edinburgh has a long tradition for tolerance, not least when it concerns the sex industry.
Left for years to operate in the shadows, the turning-a-blind-eye policy has often been hailed as the best solution all round – but is it still the right policy?
What we have seen with the recent raids and to some extent with the conviction yesterday of Edinburgh “madam” Margaret Paterson and two others will send shock-waves through the industry.
Does this represent a new get tough approach by Police Scotland dispensing with the former Lothian and Borders policy of vigilant tolerance? The new force is, after all, headed by former Strathclyde chief constable Stephen House, who has overseen a tougher stance in the west.
No, says city commander Mark Williams today.
He knows the city and rightly acknowledges the complexity of the policing challenge.
He is aware that it is a problem which is either carefully managed or driven underground.
Edinburgh’s policy of allowing saunas to operate unhindered has been seen as giving the authorities some level of control over the sex trade, while crucially also offering some degree of protection to the women who work there.
No-one likes this sort of activity on their doorstep but, in the main, saunas do not disturb local residents and most people will walk by without thinking twice.
This does not mean that they should not be subject to regular scrutiny and checks to weed out unsavoury elements and take action where there is evidence of organised criminal activity like trafficking.
The police deserve our full support in this, while at the same time recognising the Capital’s unique position.
Whether you agree with the Edinburgh attitude towards prostitution or not, the fact remains that the world’s oldest profession is not going to disappear any time soon.