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Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st May 2018.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to tackle human trafficking and rising sexual violence in Scotland. (S5F-02409)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The long-term increase in recorded sexual crime in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom is due to a range of factors, including victims having more confidence to come forward to report to police what has happened to them. We will shortly be publishing the first annual progress report on the implementation of our trafficking and exploitation strategy. That report will set out the wide range of action taken since publication of the strategy last May.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

This week, we heard again from the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers how Roma children and young women in Govanhill are being sold into sex slavery by gangsters while others live eight to 10 to a room working 12-hour days for a pittance in return. The Scottish Government published its strategy on trafficking and exploitation a year ago. Will the First Minister give us some highlights of an assessment of how the strategy is working in practice, whether it is achieving everything that it aimed to achieve and when we can hope to put an end to this human tragedy?

The First Minister:

I am obviously very well aware of concerns that are raised about Govanhill; it is an issue that I speak to the police about regularly. My message is first that people should come forward and report to the police any concerns that they have. I know that the police rigorously investigate and have investigated all concerns that have come forward to them.

More generally on the strategy, as I said in my original answer, we will shortly be publishing the first annual progress report on implementation of the strategy, which will set out the range of actions that have been taken since publication and we will also look at the further action that requires to be taken.

The areas that we have been working on include, for example, raising awareness and strengthening the protection for victims of trafficking. We have also increased funding for victims of trafficking. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 strengthens the legal protections and the police powers that are available to tackle this. We will continue to take those actions. I think that the member described it as a “human tragedy”. It is a human tragedy that any individual is trafficked or subject to exploitation in this way. We must treat it as such, and the Scottish Government will continue to treat it extremely seriously.