Annual Report 2009-10

It has been a strange year for Scot-PEP. This time last year, we were anticipating life in our new offices in the Cowgate. That all changed in February when, thanks to Ruth and her new post with the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, we were able to return to more familiar surroundings in Newhaven.

Once again, Andrea flexed her well-trained muscles to take charge of the removal.

Staff-wise, Neil left us in December of last year. His legacy is the Street Sex Workers Practitioners Forum, and the establishment thereof is something of which he and Scot-PEP can be justly proud. There remain issues, however, with our continuing involvement. This is one of the challenges that we face in the coming year.
And then there was one. Andrea, with the help of funding from Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, has held the fort (and more than a few packing cases) over the last 12 months with her typical energy, efficiency and (perhaps most importantly) her sense of humour. Thank you, Andrea

Activity wise, it is probably fair to say that we have struggled to find our niche this year. Our role as a campaigning and advocacy group is not an easy one, particularly with restricted funds and a smaller team. That said, our potential worth was demonstrated in February and March of this year when we took an active part in the resistance to the proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex. We were one of only three organisations invited to give evidence to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which is in itself a tribute to our knowledge and reputation.

Not only was that proposal defeated, but we were able to take heart from the tremendous support that we received from many quarters. Perhaps more importantly, we were able to make contact with many from the industry who had no previous experience of Scot-PEP, and with whom we have been able to continue working.

It is that spirit of working together that, for me, has always been at the heart of what we do. That has been evident this year with the development of our new web site. Although progress has been slow (frustratingly so at times), it is important to get it right, with the help and advice of all. We hope to launch the site early in the new year, but accept, indeed would expect that its development will be continuing and participatory.

Looking forward, we face a number of challenges. It had been our intention to take a more proactive role in terms of challenging prejudice and changing legislation, and we were beginning to formulate plans to that end. However, this approach has been scuppered to a certain extent by the news last week that Trish Godman MSP intends to resurrect her bill to criminalise the purchase of sex.

From the project’s point of view, and also my own as a taxpayer, I find it appalling that time, energy and public money is being expended so soon after the last attempt was defeated. We will, of course, be involved again, and have already begun to plan our response. Not for the first time do we find ourselves in the role of resistance. It is a part that we have the resources, ability and experience to play well.

A further challenge is to continue our re-engagement with the industry. Since we stopped being a service provider, it has been difficult to maintain contact with the very group of people with whom we are supposed to be working. It is an issue which the Board are well aware of, and one that we are continuing to work on. The imminent work on the proposed legislation, and the launch of our web site, will help (we hope) to consolidate existing contacts, and stimulate new ones.
We have had some Board movements since the last AGM. Fiona joined us in February, having had many years’ experience in the voluntary sector and the industry itself. Welcome, Fiona.

Mark has expressed his intention to step down from the Board. I would like to express our very grateful thanks to him for his work over the past 9 years. His input in legal matters, particularly in the ASBO situations, has been invaluable. He also gave us a home for a few months, which was a godsend at the time. He will be missed, but we wish him well.
Finally, we come to Jinty. Although remaining on the Board, Jinty stepped down from her role as Co-chair a couple of months ago, to be replaced by Sarah.

What can I say about Jinty? Everyone here, and everyone who knows her, has experienced her boundless energy, wit and commitment. It is therefore particularly difficult for us all to come to terms with the fact that illness will restrict those parts of her. I am sure that the entire organisation joins with me to wish her well. Jinty has always been here for Scot-PEP. We will always be here for her.