Monday, June 21, 2021

Scot Goes Popcast with guest Maggie McNeill, speaking about her opposition to the Nordic Model on prostitution law

A few months back there was yet another Holyrood consultation about the idea of introducing the Nordic model on prostitution law - but this one was a bit different from the previous efforts, because it was initiated by the government itself.  Two or three years ago, the SNP changed its policy on prostitution, which it now regards as a form of 'gendered violence against women' that can be tackled by 'challenging men's demand for paid sex' - in other words by criminalising the clients of sex workers and by (theoretically) decriminalising sex workers themselves.  That's the Nordic Model in a nutshell, although for presentational reasons it's instead being referred to as a new 'Scottish Model'.  However, the dynamic may have changed again very recently due to the subtle realignment in Scottish politics - some of the people who were probably most enthusiastic about a change in the law have defected to Alba because of the trans issue, while the ascendancy of people like Rhiannon Spear, and the SNP's nascent alliance with the Greens, should ensure that the case against the Nordic Model at least gets some sort of hearing.  The Greens, as I understand it, favour full decriminalisation of prostitution.

Sex workers themselves tend to be viscerally opposed to the Nordic Model, so to find out why, I spoke to Maggie McNeill for the latest episode of the Scot Goes Popcast.  Maggie has several decades of experience as a sex worker and now writes a popular blog called The Honest Courtesan, in which she has discussed the flaws of the Nordic Model at considerable length.  In the podcast she explains...

* That the Nordic Model deprives women of agency and is thus incompatible with feminism.

* That the Nordic Model has its origins in racist impulses.

* That she cannot relate to the idea that she has experienced "violence against women" by being a sex worker.

* That the supposed "decriminalisation" of selling sex as part of the Nordic Model does not in fact protect women from prosecution in practice.

* That she does not believe the world would be a better place if prostitution is eradicated, even if that were possible.

* That the only practical way of reducing the number of women involved in sex work is not by criminalising their clients, but instead by tackling poverty, and specifically by introducing a Universal Basic Income.

* That Scotland should take the opposite route from the Nordic Model by instead embracing the New Zealand Model of full decriminalisation.

You can listen to the podcast via the embedded player below, via the direct link to the Soundcloud file HERE, or on either Stitcher or Spotify.


  1. A really fascinating and highly informative podcast. I find it difficult to disagree with anything Maggie says. In any case, anyone interested in this subject should definitely listen to it.

  2. Picking up from the last post. Truly amazing that someone who makes a song and dance about people not understanding accounts clearly does not know what he is talking about. Lets break things down

    If the SNP wanted to actually legally ringfence some assets / cash, they would need to set up a completely different arms-length organisation which produced it's own accounts

    It certainly could. All it would do is set up a separate accounting unit (such as it does with Constituency’s and the Westminster group) and show the monies in this units account. Perfectly possible and easy to do; they just chose not to do so.

    Otherwise, it is 'ringfenced' on an internal accounts system (ledger) like SAGE. For example as a project code against which costs can be credited (donations) or debited

    They certainly could, they could have an accounting line marked as ‘ringfenced funds’ which as you say would show the income and expenditure on this line. But again they have not done this (otherwise the line would show in their accounts)
    with net assets (which may include ringfenced funds) of £1,513,312.00

    Cash cannot be coded as an asset and cash that has not been spent has to be coded as cash in hand /cash in bank. Also the vast majority of their assets are intangible (computer software) and still under HP. The net book value of their remaining assets (the value that the assets could be liquidated for is £133k)

    They had a Turnover of £5,290,815.00

    A large turnover is irrelevant if you make a net loss off it even when you burn through 1.1 million of you reserves.

    If you give me £1m to keep safe in my bank for you, but I owe someone else £1m, your £1m is there and ring fenced, but due to my liabilities, my end of year net assets balance is zero. If you ask for your money, you will get it; I must legally give it to you. Only if I don't are the police called in maybe.

    Completely agree with this. Except the accounts show that the money was not there. They ran at a net loss only had 229k in liquid capital (cash plus assets) even if they had wanted to spend the money during 2019 it was not available.

    1. "A large turnover is irrelevant if you make a net loss off it"

      The SNP is not a private entity pursuing a profit motive. Its stakeholders are largely benefactors rather than investors seeking a financial return. Turnover is everything, the higher the turnover, the greater the capacity the SNP has to pursue its primary objectives e.g. get into government, independence etc.

      As with any 'not for profit' organisation. success from an accounting perspective, would be based on,the three E's, the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation in utilising its resources to achieve its objectives.

      'Net loss' is simply a budget deficit which would need to be financed or recouped in future years. Survival is not dictated by bottom line profit but by the benevolence of its benefactors, who would most likely base their financing decisions upon how well the SNP achieves its strategic objectives from their perspective.

    2. If party finances are in such robust health, why did they have to steal...ahem 'borrow' the ringfenced money in the first place? One thing is clear - THEY HAVE SPENT THE INDYREF2 MONEY! Indyref2 is no more. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-parrot.

      The fact is that the money was raised for a specific purpose and they had no right to misappropriate it for internal party use. Not every donor was a member or even a supporter of the SNP. Too many people, including Police Scotland, have made that assumption. It is fraud and any police force worthy of the name would treat it as such but, of course, under Sturgeon's regime the Keystone Kops are too busy chasing after people who tweet the wrong pronoun or tie suffragette ribbons to railings.

    3. I understand folk asking for refunds are getting these. Ergo, the funds exist. I'd they didn't, it wouldn't be possible to refund.

    4. That statement is not only laughable, it's demonstrably wrong. If, for example, only £100,000 out of £600,000 is still there, it's perfectly possible to refund *some* people as long as the vast majority of people don't ask for refunds - which is, as you know perfectly well, exactly what has happened.


    5. People who asked for their money back last year were told they couldn't have it as it was being held in a ringfenced fund for when indyref2 was launched. Suddenly, after a couple of them complained to the police, refunds became freely available this year. It's a tacit admission that there was never any intention to hold a referendum and that the money was raised under false pretences. No amount of waffle can disguise the fact that the money has been spent on other things and you can't spend the same money twice - stick that in your 'creative accounting' manual and smoke it.

  3. An extremely interesting 'new' take on the world's oldest profession.
    It certainly seems the Nordic model is not without flaw. Why not look at how New Zealand's system works?
    Thanks for the podcast.

  4. Now actually on topic.

    TBH, I probably lean to full decriminalization, but regulation with support and help for people who are involved 'unwillingly' to get out. I am all for UBI.

    I hold similar views on drugs. Making human vices illegal only drives things underground, helps criminals and creates more victims.

    And well, if someone really wants to be a sex worker and enjoys it, while someone is happy to be a paying customer, what right have I to criminalise consenting adults for that?


    Oh and I can't help but laugh at the Tory suggestion of a Scottish birth certificate as giving you a vote / an EUref type franchise for Scottish iref2.

    While that might let Wings vote for the unionists (as he wanted ahead of May), doing that would exclude the 10% of the Scottish population who are English born migrants. You know, like how my French wife couldn't vote in the EUref?

    That 10% strongly backed the union in 2014. As for scots forced to 'get on their bike' and search for work in England due to the economic damage the UK has done to Scotland over the decades... I'm not so sure they'd be automatic unionists. It is these words which ring in their heads:

    Bathgate no more, Linwood no more
    Methil no more, Irvine no more
    Bathgate no more, Linwood no more
    Methil no more, Irvine no more

    After all.

    I was almost forced to be an economic migrant to England in the late 1990's. It was the biggest factor in me becoming an indy supporter.

  5. Fascinating - thanks for this - smart and informative

  6. The Australian system seems to work - legalise sex work but check the health every week of sex workers and put health codes into stringent practise. It's just such hypocrital, moralising, sanctimonious nonsense to criminalise sex work that doesn't harm consensual adults.