THE Scottish Government has come under fresh pressure to outlaw human trafficking after it emerged that legislation proposed by a backbench MSP has gained more support than the independence referendum in a public consultation.

Nearly 45,000 people have responded to a consultation on Labour MSP Jenny Marra's proposed Human Trafficking Bill.

The proposed Bill has now attracted the third biggest response of any Holyrood consultation, behind the plans to legalise gay marriage and outlaw smoking in public places.

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By the end of last week, 44,862 people had given their views on the proposed legislation, with the overwhelming majority backing the move.

The figure compares with 77,508 responses to the equal marriage bill, which is currently going through Holyrood; 53,474 to the smoking in public places bill, enforced in 2006; and 30,219 to proposals for the independence referendum, since announced for September 18 this year.

As with other consultations, it is understood some responses came from outwith Scotland.

Human rights lawyer Baronness Helena Kennedy, who is a leading supporter of Ms Marra's proposal, said: "The incredible volume of response received shows the strength of feeling from Scotland, the rest of the UK and across the world that Scotland ought to use the powers it has to legis- late against human trafficking.

"The Scottish Government cannot ignore the voices of over 40,000 people."

Ms Marra, a North East Scotland MSP, said: "The fact that 45,000 people have taken the time to tell MSPs that Scotland should have our own human trafficking laws is a powerful message to all MSPs and the Scottish Government that 2014 is the year to tackle this heinous human rights abuse."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We have noted Ms Marra's consultation on a proposal for a Bill and will give careful consideration to any Bill brought forward on human trafficking."