Cameron Buchanan: Strip club refusal a bad move

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Edinburgh has had a long history of being a tolerant city. After all, we’ve always had the most relaxed liquor licensing in the country. But with our relaxed attitude comes all sorts of problems with so-called adult entertainment venues.

For years these nightspots have blended into normal city life and barely register on most people’s consciousness.

Lapdancing bars, strip clubs, go-go dancing call them what you like – but they’re not without controversy.

Local authorities across Scotland should have the freedom to choose whether they want them in their own area or not as they are most likely to understand local views. But just this week, the SNP government refused to ban under-18s from working in them.

Some might say this is a very dangerous and irresponsible move and to be quite frank – it is.

When I was a young student in Germany, I worked as a barman in one such establishment. Having seen it first-hand, I know the types of salacious images these clubs portray and it’s not exactly Legoland.

The SNP government argued the proposed ban could mean employment opportunities for tradesmen such as 17-year-old plumbers would be “unreasonably restricted”. But surely not all plumbers are under the age of 18? Why not hire a 21-year-old plumber?

The real worry is that under-18 teenage girls who are employed as office staff or cleaners will be coerced into the murky world of men paying for sex. And along with this they could ultimately end up with a criminal record.

The Scottish Government can do all they want to sweep this issue under the carpet and hope it goes away. But where will it stop?

The fact is that there’s a lot a stake in terms of child protection issues.

In Scotland, under-18s are not allowed to be employed in sex shops so it seems absurd that we don’t follow suit with adult entertainment venues too.

The SNP government’s decision on this sends out all the wrong messages and these sentiments are echoed by many campaigners.

The Zero Tolerance Trust is an organisation which does a lot of good work to address violence against women, and bring about change.

Jenny Kemp from the group said the lack of a ban on under-18s working in such venues left the door open to serious exploitation, sparking fears of a “groomers’ charter”.

We should be encouraging youngsters into a brighter future not leading them into a life of exploitation.

Cameron Buchanan is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP