Sex workers have complained they are being excluded from a Holyrood meeting to discuss legal moves to criminalize clients.
SCOT-PEP, which promotes sex workers’ rights, say it has been barred from today’s legislation meeting despite having been previously invited to give input into the debate.
The charity opposes a proposal by Labour’s Rhoda Grant to make it an offense to pay for sex, which the MSP says will reduce the demand for prostitution.
Laws already apply in Scotland to soliciting and loitering, such as kerb crawling.
An attempt to fast-track The Purchase of Sex Bill was rejected at Holyrood in 2012 and it was put to consultation.
Ms Grant said the planned meeting is for those who support the principles of the proposed legislation and she is happy to meet the group for a separate discussion.
According to SCOT-PEP, criminalizing clients hampers sex workers’ ability to screen clients for their own safety.
Clients who are jumpy and nervous of arrest are less willing to give sex workers information about themselves, it claims.
The group said that the introduction of similar legislation in Sweden has been associated with “significant additional levels of violence” against sex workers.
It fears the proposed Bill will have a better chance of succeeding without the input of the late Margo MacDonald MSP, who campaigned for sex workers’ rights.
SCOT-PEP board member Neil McCulloch said: “Disastrous as this legislation would prove in Scotland, going by the international evidence, we nevertheless sought to play a constructive role in discussions and we are shocked to have been excluded entirely.
“Would you have a meeting to discuss whether to legislate supposedly to help any other marginalised group and yet explicitly bar them and their representatives from the discussion?