I believe that public policy on this issue should be guided by the principle of ensuring the safety and dignity of the most vulnerable people, and this must involve tackling modern slavery and the abhorrent sex trafficking trade. As you correctly point out, the victims of this trade tend to belong to marginalised groups or come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the UK Government must ensure that these people are properly protected.
It is my firm belief that the UK Government’s approach to tackling sexual exploitation must be guided by credible evidence as to what works, and I understand that, at present, there is no unequivocal evidence in favour of a certain course of action. I hope that the UK Government will continue to be guided by research and evidence in this matter.
As justice is a devolved issue here in Scotland, many aspects of policy relating to sexual exploitation, including the question of decriminalisation of prostitution, are a matter for the Scottish Government in Holyrood. I hope that, like the UK Government, the Scottish Government’s policy on these issues will be governed by the evidence, and will develop as the evidence develops.