Decriminalising Scotland's sex trade will cut human trafficking and minimise violence against prostitutes, according to Scotland's leading organisation for sex workers.

Scot-pep, an organisation which campaigns on behalf of sex workers, claims its members would be more willing to report vulnerable colleagues to the police if the industry was decriminalised.

The claims come after a proposal for a Bill calling for prostitution to be decriminalised was introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

The plans, launched by independent MSP Jane Urquhart, pave the way for legalised brothels.

Sex workers would be able to work together in groups of up to four instead of being forced to work alone in line with current legislation. They would also be able to take a claim to an employment tribunal if they are mistreated by a manager or the small claims court if a client refuses to pay up.

While some opponents claim the move could place more people at risk and lead to a possible increase in human trafficking, Scot-pep's Anastacia Ryan says it will have the opposite effect.

She said: "At the moment I think sex workers are more reluctant than ever to go to the police or other agencies for help. Most wouldn't report a crime against themselves and that also extends to reporting on behalf of someone in their workplace or someone they came across who was being coerced, mistreated or had been trafficked.

"Decriminalisation makes it much more likely that people will come forward. It would allow them to work within the protection of the law."

Urquhart launched a consultation on the Prostitution Law Reform (Scotland) Bill earlier this week.

The proposals - which have received a mixed reception - also give sex workers the right to have joint finances with families or flatmates by scrapping laws that make 'living on the earnings of prostitution' a crime.

The plans are largely based on legislation introduced in New Zealand in 2003 which decriminalised prostitution and introduced tougher laws on underage workers and coercion.

Jean Urquhart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said her plans are not about condoning prostitution but looking at how to make sex workers safer and healthier.

"There's never going to be an end to prostitution", she said. "It's not something that will stop, so we need to do what we can to make it much safer and much healthier.

"It's about recognising that the industry is there and if we are really concerned for these women and their health and wellbeing, then we need to take action."

Campaigners on the other side of the argument believe that the purchase of sex should be criminalised in a bid to stamp out demand for prostitution.

However, Urquhart argues that if the industry is driven further underground, there will be "worse consequences" for sex workers.

She added: "I know for many people it's a moral issue, but I'm not taking a stand here saying whether prostitution is right or wrong. I'm just saying it exists and for the moment we have to do something to try to help improve the situation for sex workers."

In New Zealand, the legislation to decriminalise sex work was passed with just one vote, but a five year review of the changes showed clear improvements for workers in the trade.

One worker also recently managed to sue a brothel owner for sexual harassment, securing a NZ$25,000 (£10,000) payout. Germany has also legalised sex worker, however this has resulted in some cases in 'super-brothels' being built in major cities.

Glasgow sex worker Laura Lee believes introducing similar changes in Scotland could bring about major improvements in the industry.

She said: "This would recognise sex work as a form of labour and it allows us to work together which would be much, much safer. It's a very positive move.

"Decriminalising sex work takes the managers out of the equation. I would ideally like to see collectives of women working together for safety - that's a massive step forward."

Lee told of a time she was working alone when her client threatened her with a knife and she had to struggle to protect herself.

She argues that if sex workers were allowed to work together, situations like that would be much easier to handle, and sex workers would lead safer lives.

However, not everyone is in favour of the Bill.

A campaign group set up by a number of community organisations involved in helping victims of violence, End Prostitution Now, claims the move would be disastrous for many women.

Jan MacLeod, a spokeswoman for the group, which campaigns for the purchase of sex to be made illegal, said: "The view of End Prostitution Now, based on what we hear from the people who come to us, is that it's a harmful experience.

"Many women think they can enter the profession for a short term but they end up becoming disassociated because of the impact it has on them and often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope."

MacLeod, who is manager of the Women's Support Project, added: "While clearly there are some men who just want quick, no strings attached sex, at the core of it there are men who really have a hatred of women and sexuality.

"The idea that if you decriminalise it and make it legal for people to profit from it, that somehow you're going to get a nicer class of customer - it just doesn't make sense.

"If you're going to say that prostitution is inevitable, you're basically accepting that you're going to have an underclass of women."

The consultation on the Bill closes on December 1. The Scottish Government has instructed research into the matter and expects findings to be published by early 2016.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Once this research is available, it will allow the government and Parliament to debate the issue, informed by evidence."