COMMENT: It’s time for a clear policy on saunas

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THE chaotic crackdown on Edinburgh’s saunas which saw the Capital’s well-established “blind eye” policy dismantled finally appears to have reached a conclusion.

Prosecutors have abandoned proceedings against six men and five women who were charged following the high-profile operation in 2013.

We are not privy to the details and it would be wrong to speculate on the reasons for the cases not proceeding. What does appear to be clear, however, is that there is a need for clarity in how the city manages the sex-for-sale industry in the future.

One MSP today goes as far as calling for a change in the law to regulate saunas.

That may ultimately be necessary, but it is fraught with ­difficulties and may actually end up creating more problems for both the industry and the police than it solves.

It has to be for the police, city council and other interested parties to develop a clear policy to which everyone is signed up.

As we know, Edinburgh is in a unique position here and imposing the same sort of tactics which are used elsewhere to tackle prostitution just does not work.

The previous blind eye policy on saunas, while certainly not perfect, did at least offer some level of control to the city council and the police.

Just as important perhaps, it provided a level of protection to the often vulnerable women who worked there.

The oldest profession has been around so long that it is clearly not going anywhere, no matter what action Police Scotland decides to take or how many saunas are raided.

Close down these premises and all that will happen is the trade will move underground, becoming impossible to track and more dangerous for everyone.

That would be in no-one’s interest.