Delay to strip club licensing scheme as council admits its seeking further legal advice despite 'scandalous' costs

Taxpayers have already forked out for the council to defend the ‘nil cap’ after it was ruled unlawful.
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The start date for a controversial new strip club licensing scheme in Edinburgh has hit fresh delays, after the council admitted they would need to seek further legal advice.

It comes after council chiefs decided to press ahead with a second bid to shut down the city’s strip clubs – despite the ‘scandalous' legal bill picked up by taxpayers for the last failed attempt rising to £208,000.

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Four strip clubs in the Capital were given until the end of the year to secure a licence from the local authority, nine months later than the deadline set last year.

Future of Edinburgh's strip clubs is uncertainFuture of Edinburgh's strip clubs is uncertain
Future of Edinburgh's strip clubs is uncertain

But a vote to decide on how many clubs would be allowed in the Capital has been pushed back by three months, following a second public consultation. Councillors agreed a motion on Monday, 4 December to obtain more legal advice after a ‘large number’ of consultation responses were received.

The fresh delay comes after a group of lap dancers and adult entertainment venues won a legal battle to overturn the council attempt to shut all strip clubs in Edinburgh by capping the number allowed at zero.

It was ruled at the Court of Session in February that the ‘nil cap’ would be unlawful after venues and performers took the council to court with support from the sex workers.

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Union. Lord Richardson concluded that councillors had been given incorrect legal advice about the impact of their March 2022 decision.

However, the council’s regulatory services manager, said the judge had “struck down the number, but not the policy.”

Campaigners and some councillors claim that SEVs “can be used to facilitate exploitation, abuse, and trafficking of vulnerable women”. Greens councillor Susan Rae said the argument that a ban would reduce violence against women “isn’t actually backed up by any statistics”.

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Saphire, a dancer at an Edinburgh strip club told the Evening News: “Having to suffer another few months of uncertainty is making us all anxious. I was really hoping for a final decision and knowing for certain whether or not I could keep the job I love to do and plan accordingly. Now it feels like a never ending situation. It also is unfair that the date of the decision could be changed at such short notice after us dancers waited on a decision for many months now.”

Cllr Susan Rae said: “I’m concerned about this delay and the legal fees. But when I asked about it in the meeting I was shut down and told no questions would be answered. I’ll be taking this up with the Convener. It’s completely unnecessary and another delay is just going to cause a lot of anxiety.”

Audrey, a spokesperson for the United Sex Worker’s Union said: “We are disappointed that the city council have again extended what has already been a long and difficult process for our members and the dancers in Edinburgh’s clubs who now have to live in a continual state of uncertainty as to whether they will have a job next year, in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Instead of wasting even more funds on an unnecessary campaign to make over 100 workers unemployed, the council should invest this money into the community in their care – which includes the women who work in the clubs.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “There has been a large volume of consultation responses and that consideration of those responses has necessitated further legal advice being sought. Additional time is therefore required to ensure that the terms of that advice are fully considered and therefore this has meant presentation of the report has been delayed to the next meeting in March, 2024.”

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