Edinburgh council votes to ban strip clubs from Capital despite concerns that activities will be pushed underground

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The decision – by five votes to four – came after passionate arguments in favor of a ban from women’s campaigners and equally passionate pleas from workers in the industry who said their livelihoods were under threat.

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Two proposals were before the council’s regulatory committee: to set the limit at four – the current number of venues operating in the city – or opt for a zero limit.

Before councillors discussed what to do, they heard from a succession of deputations including campaigners, venue operators and dancers working in the clubs.

A representative from the Burke and Hare pub told the committee to ban strip clubs was “unnecessary” and without justification.

And she said: “If a nil cap is introduced we would fully intend to issue proceedings against the council and I’m also aware that the dancers and the other clubs plan to do that as well.”

Edinburgh currently has four “sexual entertainment venues” in operation

She said strip clubs were well-run and had very little trouble; Burke and Hare had licensed security at all times, CCTV everywhere in the club and the women were safe there.

“To close down the strip clubs is not going to eliminate demand for this service, it’s just going to put the girls in a more dangerous and more vulnerable position.”

Danielle from United Voices of Work told the committee: “If a nil cap is adopted the union will immediately seek judicial review based on, at the very least, indirect discrimination, breach of the public sector equality duty and procedural unfairness.”

She said there was “absolutely no credible evidence of a correlation or causation between SEVs and sexual violence” and warned a ban would plunge workers and their dependents into unemployment and poverty.

Committee agreeer, SNP councilor Cathy Fullerton argued a ban would not protect women at all and said four was the right limit.

“I believe it is right for the hundreds of workers as evidence presented shows a potential for an increase in violence towards women and girls if SEVs were no longer present in this city. In addition we could bring about abject poverty for those workers who no longer have a place to work.”

Supporting her, Green councilor Susan Rae said: “If we vote to put a nil cap on this we are saying to women they cannot choose what work they do. It is not our place to do that, whether we like it or not. We are facing a massive economic crisis and I’m seriously concerned for their welfare if we take away these licences. They’re going to be forced underground and their safety is going to be put at risk.”

But Labor councilor Joan Griffiths said a ban would contribute to the policy of an “equally safe for all” city.

And backing the zero limit, Tory Cameron Rose said the council was called by the legislation to take a balanced judgment based on the evidence they had before them.

“That judgment may be tested in court in due course, but in taking that judgment I’m not going to be driven by the threat of a court challenge – I don’t want a court challenge, but the threat won’t put me off the correct judgement.

“The clear balance comes down on the legitimate interests of women and society generally over the arguments that we have heard from women who will be economically affected in all sorts of ways and I accept that.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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