Trafficking and exploitation strategy: third annual progress report

Annual progress report and review of the trafficking and exploitation strategy and a report setting out implementation progress in 2019 to 2020.

Section 3: Action Area 3 – Address the conditions that foster trafficking and exploitation

Implementation Structures

Action Area 3 focuses on addressing the conditions that allow trafficking to take place. Key issues for this group include public awareness of trafficking, the role of businesses and other communities in preventing trafficking, and addressing the wider conditions, including poverty and inequality, which make trafficking possible and profitable.

The Action Area 3 Implementation Group meets on a quarterly basis. The group is chaired by the Scottish Government.

Membership of the group includes:

  • Scottish Government (human trafficking policy, procurement policy, homelessness policy, organised crime policy, equality policy)
  • Police Scotland
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
  • Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner's office
  • Renfrewshire Council
  • Stirling University Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection
  • Brightwork Recruitment
  • Hope for Justice
  • International Justice Mission (IJM)

Looking back

The second annual progress report identified five different strands of work that Action Area 3 would continue to deliver and take forward during 2019/20, further detail of which can be found in this chapter. These were:

  • Public awareness raising activity will continue, including work with partners to co-ordinate opportunities and approaches. A key focus will be on Anti-Trafficking Day, 18 October 2019.
  • The Scottish Government will give further consideration to the latest TNS Survey results and use the findings to shape our messaging in the coming year.
  • The Action Area 3 Implementation Group will develop existing links with the Consortium of Anti-Trafficking Researchers in Scotland (CATRiS) to ensure that research can benefit policy and practice in Scotland.
  • The Corporate Group will consider next steps on business engagement in order to mitigate the risks of trafficking and exploitation within operations.
  • The Scottish Government will consider the publication of a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement.

Key outcome: people know about the extent of trafficking in Scotland

A fundamental challenge in addressing trafficking in Scotland is identifying where it is taking place. Trafficking can be a hidden crime, with perpetrators going to great lengths to keep it so. Victims of trafficking can only get the support they need if they come to the attention of those who are able to help them. The public have an important role in recognising the potential signs of trafficking and reporting any concerns appropriately, in order to help bring traffickers to justice and get support to those who have been exploited.

The Scottish Government commissioned a fourth annual public awareness study in early 2020 to build on evidence from previous years on whether awareness is improving and what aspects continue to prove challenging. As in previous years, this was planned as a series of around 1000 face-to-face surveys with a sample weighted to match population profiles of the Scottish population.

However, only one of the four waves of face-to-face surveys had been completed this year when these had to be stopped due to the COVID-19 restrictions. In the circumstances, a decision was made to restart the survey using online methodology (1,006 adults, during the first week of April). 317 face-to-face interviews had already been completed and the results of these surveys have been incorporated into the report as a separate dataset.

The face-to-face dataset is limited by its small sample size and lack of population weighting. However, it provides a better comparator with previous years because of the consistent methodology, and the findings are generally in line with previous surveys. The results of the online survey cannot be directly compared with previous years' surveys.

It continues to be true that respondents see human trafficking as less of an issue closer to home. In the latest survey, 41% of online and 60% of face-to-face respondents viewed human trafficking as an issue 'to a great extent' in Europe but this reduces to 14% (online) and 13% (face-to-face) of respondents who believe it is an issue 'to a great extent' in Scotland.

This year, there was a noticeable increase in respondents who think that human trafficking is an issue 'to a great extent' in their local area of Scotland – rising from 4% in 2019 to 8% in 2020 in the online survey. While this increase cannot be directly compared due to the change in methodology, greater awareness of issues in the local area is positive.

When respondents were asked what they would do if they suspected someone had been trafficked and was being exploited, 86% of the online respondents said they would report concerns to police, which is an increase of 3% on the results in 2019. Again, this is a positive indicator.

More detail on the findings of the surveys can be found in the report which is available online.[13]

The move to an online survey for 2020 was an unplanned response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has provided a helpful comparison in methodologies, which will be considered in planning any future surveys.

The Scottish Government promotes the UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline (08000 121 700) in marketing materials and communications activity, encouraging members of the public to report any concerns they may have through the phone line, website or app.

The helpline has published quarterly reports covering 2019, though their annual report was not yet available at the time of writing this report. These reports show that the total number of referrals to the helpline from Scotland increased slightly – from 180 in 2018 to 190 in 2019 – and that the route for reporting had shifted significantly towards online rather than the phone line – 37% of 2019 referrals were online or app-based compared with only 21% in 2018. This demonstrates the importance of offering online referral routes to the public, which is a specific commitment in the Strategy.

"If he [the buyer] doesn’t kill me, the man [trafficker] will. You just have to do it. Who would know if I was dead?"

The Scottish Government had planned a marketing campaign to raise public awareness of human trafficking, following on from the successful campaign in autumn 2017. This was to include digital, tv and press adverts, and new materials were developed, focusing specifically on raising understanding of how to spot the signs of trafficking. The campaign was planned to launch in May 2020, but given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to push this back to later in 2020 when it may have greater impact.

The Scottish Government and partners have continued to make use of opportunities for news coverage of human trafficking issues, including the launch in June 2019 of the Duty to Notify consultation and in October of the NHS and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) human trafficking guidance documents. In March 2020, the joint communications planning group was reformed to improve coordination and effectiveness of messaging. This group includes Police Scotland, Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), Migrant Help, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and others.

The Consortium of Anti-Trafficking Researchers in Scotland (CATRiS), is now entering its second year of operation and sits at the nexus between researchers at Scottish Higher Education institutions, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the third sector in Scotland. CATRiS is exploring its potential to develop into a full research hub for Scotland, or to remain as a liaison and collaboration service helping to form partnerships between independent researchers throughout the Higher Education sector in Scotland.

Scotland boasts a significant number of committed and knowledgeable researchers, policymakers and practitioners in this and related areas, and the benefits of building partnerships between these different sets, with a shared focus, cannot be ignored. Researchers in Scotland, although often not focusing directly on anti-trafficking issues, nevertheless span areas of research that explore the drivers of trafficking, and the potential responses to it. There is a need for knowledge gaps to be identified, possible research work to be explored and authors brought together to share ideas, collaborate, and feed evidence forward to those stakeholders that are providing a direct policy or practitioner response in the area of anti-trafficking.

Funding is being actively pursued, with CATRiS looking to potentially operate on five platforms:

  • Stewardship: providing a central repository of information;
  • Teaching and Research: anti-trafficking information in the curriculum of universities across Scotland;
  • Raising Awareness: throughout student and staff communities in universities;
  • Civic Leadership; supplying data and evidence to inform policy development in government; and
  • Information Sharing: with enforcement and charity agencies working on the frontline of trafficking.

During October 2019, the Rah Rah Community Theatre Company again brought its production of 'My Mind Is Free' to Scotland to mark Anti-Slavery Day. The production tells the interlinked stories of four people trafficked to and within the UK and their horrifying experiences. Through funding from the Scottish Government in partnership with Migrant Help, ACTS (Action of Churches Together Scotland), Foundation Scotland and the Souter Charitable Trust, nine performances were delivered across the country in venues ranging from secondary schools to the Scottish Parliament.

The compelling depiction of trafficking and exploitation through the production is a powerful tool in raising awareness of this issue with multiple segments of society.

Key outcome: people and businesses are aware of how what they do and buy can contribute to this crime

Businesses have a key role in identifying, tackling and preventing human trafficking. The Scottish Government established a Corporate Group to engage business interests and support implementation of the Strategy in 2017. Plans to expand and relaunch the Corporate Group in 2020 have had to be delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but will be picked up later in the year.

Following the independent review of the UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015, the Home Office held a public consultation in July-September 2019 around reforms to the obligation on businesses to produce and publish Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements. The Scottish Government supported this process, including hosting a joint session with the Home Office and Scottish stakeholders to ensure their views were captured. The reforms which were consulted on include more specific requirements around what statements should contain, introduction of some degree of enforcement, and an extension of the obligation to public sector bodies that meet the budget threshold.

Public procurement is also crucial. Buyers across the public sector in Scotland are being encouraged to consider human trafficking and exploitation systematically alongside other socio-economic and environmental factors through use of the national sustainable procurement tools and supporting guidance.[14] The tools and guidance have been designed to help public bodies comply with policy and legislation, including how to take an ethical approach in their procurement activity. To promote a range of measures in place aimed at helping to reduce the risk of human trafficking and exploitation in the performance of public contracts, a Scottish Procurement Policy Note (SPPN 3/2020)[15] was published in February 2020.

Tools and resources that were developed primarily for public sector use can also be useful to the private sector, and this was a key learning point from a Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) East of Scotland event in February 2020, delivered jointly with the Scottish Government.

The key aims of civic licensing are the preservation of public safety and the prevention of crime. The legislative framework for a discretionary civic licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) has been in place in Scotland since late April 2019. The Scottish Government has also published guidance to assist local authorities in relation to their licensing of SEVs. Local authorities are best placed to reflect the views of the communities they serve, and the discretionary licensing regime for SEVs allows them to consider local circumstances in setting the number – which can be zero - of SEVs permitted to operate within their area, and thereafter to exercise appropriate control and regulation of these venues. Where a local authority decides to licence SEVs, licensing conditions and enforcement will help to protect the safety and wellbeing of performers, customers and the wider public; and will also help to reduce the risk of criminality such as prostitution. This means that local communities benefit from a safer, regulated environment.

Key outcome: people at most risk get help to increase their resilience against trafficking

The UK's exit from the European Union, associated ending of free movement and the UK Government's proposals for the Future Border and Immigration System will have a disproportionate effect on Scotland, which has benefitted from welcoming high levels of EU citizens to live, work and study.

The agricultural and soft fruits sectors will be particularly affected given average lower salaries and the lack of formal educational requirements associated with these roles. As a result, there is likely to be an increased reliance on short-term working visa schemes to fill labour shortages and a need to ensure workers participating in these schemes are safe and supported.

The Scottish Government has agreed funding of £48,000 to Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) over 2019/20 and 2020/21 towards an anti-trafficking and exploitation project aimed at workers participating in the UK Government's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Pilot Scheme (SWPS). The SWPS was launched in spring 2019 to allow 2,500 non-EU workers to come to the UK to work in edible horticulture (fruit and vegetables) for a six month period.

FLEX will partner with Fife Migrants Forum to develop:

  • Information tools for workers to understand their labour rights and entitlements and to document their hours, conditions and treatment at work;
  • Direct outreach with workers to collect on-going information about conditions and link the workers to available support services;
  • Ongoing engagement and information sharing with a range of stakeholders including the Scottish Government Human Trafficking Team, Agricultural Wages Board and the GLAA; and
  • Documentation of the key risks and vulnerabilities to human trafficking and exploitation, and proposing concrete strategies to prevent labour exploitation for future workers coming to the UK.

The COVID-19 pandemic will impact on the seasonal workers scheme, but FLEX have developed a restructured approach which maintains the quality and value of the project.

Child Poverty

Delivering reductions in child poverty remains a key priority for Scottish Ministers, in line with the ambitious targets committed within the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017. In 2018/19, it was estimated that the Scottish Government invested over £1.4 billion in funding to support low income households, £527 million of which was targeted directly at children in low income families. The Scottish Budget 2020/21 outlined that expected investment in the coming year would be of at least that level.

Scottish Ministers published their first annual report on progress in June 2019.[16] This outlined that 48 of the 58 actions committed in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan (2018-22), are either in progress or delivered. Key progress includes:

  • Introducing the new game-changing Scottish Child Payment, worth £10 a week per child to low-income families with a child under six, by the end of this year – significantly ahead of the timetable set out in the Delivery Plan.
  • Increasing the School Clothing Grant, from the start of the 2018/19 academic year, to a new minimum of £100 per eligible child, in partnership with local authorities, benefitting 120,000 children each year.
  • Using our new social security powers to put money directly in the pockets of those who need it, including £12.4 million for the Best Start Grant, across the three payments, which can provide a two child family with financial support of £1,900 in their children's early years, as well as an £8 million investment in 2019/20 for Best Start Foods so families on low incomes can purchase additional healthy and nutritious foods for young children.
  • Investing £3.3 million in The Money Talk Team service which has helped 7,223 low income households share over £13 million – averaging £1,800 each – through increased benefit uptake and savings on essential services.

Scottish Ministers will continue to report annually on progress made in relation to both the targets set and delivery of actions committed.

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants

As detailed in the second annual progress report, the second New Scots[17] refugee integration strategy was published in January 2018. It is led by a partnership between the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council and involves a wide range of partners across different sectors.

The New Scots vision is for a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive, and the strategy sees integration as a long-term, two-way process, involving positive change in both individuals and host communities, leading to cohesive, diverse communities. It recognises that refugees and asylum seekers may have been trafficked on their journey to Scotland and can be vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers and others as they seek safety. The Year 1 progress report[18] was published in April 2019, setting out a summary of the first year of implementation.

COSLA, jointly with the Scottish Government, published guidance[19] in February 2019 to assist Scottish local authorities in meeting their statutory duties to support migrants and asylum seekers who have no recourse to public funds and are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. It provides information for people working in all sectors, who need to establish support options and entitlement to services, and highlights specific considerations for working with children and young people, adults with disabilities, and survivors of trafficking or domestic abuse that may require a targeted response.


We are committed to preventing and ending homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland. We are doing this through our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan,[20] which sets out how we are acting together across public services to implement shared solutions to these challenging issues. This is backed by our £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund, which aims to transform homelessness services.

Given the crucial role of getting people into settled housing as quickly as possible, £32.5 million has been invested in ending homelessness through the delivery of Rapid Rehousing and Housing First in partnership with local authorities. The progress report,[21] published on 14 January 2020, showed that 39 out of 49 measures had been progressed in the first year of the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, with the remainder to be progressed during 2020.

The work on meeting the measures contained in the action plan helped contribute towards a rapid and co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support homeless people in Scotland. Since 23 March, we have provided around £700,000 to third sector organisations to enable them to acquire emergency hotel accommodation for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness such as rough sleepers and people with no recourse to public funds.

We have introduced emergency legislation to increase the eviction notice period, depending on the grounds used, for up to six months for private and social tenants. This will protect private and social tenants from eviction and provide security to households facing financial hardship in the coming months. Rapid rehousing and Housing First will be at the centre of our COVID-19 recovery strategy.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and gender inequality make women vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. The Scottish Government is committed to tackling violence against women and girls and is implementing Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy to prevent and ultimately eradicate this violence. In November 2017, the Scottish Government and COSLA published a delivery plan containing 118 commitments across four priority areas to help prevent violence before it occurs, strengthen frontline services and hold perpetrators to account.

Following publication of the Delivery Plan, these work streams were disbanded and progress with the strategy is now driven forward through governance mechanisms. These include a Joint Strategic Board which is chaired at Minister and Spokesperson level, and a Joint Delivery Group to ensure that each action is being delivered and multi-agency working is embedded both nationally and locally.

As part of the ongoing implementation of National Outcome 4 of Equally Safe, which commits to action so that 'men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls, and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response,' the event "Purchasing Power – Men Who Buy Sex" was held on 3 March 2020. This was organised by a partnership between Glasgow City Council Women's Services, NHS Health Scotland and the Women's Support Project it. The conference explored the links between commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of violence against women and highlighted efforts to tackle this nationally and internationally. The event was opened by Ash Denham, MSP, Minister for Community Safety.

"Trafficked women are the ones with the experience, we know what we have been through and how it all works."

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Scotland's National Performance Framework[22] (NPF) integrates the 17 SDGs alongside the 11 National Outcomes and is an important part of Scotland's localisation of the SDG agenda. The NPF provides a platform for collaboration based on delivering the National Outcomes and the SDGs. Action is required on both the Outcomes and SDGs simultaneously. The main mechanisms by which the UN nations are expected to report on their performance towards the SDGs are "Voluntary National Reviews" (VNR).

The UK Government VNR,[23] with contributions from the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations was published in June 2019 and presented to the UN by the UK Government Secretary of State for International Development in July 2019. The Scottish Supplementary Review, developed collaboratively with COSLA and the SDG Network Scotland will be published in spring 2020.

Scotland's Wellbeing – Delivering the National Outcomes[24] was published in May 2019. This report shows how Scotland has changed and how Scotland is placed, one year on from the publication of the refreshed NPF. The report brings together existing data and analysis on key issues, trends and features which the evidence suggests are important to consider when making decisions on policy, services and spending.

International action

One element of the prevention focus of Action Area 3 is considering the international aspects of trafficking. By improving links and taking early action it is possible to address trafficking before victims reach Scotland, and improved provision for the return of survivors can prevent re-trafficking.

Police Scotland has continued to strengthen its international approach to trafficking despite the challenges of Brexit, including through secondment of Romanian officers and work towards the secondment of Vietnamese officers. More detail on this can be found in the Action Area 2 section.

International roundtable

In November 2019, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice chaired a roundtable discussion attended by the Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders involved in international work related to human trafficking. The meeting was a very useful step in considering what more the Scottish Government could do internationally. A number of points were also raised around the lack of empirical data, how best to share knowledge and research publicly and work with regulatory bodies to explore opportunities to utilise existing licensing powers to tackle exploitation in small businesses.

Looking Forward

Although significant progress has been made in engaging with businesses in Scotland, raising awareness and increasing compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, there is an opportunity to build on this by building partnerships with key Scottish business leaders, including through strengthening and relaunching the Corporate Group.

Following the Home Office's consultation on strengthening TISC requirements, the Scottish Government will work with partners to ensure effective implementation in Scotland.

The group will build on the work already done to raise public awareness, including consideration of how awareness raising activity can make the greatest impact on stopping trafficking and helping victims.

The group will consider further opportunities to target support and interventions towards those at most risk of trafficking.

On research, CATRiS at the University of St Andrews has made a good start towards drawing together existing research activity related to trafficking. The group will work with CATRiS to make more effective use of research and consider where further research may be required.

The international roundtable meeting hosted by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has identified where some further work can be done towards strengthening international links and considering in-country work to prevent trafficking.



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