A key feature of the Scottish Enlightenment was the critique and opposition to the practice of slavery.  While in the eighteenth century many Scottish emigrants to the Caribbean and West Indies found themselves exposed to the realities of slave labour on plantations, back home an intellectual movement grew and developed and campaigned until slavery was abolished.

Or so they thought. Modern day slavery in the form of human trafficking is still there on Scottish doorsteps. But just as in the eighteenth century, it should be Scotland’s mission again to rid our country and then the world of this heinous violation of human rights.

An Inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland, headed by leading QC Baroness Helena Kennedy and carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was published in Edinburgh this week. Kennedy makes 10 recommendations for Scotland to pioneer a new approach to the problem, and to introduce these measures prior to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Kennedy’s calls comes on the back of Scotland’s first successful prosecution under the UK’s new anti-trafficking laws, with two sex traffickers jailed for a total of almost five years in November for arranging travel, accommodation and advertising for 14 women who worked as prostitutes.  However, this compares with almost 150 similar prosecutions in England and Wales. Phil Taylor, head of the UK Border Agency in Scotland, conceded in June that the length of time taken to investigate cases means too few are brought to court.

The main call in Kennedy’s inquiry is for a victim centred approach, with better systematic sharing of information and intelligence about cases, as well as a new Scottish act specifically to target the crime.

While any human who is trafficked and forced to labour undergoes a horrendous experience, Kennedy notes especially that women trafficked into the sex trade undergo “the most prevalent and pernicious manifestation of human enslavement”.

The estimate, widely reported in the UK press, that 40,000 women were sex trafficked into Germany for the 2006 World Cup seems to have no reliable source; nonetheless such sporting events are paramount to raising awareness and ensuring prevention of the prostitution of vulnerable women.

In London, anti-trafficking charities, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Met and the GLA  are working together to combat trafficking prior to the 2012 Olympics. If Scotland is going to be the leader in ridding the world of human trafficking, it is critical that the 10 recommendations in Kennedy’s inquiry are implemented prior to 2014.  Not just because of a fear, like in the 2006 World Cup case, that trafficking only becomes a problem because of sporting events, but because this a heinous crime which is all around us, at all times.

We should use the celebration of nationhood and sport and togetherness that the Commonwealth Games brings to recognise our essential humanity, and to find ways to treat human beings as that, not as chattels to be traded and used.