Trafficking and exploitation strategy: review

Sets out our second review of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, first published in 2017 and reviewed in 2020. The review sought to identify if the strategy remained fit for purpose

and reflected the policy and operational landscape associated with Scotland.

3. Review conclusions and next steps

The review sought to answer several fundamental questions.

  • To what extent has the Strategy been implemented and complied with?
  • What elements of the Strategy remain fit for purpose in 2023?
  • What elements are now out of date and require refreshing?
  • Should a new Strategy be published and, if so, what changes are needed in a new Strategy?

The main conclusions of the review are set out here for each of these questions. However, behind these high level conclusions there is a wealth of information and reflections which will be retained to inform our future approach.

3.1 To what extent has the Strategy been implemented and complied with?

As set out in each of the four annual progress reports, a significant amount of work has taken place across Scotland since publication of the Strategy in 2017 to improve support for victims, tackle perpetrators and address the causes of trafficking. Meaningful progress has been made towards each of the key outcomes in the Strategy, and the specific short-, medium- and longer-term actions have generally been either completed or moved forward. Some specific areas requiring attention were identified during the review, such as work to implement Duty to Notify and the requirement for a more strategic approach to awareness raising and training opportunities. More detailed information is provided at Annex C.

Later this year, we will publish our fifth annual progress report charting the latest developments in Strategy implementation and this will include a detailed assessment of progress against each action within the Strategy.

It is clear that partners and stakeholders are committed to tackling human trafficking, and to using the Strategy as a framework for this. Section 37 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 enables Ministers, by regulations, to specify which Scottish public authorities should be subject to a duty to cooperate on the Strategy; however, the lack of a statutory duty has been no barrier to bodies engaging with and helping to deliver the Strategy.

Feedback from stakeholders set out that the Strategy remains a key framework for assisting partners in tackling trafficking and exploitation and, as identified in the 2020 review, the Strategy has been largely complied with and adhered to by partners. As outlined in the 2020 review, some of this work has been done by the Scottish Government directly, some has been done by partners on their own initiative, and some has been the result of collaborative working between partners under the Action Areas.

3.2 What elements of the Strategy remain fit for purpose in 2023?

Feedback from stakeholders suggested that the three Action Areas and the Child Trafficking strand remain suitable and appropriate pillars upon which to centre our efforts to combat trafficking and exploitation. However, some stakeholders suggested that within the Action Areas, a new Strategy could refine where responsibility rested to ensure a more coherent approach to certain priorities, such as training and awareness raising. Stakeholders also remarked that a number of the overarching objectives within the Strategy remain core aspirations and continue to provide important guidance.

As such, a new Strategy should look to cohere the Action Areas and improve the interconnectedness of work under each Action Area, improving the flow of information sharing, cross-group working and learning.

3.3 What elements are now out of date and require refreshing?

A number of the goals within the Strategy, as set in 2017, are no longer relevant, either as a result of progress or as a result of evolving priorities. As such, it was concluded that the Key Performance Indicators warranted a refresh to bring them in line with policy and operational developments. This will be detailed within the fifth annual progress report.

3.4 Should a new Strategy be published and, if so, what changes are needed in a new Strategy?

From the extensive engagement undertaken, it was clear that stakeholders’ unanimous view was that a refresh of the Strategy should be prioritised and this would allow us to reflect the changing landscape and evolving workstreams in our attempts to combat human trafficking. This was a view shared by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who, in their report of July 2023, raised the potential for a refreshed Strategy and provided a number of indicators and factors they would like to see reflected in a revised framework.

As a result of this programme of engagement, the Minister for Victims and Community Safety has directed that the Scottish Government undertake a refresh of the 2017 Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy following the publication of the fifth annual report. This will look to reflect the operational realities since 2017, progress in Scotland’s attempts to combat trafficking and exploitation, and set objectives for the future.

This work will be undertaken in partnership with stakeholders and will be informed by the lived experience of trafficking survivors. It will also utilise information gathered as part of this review. The refresh will also reflect the evolving legislative environment including the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Act which has the potential to significantly alter the system of support for victims.

As part of this refresh, we will review membership of the governance structure and the process by which annual reports into the Strategy are conducted and published. Stakeholders welcomed continued annual reporting, but we should ensure that the measures and review methodology deployed are meaningful and representative of the progress made.



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