Edinburgh strip club ban: Council fails in 'desperate' bid to stop sex workers union appearing in court

Edinburgh city council has failed in a “desperate” bid to have the union representing strippers excluded from a legal action challenging the ban on lap dancing clubs in the city.

Lawyers for United Sex Workers (USW) had applied to the Court of Session on the union’s behalf to be part of a judicial review of the City of Edinburgh Council’s decision to ban strip clubs, effectively forcing them to shut from April 2023.

Edinburgh Council had opposed the application and tried to block sex workers from the hearing by asking the court not to allow the union to take part. The city council also argued that the union was potentially liable for the council’s legal costs.

But a Judge ruled on Wednesday (September 21) that the USW will take part in a judicial review of the controversial nil cap decision, scheduled for the 1 and 2 December this year.

Edinburgh strippers have branded the attempt to exclude them from legal action 'desperate'

A court order was issued preventing the union from being liable for legal fees incurred by the council, protecting the USW from prohibitive costs which a spokesperson told the Evening News would have “bankrupted” them.

Lord Richardson said that issues of “general public interest” were raised by the court action and ruled that members of the USW had a clear interest in the outcome of the proceedings because they wanted to continue in their current work.

Owners of three adult entertainment venues in the city will take part in the review.

USW will put forward arguments against the ban including that the nil-cap is indirect gender discrimination against women, who make up the vast majority of strippers, under the Equality Act. The union will also claim it interferes with dancers rights to respect for a private and family life under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Audrey, an organiser for USW said: “We are relieved that we can now go forward and be a part of this review. If we had been liable for legal fees of the council that would have been a big barrier.

"We were shocked by the council’s attempt to exclude the voice of the workers their ban would force out of jobs. Now we will have a chance to be heard and defend their rights."

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She said: "We found it utterly appalling, even more so that during the bin strikes, instead of paying their own employees a fair wage in a cost of living crisis they could somehow afford the funds to pay to try and stop workers having a chance to protect their own jobs.

“This is a huge step forward. If we are successful in contesting the nil cap, it would force other councils to admit that closing our workplaces is unlawful.”

Sarah, a stripper from the capital, said: “Our voices will be heard. I couldn’t believe the council would try to deny us our say. It seems desperate and is beyond insulting.

"They tried to argue that there wasn’t enough members in Edinburgh. That’s pathetic. More than 100 workers will be forced out of jobs into dangerous working conditions.

"I’m relieved our union will have an opportunity to stand up and defend our workers rights and hope we can get the ban overturned.”

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “The Regulatory Committee agreed to adopt the licensing system for Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs) from 1 April 2023. It

approved the policy and condition of licence for these venues and set the appropriate number of venues in the city at zero. It’s important to note that SEVs can still apply for a

licence and committee would consider them against the agreed policy.”