The Scottish Government has been urged to act quickly to close a legal loophole allowing sports coaches and religious leaders to have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.

The calls come after Westminster agreed to amend legislation in England and Wales on people in a position of trust, which currently only applies to professionals such as teachers or care staff.

Charities claim Scotland risks being “left behind” if the government does not move swiftly to address a similar inadequacy in Scots law.

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NSPCC Scotland, who have been campaigning for a change in the law following revelations about widespread child abuse within sport, said urgent action must be taken to protect the country’s young people from exploitation.

The Scottish Government said it had consulted on the issue and would watch how the policy progresses in England and Wales.

However, Joanna Barrett, associate head of policy for NSPCC Scotland, said: “Scotland, a country that aspires to respect the rights of every child, including the right to be protected from exploitation, cannot allow itself to be left behind on this.

“It is a strange phenomenon that the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act definition of ‘position of trust’ does not cover roles such as sports coaches and youth workers.

“We were encouraged in 2018 when the Scottish Government consulted on extending this to a wider range of people working with young people.

“However, now - more than two years on, we still have no commitment to change this.

“We urge the Scottish Government to move quickly on this and change the law so that more 16 and 17-year-olds are not put at risk in this way.”

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Under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, an adult who engages in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old while in a position of trust commits the offence of sexual abuse of trust.

However, the Act defines those in a position of trust as being people who care for young people in an institution, care home, hospital or school.

The UK Government is extending the law to cover any adult who has regular and direct contact with children and is in a position of authority over them. The changes will be made as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which was placed before parliament on Tuesday.

Charity Children 1st said the continuing loophole in Scotland leaves young people at greater risk of abuse.

Chief executive Mary Glasgow said: “We’re working with communities across the country to protect young people and support their wellbeing, particularly through Children 1st Safeguarding in Sport.

“But none of us can address this legal loophole which exposes 16 and 17-year-olds to greater risk.

“We’ve fully supported NSPCC Scotland’s campaign to address the position of trust loophole from the start and urge Holyrood to move swiftly to follow Westminster and make sure that no adult can misuse their position of power, trust and responsibility.”

Advocate Niall McCluskey agreed that the Scottish Government should be looking to extend the current provisions to include more people in a position of authority.

He said: “Under the sexual offences Act, if a teacher has a sexual relationship with a school pupil, that’s a criminal offence.

“What they’re doing in England is extending that to include people like sports coaches, and it’s something that really should be looked at in Scotland.

“If a person has that position of trust, it’s extremely inappropriate for any sexual relationship to take place.

“It’s an abuse of power, and if it’s a criminal offence for teachers, then it should also be a criminal offence for sports coaches and religious leader in a similar position of trust. It really should be across the board.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In 2018, the Scottish Government undertook a public consultation on whether to extend the current offence of sexual abuse of trust to include individuals, such as sports coaches, undertaking regulated work with children and young people outside the institutional settings covered by the existing offence.

“We are carefully considering all responses received in order to inform any future actions. We will also consider carefully exactly how policy is progressed in England and Wales.”