Both Labour and the Scottish National Party have spoken out over online platforms carrying advertisements from landlords seeking sexual favours in lieu of rent.
The issue is not confined to Scotland but politicians and campaigners north of the border have been particularly outspoken on the issue for some months.
Pauline McNeill, Scottish Labour’s housing and equalities spokesperson, says action should be taken against landlords taking advantage of the Coronavirus crisis.
She comments: “The Scottish Government must guarantee that, as we come out of the pandemic, robust measures are in place to help those who are struggling financially and ensure we don’t see a return to rough living, homelessness and exploitation.”
Scottish Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, of the SNP, responds: “The law is clear that no one can be forced or coerced into sexual activity. This would include where someone is exploited through an exchange of sex for accommodation. Anyone at risk of coercion should seek advice and contact the police immediately.
“The Scottish Government does not have the power to force the removal of advertisements. However, we have previously written to Craigslist, Gumtree and Vivastreet regarding adverts like these. Gumtree committed to removing adverts of this type wherever reported.”
The Daily Record newspaper says Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson has also demanded action from both the UK and Scottish governments. “Regulate these platforms to stamp it out and get serious about the housing emergency by building the social homes needed” she says.
Meanwhile Sean Clerkin, of the Scottish Tenants Association, has told the newspaper: “A new law is needed to stop this exploitation.”
Earlier this month Labour’s UK shadow justice minister, Peter Kyle, demanded action against online platforms allowing such advertisements and the landlords identified in a sting by the Daily Mail at new Year.
The Mail contacted over 20 UK male landlords advertising on the US-owned listings website Craigslist: its reporters were posing as a 21-year-old student who was repeatedly offered free accommodation in exchange for sexual acts.
The sexual overtures were made by an HMRC staff member and a former member of RAF Support Command amongst others.