in Paris between 3 November and 18 November. It is the first major new UNESCO designation to be created for over 40 years, and ranks the Shetland and North West Highland Geoparks alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves.

Jean said:

“UNESCO Global Geopark designation is a well-deserved tribute both to the exceptional importance and beauty of Scotland’s geology, to the dedication of everyone who contributed to the creation and development of Shetland Geopark and North West Highlands Geopark, and to the Scottish Government’s vital support of the parks.

“The new status reflects the how important it is to understand our geological history, and how important our geology is to our future – from developing our energy economy to dealing with the consequences of climate change.

“It’s fitting that two of the very first UNESCO Global Geoparks are here in Scotland, the place where James Hutton invented the science of geology and proved that the earth is ever-changing.

“Our Geoparks honour two of the world’s most scientifically important and visually stunning landscapes, and do brilliant work developing their educational and tourist potential.

“Shetland’s complicated fault lines mean that you can see rock types otherwise found scattered across the North of Scotland, side by side. Geologically, Shetland is the Highlands in miniature and a visit to the Geopark is a whirlwind tour of billions of years of Scotland’s history.

“The North West Highlands are home to the oldest rocks in Britain. At 3 Billion years old, some are well over half the age of the planet. The Moine Thrust that runs right through the North West Highlands Geopark was instrumental in proving that the continents are moving – a debate that wasn’t settled until the 1960s.

“I’m so happy for the teams that have worked so hard to bring these ancient stories to life, and I’m sure their new global status will help them delight and inform many, many more visitors from across Scotland and around the world.”

Jean’s Scottish Parliament motion reads:

Motion S4M-14907: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 19/11/2015

Scotland’s UNESCO Global Geoparks

That the Parliament congratulates Shetland Geopark and North West Highlands Geopark on becoming UNESCO Global Geoparks; understands that Global Geopark status is the first new UNESCO designation of its kind to be created in over 40 years; considers that this status now ranks the Shetland and North West Highland parks alongside UNESCO World Heritage Sites in importance and esteem; recognises with gratitude the work of everyone who contributed to Scotland’s two Geoparks receiving and retaining the European Geopark Network green card status, which allowed them to become two of the inaugural 118 Global Geoparks worldwide; welcomes the support of the Scottish Government, which it believes has been crucial to the development of both Geoparks, and looks forward to the Geoparks’ continued success in bringing what it considers the fascinating story of Scotland’s geological history to visitors from across Scotland and around the world through the Global Network of Geoparks.