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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-00345: Michael Russell (Argyll and Bute)

Scottish National Party

Date lodged: 1 June 2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether the provisions of the new legislation on trafficking will assist the Bangledeshi citizens who experienced conditions akin to slavery when employed at the Stewart Hotel near Appin.

Answered by: Michael Matheson 14 June 2016

The Scottish Government cannot comment on individual cases.

However, we are working in partnership with criminal justice agencies and support organisations to make Scotland a more hostile environment for trafficking and exploitation and to ensure that victims are given the support and assistance they need.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2015. The first provisions came into force on 31 May 2016 and implementation of the rest of the Act is ongoing.

The Act will make it simpler to take action by introducing a single offence for all kinds of trafficking for the first time, consolidating and strengthening existing law.

The Act raises the maximum penalty for trafficking to life imprisonment and gives police and prosecutors greater powers to detect and prosecute those responsible through a new set of tools to prevent and punish trafficking. The Act requires the Lord Advocate to issue instructions to prosecutors about how trafficking victims should be treated if they are alleged to have committed an offence.

The Act also provides clear rights to adult victims to access support and assistance, and places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to ensure that guardians are available for all children who reasonably appear to have been trafficked or to be vulnerable to being trafficked, where no one in the UK holds parental rights and responsibilities in relation to such a child.

In addition to the legislative measures themselves, the Act requires Scottish Ministers to develop, for the first time, a Scottish trafficking and exploitation strategy. This strategy must be published by 31 May 2017. It will be laid before Parliament and will be reviewed after three years.

The strategy will set out the Scottish Government’s approach and commitment to tackling human trafficking in Scotland by identifying victims and giving them the support and protection they need and by disrupting the activities of traffickers. The strategy is currently being developed in partnership with stakeholders such as local authorities, Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the NHS so as to ensure that awareness of human trafficking is embedded across all Scotland’s public services.