Sex workers union raises £20k to challenge Edinburgh council over strip club ban

A union representing Edinburgh’s sex workers has raised enough cash to launch a legal battle against the council’s ‘dangerous’ strip club ban.

By Jolene Campbell
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 4:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 9:11 am
Sex workers union has raised the cash to mount legal challenge
Sex workers union has raised the cash to mount legal challenge

The council voted through a nil-cap policy in March, limiting the number of venues in the Capital to zero and effectively forcing its four strip clubs to shut from April next year.

United Sex Workers (USW) union branded the policy ‘dangerous’ warning it will take away protection provided by licensed venues including CCTV and door security staff.

Now, after smashing their fundraising target of £20,000, they have enough to pursue a judicial review against Edinburgh City Council, as similar bans are being considered by a number of councils across the UK.

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Strippers have spoken out against the ban, but campaigners in favour and national government policy says clubs exploit women.

USW argues the so-called ‘nil-cap’ discriminates against women, who make up the vast majority of strippers, as well as other vulnerable groups including disabled people and migrants.

Organisers said they are in touch with a Scottish legal firm and preparing to challenge the strip club ban which they believe flies in the face of the Equality Act 2010.

Around 100 dancers will be put out of work if the Capital’s four venues are closed.

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The group hopes the move will set a precedent to make all strip club bans unlawful and improve strippers’ working rights,

Audrey an organiser for USW said: “Thanks to everyone who contributed to this vital campaign. Nil-cap policies succeed at nothing other than putting sex workers’ lives at risk.

“By removing workers’ livelihoods during an unprecedented cost of living crisis, local council’s are forcing us to make the choice between poverty or more dangerous, underground sex work.

“Strip club workers deserve safety, to access the same rights and protections as any other worker.

“The success of this challenge could create a legal precedent for that.

“This money is not to just save over a hundred worker’s jobs, but to ensure thousands of workers’ rights.

"Venues are under attack across the UK. When the council voted on a nil cap in Edinburgh they stigmatised workers instantly.

“Business does go down as a consequence, people assume the venues are already closed or they are doing something wrong or immoral. Workers simply won’t stand for it.”

Councillors on the regulatory committee had the option of setting the cap at four, which would allow the four existing clubs to stay open, but this was rejected.

Susan Rae, Green councillor for Leith Walk, said the council should overturn the ban. “It's not our job to tell women where they can and can’t work, especially in the current economic climate. It was a crushing disappointment to see how the union and workers were met by some in committee and hearings.

“They didn’t like it when they heard strippers were sending their kids to private school along with their kids. The judgemental tone of debate was terrible.

"The ban was a moral decision based on spurious arguments. I hope the council will see the error of their ways here and overturn it. The thing that keeps these women safe is each other.

“They need to be able to choose how they organise their work.”

The council have been contacted for comment.