EDINBURGH has become pretty good at turning a blind eye.
There are few in the city who are under any illusions over what goes on in some of the city’s “saunas”. We might not like it, the vast majority may well find it at best distasteful, but they are here to stay so the public and authorities simply look the other way.
Perhaps not for much longer. Councillor Joanna Mowat has decided to question the great unspoken practice of licensing saunas and admitted it, understandably, makes her feel uncomfortable.
She suggests that it might be better, rather than going through the motions of talking about water temperatures when discussing sauna applications, to instead be up front and able openly to license brothels. That, she argues, could be a way to stop trafficking and offer support to those working in the sex industry.
But is this a realistic proposal? Is this even something we want?
The answer is, at the moment, no. The idea of the council licensing brothels is of course fraught with legal difficulties, which is no doubt how the current system has arisen. Is having a sign which says “brothel” in neon lights preferable to the ambiguous “sauna”? Probably not, unless we want to turn parts of the city into Amsterdam’s red light district.
If the council was to start refusing licensing applications and closing down saunas, the sex industry would not disappear, it would simply move underground, making it more difficult for the relevant agencies to keep a check on those involved.
At least at the moment – as bizarre as it might be for councillors on the regulatory committee – there is some level of control over these establishments and protection for those working behind their doors.
It is good to have the debate and maybe it is time to stop turning a blind eye. But we have to be sure there is an alternative first. Distasteful or not, the oldest profession is here to stay.
Today we tell the story of Daniel Autumn who is preparing to give the gift of life to his mother by donating a kidney.
It is a selfless act for which Daniel deserves our admiration and respect. What he does not deserve is to have the worry of how undergoing this life-changing operation may mean the end of his university career. We would hope that a solution can be found quickly, especially given the circumstances and the relatively small amount of money involved.
With that worry lifted, both he and his mum can focus on what is important – getting better.