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Across five streets in Aberdeen's docks, street prostitutes are free to ply their trade. After 5pm, they can pick up punters at the harbour - they must have sex elsewhere - and know they will not be arrested. The scheme has been in operation for four years. It has no legal status and is far from perfect. But the number of attacks on prostitutes has fallen, and street workers, the vast majority of whom are addicted to Class A drugs, are being offered help with their addiction.
Despite its success, the tolerance zone has no legal status. The trade plied at Aberdeen's harbour is as illegal there as it is in any other British city. But, despite cross-party support, opposition from the Police Federation, councils, and, ultimately, the executive saw it fail.
For campaigners, it was a body blow. They cite the example of Edinburgh for how well such schemes can work. For 20 years, Edinburgh ran a highly successful tolerance zone down by Leith docks. As warehouses became duplex apartments, the prostitutes were asked to move a few streets. But as that street, too, gentrified at one end, the tolerance zone collapsed. Following the collapse, the number of girls working the streets did not go down but attacks on them increased markedly.
More worryingly, Scot-Pep, a group which works with prostitutes, reported that after the tolerance zone was removed, for the first time in years, they had girls under 16 working the streets.
When the tolerance zone was up and running the older women wouldn't let young girls - children - work. Confined together in one place, the older women stuck together - and they protected children from the lives they led. You can see them any night down by the docks in Aberdeen. The girls will stand by the roadside as the punters pull up. There will be no furtive glances as they beckon them over.