Sex worker safety net plan if saunas closed

Recent police raids have signalled the end of the Capital's pragmatic approach to saunas. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Recent police raids have signalled the end of the Capital's pragmatic approach to saunas. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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AN action plan is being drawn up at City Chambers to create a safety net for sex workers if Edinburgh’s saunas are shut down.

Discussions between senior councillors and social work chiefs have been held to map out a strategy to manage dozens of sex workers who would find themselves without a business base if licensed saunas were prohibited.

Recent police raids on licensed saunas signalled the decades-old policy of turning a blind eye to the venues would be coming to an end.

The June swoop led to seven individuals being charged with brothel keeping and living off immoral earnings, while the council also suspended the licences of six establishments.

A further seven saunas have been inspected by Police Scotland.

There are fears Edinburgh’s 13 licensed saunas could be closed following the radical shift from the typically pragmatic approach to prostitution which allowed saunas to operate to keep sex workers safer and off the streets.

Today, licensing chief Councillor Cammy Day said tentative discussions had taken place with “partner groups” to plot a course of action if Edinburgh’s liberal attitude to saunas is undermined.

He said: “There have been early discussions about looking at the alternatives. There are no concrete plans yet but there have been discussions that are at a very early stage.”

“Through their Violence Against Women Partnership, the council is working with others to ensure women in the sauna industry have the best working conditions possible.

Jenny Kemp, the co-ordinator at the Zero Tolerance charity, which opposes the Capital’s approach to licensed saunas, said: “It’s welcome news that the council is developing services for the women in saunas who may wish to leave prostitution. Many woman in the sex industry have complex lives and need support to move on.”