SCOTS sex workers could soon be enjoying home visits from health workers, it has been revealed.
The new initiative by Police Scotland and NHS Lothian will be launched later this month – intended to respond to a falling number of prostitutes attending clinics in Edinburgh.
Activists say that after a number of excessive and harsh police raids on street and sauna prostitutes two years ago, sex workers have moved to apartments and hotel rooms – working alone in vulnerable situations.
As a result they have also recorded a fall in the number of women attending clinics for sex workers and women with substance issues.
But now prostitutes will have the opportunity to have home visits by Police Scotland officers and NHS health workers to address their needs.
This latest project is an extension of Operation Lingle in Glasgow – where officers have visited prostitutes working out of Glasgow flats.
Operation Lingle faced harsh criticism by sex-worker charity Scot-Pep, which said it could allow “punitive raids in disguise.”
They also claimed that neighbours were being encouraged to tip off police to those selling sex, and said that the prostitutes felt intimidated by the knocking at their doors.
In Edinburgh project bosses say the focus will be on health issues – including hepatitis vaccinations and drug treatment.
But activists say it is also intended to repair the damaged relationship between police and sex workers.
Dr Alison Scott, a consultant gynaecologist who runs the clinics, said: “This is victim focussed. The police are not out there to criminalise the women in any way whatsoever – they are very clear about that.
“I was suspicious to start with. I didn’t want to be involved in anything which would criminalise women but I haven’t spoken to one officer who is giving that message.”
But on Saturday Scot-Pep once again hit out at the project – saying that police involvement in health visits is unnecessary.
A spokeswoman said: “We hope any move by the service providers in Edinburgh to reach out to sex workers is underpinned by respect for their privacy, and that intrusive police surveillance tactics that were used in Glasgow are avoided.
“We would encourage those hoping to expand and improve service delivery to sex workers to engage with sex worker-led organisations in all levels of planning, implementation and monitoring.”