Edinburgh’s response to prostitution can be characterised as unique, flawed and pragmatic all at the same time.
There can be few people in Scotland’s capital who are under any illusions over what goes on in some of our “saunas”.
The council turns a blind eye and so do most of the population. The saunas generally do not disturb local residents and most people walk by without thinking twice.
The status quo was recently challenged in court by campaigners who objected en-masse to their operation. The council, however, was not convinced that objectors had brought forward any new information and rejected the call.
Now, those who support the tolerant attitude towards saunas fear that Scotland’s new single police force – which comes into operation in April – will lead to a new policy on the vice trade.
The new force will be headed by current Strathclyde chief constable Stephen House, who has overseen a tougher approach in the west.
Edinburgh’s approach is different. We are more pragmatic and less moralistic.
The fear is that a crackdown on saunas will not cause the sex industry to disappear, it will simply move it underground, making it more difficult for the relevant agencies to keep a check on those involved.
At the moment there is some level of control over these establishments and protection for those working behind their doors.
The new chief should recognise that different areas of Scotland will have different needs and the new force will need to be flexible and police according to local requirements.
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