Edinburgh Council's strip club ban could make life dangerous for the strippers – Susan Morrison

A delightful little old lady once startled me by revealing she'd been a stripper in peak oil-boom, 1970s Aberdeen.
Edinburgh Council plans to ban strip clubs from next year (Picture: Tony Marsh)Edinburgh Council plans to ban strip clubs from next year (Picture: Tony Marsh)
Edinburgh Council plans to ban strip clubs from next year (Picture: Tony Marsh)

She said she had literally rolled in folding money when she did pubs and go-go bars, but the working men’s clubs were a nightmare, because they would insist on putting 50p coins into her sequined bikini bottoms.

The conversation taught me three lessons. One, never ever look at a little old lady and think she’s always been a sweet ol’ dame. There’s a history back there and sometimes it’ll rock your world.

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Secondly, she might have been a stripper for a time, but she made enough to sort out child care whilst she trained as a nurse, back in the days when little help was available to single mums.

And, thirdly, don’t take a booking for a pole-dancing club in Kelty.

A long long time ago, I actually worked in a pole-dancing club. Not as an actual dancer, you understand. There may well be a niche market for a woman shaped like a strategically shaved walrus stripping but there’s not a pole in the world capable of handling that amount of cellulite in mid-centrifugal swing. One slip and the impact on the audience could have been fatal.

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I was there because the owner was trying to diversify into comedy and burlesque. The bottom, he solemnly told me, was falling out of the strip business. He was right. That club is now an artisan hipster beer joint. Stripping is steadily declining throughout the UK.

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Edinburgh council has accelerated that decline by banning strip clubs from April 2023. I’m not a great fan of bans. Banning isn’t stopping. It just means regulations are removed, making life more difficult and more dangerous for workers. The clubs wouldn’t go away. We just wouldn’t see them, and bad things happen to women who work out of sight.

Despite my great conversation with my dear old lady, I’m not a cheerleader for stripping either.

It wasn’t on the list of potential careers when I was at school. Mrs Telford, our careers guidance teacher, only had two leaflets for girls looking into their futures. One was “How to be a Secretary” and the other was “Teaching – Is It For You?” I’m not sure how she would have dealt with me strolling in to ask for “Stripping for Fun and Profit”.

And no, I wouldn’t have been thrilled if my daughter had decided to strip, but my girl is lucky. Her mum and dad can step in to help out if required. Some young women don’t have that back-up. If it’s the only way a young woman can earn some money, put some food on the table and she can live with that choice, then I’m not going to judge.

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When they decided to shut the clubs, the council promised help to the women find other employment. Nothing particularly unusual about that. When they shut the steel mills, an army of job coaches, trainers and recruiters moved in to help the men of Ravenscraig.

Of course, no such help has appeared. Stripping is not a great career choice. Sometimes it's a desperate choice. By all means, let's open opportunities for young women who want to get out of this industry, but in the meantime, let's keep them safe.