Leader: ‘Police must listen to sauna concerns’

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Sex for sale saunas are a part of life in the Capital that most of us are happy not to think about most of the time.

However unsavoury we find what goes on behind those closed doors, there has been a general understanding that it was better going on there than out on the streets and in private flats.

There, things are kept under control, to a degree, by regular police inspections in which officers have for years been required to “turn a blind eye” to the true purpose of these establishments. As a result, the nuisance to residents has been minimised, and the women who find themselves working in the sex trade are offered more protection than in cities such as Glasgow where there is a “zero tolerance” approach.

However, the insistence by police that they will act upon any evidence of criminal activity appears to change that completely. More than 30 years of pragmatism looks like it is being consigned to the dustbin without any consensus or even discussion.

This week, councillors apparently found themselves without warning confronted with detailed reports of precisely what the police found during their latest inspections of saunas, with the invitation to close them down.

There are suggestions that the Capital’s remaining saunas may be allowed to carry on operating unhindered, but that is far from clear.

Despite their insistence that there has been no change of approach since the end of the Lothian and Borders force, the actions of Police Scotland have in this respect raised far more questions than answers.

Chief Constable Stephen House has insisted he will not pursue a one-size-fits-all approach to policing across Scotland’s cities, but there are growing concerns about whether or not this vision is being delivered in the Capital.

He needs to show that he is ready to listen to local concerns if he is to make the single force a success.